HoF_Screenshot_Beta_01.jpgDisclosure: I backed Hand of Fate on Kickstarter for a copy of the game upon release.

There's no easy way to categorize Hand of Fate. Defiant Development has looked to tabletop RPGs, roguelikes, action RPG video games, and deckbuilding card games for elements to mix into their game and they've tied it all together nicely using a mysterious man who is storyteller, dungeon master, and dealer, oozing a quiet confidence from the other side of the table. If the player can defeat the dealer's twelve champions, he says, the player will be able to take on the dealer himself. And at a wave of his hand, cards lay themselves out facedown on the table, forming the first dungeon.

Hand of Fate's gameplay revolves around decks of cards, but it's not a card game, per se. There is deckbuilding; before entering each dungeon, the player chooses cards for both their deck of equipment and the mysterious man's deck of encounters. The dungeon's layout is made up of these encounter cards, with the player moving from card to card and dealing with whatever encounter the card represents.

The encounters themselves vary widely. Some are purely helpful, some are purely harmful, and others can go either way. They also vary in nature; some are purely text based and others are third-person action segments. The action segments include pure combat, pure trap-dodging, and combat in trap-ridden environments. Text-based encounters ask the player to choose what to say or do and might require them to draw one of four cards representing chances of success or failure. Action segments directly impact the player's health, but gains and losses of gold, food, and equipment are dealt out from their appropriate decks.

For those action segments, the player's equipment matters. The player goes into a dungeon with only basic equipment, but they can find more either randomly drawn from their deck as encounter rewards or in shops whose inventory is also pulled from the player's equipment deck. What the player has equipped will affect their capabilities in battle, which the tutorial explains well.

New cards for both the player and the dealer are earned as the player successfully deals with certain encounters and are obtained at the end of a dungeon. They can be used starting with the next dungeon... or must be used, in the case of certain encounter cards which cannot be removed from the dealer's deck until the player has successfully dealt with them at least once. No card's effects are known until encountered in the game, which means that players will be doing their deckbuilding semi-blind at times. The player can choose cards manually or allow the game to craft recommended decks.

All of this revolves around the dealer. He watches the player, waiting for them to make their move and commenting on the cards that come up. Tabletop card games often have flavor text on most or all of their cards; Hand of Fate instead puts its flavor text into the dealer's mouth. He'll comment on the cards as they are revealed, with there being multiple things he can choose from about each card. It feels like natural chatter over a card game and creates a great atmosphere.

I have no specific recommendations for who might or might not like Hand of Fate. It's so unique that it's hard to say. If the game sounds interesting to you, you can get it for Windows, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4, or Xbox One for $19.99.

[Hand of Fate]