In Fate's Hands
Meet “In Fate’s Hands”, a card game where one player is Fate, and they hold all the cards.
All other players are mortals on an Odyssean voyage, desperately trying to survive the journey home. But Fate has destinies laid out for them, destinies that Fate must fulfil in order to win. Fate can offer mortals powerful cards, but the mortals must trust Fate enough to accept them.
Where it’s from
I’ve had “In Fate’s Hands” knocking around in my head since Train Jam in 2016 (a train trip across the US where we all made games), stemming from thoughts about unfairness and how we deal with it. I want people to explore the feeling of having everything stacked against you, of trying but failing to defy the odds, or of coasting to a victory not of your making, and having to decide what to do with your extra power. All while having a good time.
There’s been a fair few themes for “In Fate’s Hands” over the years. It began as an Indiana Jones-esque adventure game about an artefact called ‘The Feet of Fate’. At one point, it was a game about survival in the wilderness. Fairly recently, the game was themeless, with a scenario card (pictured above) dictating the theme secretly to the Mortals, because Fate doesn’t know or care about what the Mortals are actually doing).
Eventually, I settled on the evocative depiction of the Fates and Destiny that comes with Ancient Greek mythology, and the equally evocative (and importantly, quickly understood) adventures of The Odyssey. These sorts of short-hands are really important in board games, where the analogous fit of the components and rules with the fiction often dictates whether players understand the rules at all.
For art, I’m working with the talented Vicente Araullo-Peters, after seeing this linocut print and getting really excited about how it could fit into a card game like this. While it’s unclear whether linocut prints will actually figure into the game (I’m trying to keep this project fairly small, and linocut is both time consuming and expensive), it’s provided a really great starting point for how we move forward, and it’s great to have Vic on board.
One of the key underlying ideas behind this game is that Fate should have the best cards: ideally, Fate would hold all the cards (just for the poetry of it). Early versions of the game had Fate acting as the game’s deck, as well as offering cards to the Mortals. But playtesting showed that this was really problematic, especially for new players: having so many options and tasks is the epitome of analysis paralysis.
To counter this, I’ve changed it so that Fate starts off with 6 very powerful cards (the Divine Actions), that should give them everything they need. They then pick up all used or discarded cards, thus gaining that all-encompassing hand by the end of the game. This gives new players all the time they need to get a grip on the game before they get all the choice.
The other thing I’ve changed to make Fate’s role easier to deal with was to split it up into levels. For a first game, you’re “the Fates’ Intern”, only dealing with one Mortal’s destiny, and having limited power. As you increase your level, you increase the number of destinies you need to fulfil, but also the amount of power you have to do it. Fate’s win condition is all-or-nothing, so it becomes a sort of bet: do you think you can fulfil all the destinies in front of you?