Explore, develop skills, solve mysteries and fight your way through the changing worlds to fulfil your destiny…
Lucky Duck Games
Note: Lucky Duck Games gifted us this copy for an unbiased review
Note: This review is spoiler free although some of the pictures may show parts of the prologue campaign
In a world where the prophets speak of the End of Days brought about by the Angel of Death, you are the mortal world’s only hope. The heroes that you become will undertake quests to fulfill their own Destinies, by exploring and interacting with the ever-changing world around them, making decisions that will influence the game and fighting increasingly terrifying foes along the way.
Destinies is a story-driven game which uses an app to provide the narrative. You and the other players must take on the roles of heroes, each with their own Destinies to fulfill to become the winner. There are many different scenarios to play and you don’t need the same people to play each time as each scenario is different.
How the game works
At the beginning of each scenario you are read an introduction via the app. You then take it in turns to select your characters, taking the corresponding card from the character deck. The app will give you starting resources, skills and in some cases items. The most important thing is the role card, which contains your Destinies. Fulfilling one of these Destinies before your opponents fulfil one of theirs will win you the game. The tricky thing is these are secret, so it’s not easy to stop your opponents because you don’t know what they’re trying to achieve. Once you have your Destinies you are ready to begin.
Each story begins on a single map tile, with four adjacent map tiles facedown (but the app will mention vaguely what is there e.g. more of the town, the dark woods, a stream, etc.). The app will tell you which areas on that map tile are of interest so you can place tokens on them. That means on your turn your character will be able to interact with that place or person.
Your turn is comprised of two parts: moving and interacting. You can move up to 2 map tiles each turn (unless discovering a new map tile in which case your movement ends there), and then choose one place or person to interact with. You select it on the app and it will give you options on how you wish to proceed. Many of the interactions you will encounter will include a “skill test”, which involves determining how many “successes” you have, entering that number onto the app and hoping that’s enough to pass the test! The number of successes you need to pass a test varies greatly depending on how hard the test is, but crucially you don’t know how many you need before you enter the number on the app…
There are three skills that you can be tested on; intelligence (reasoning with someone, working something out etc.), dexterity (sneaking past guards, climbing etc.) or power (fighting, lifting, running etc.). These correspond with a skill track on your player board. At the beginning you’ll have had 3 or 4 markers assigned to positions along each track signifying what you need to achieve a “success”. Throughout the game you will be able to move these markers nearer to the lower numbers so that your dice rolls will need to be less fortunate in order for you to be successful. We found that if you try and rush through the scenario without first attempting to build up your skills, encounters become increasingly difficult to overcome as you are relying more on chance.
Some items and weapon cards you may hold allow you to improve your chances, such as adding successes or increasing the dice total.
Depending on the outcome of your skill test, you may receive or lose items/weapons/skill points/information and the world will be changed forever. You may be helped along your quest or you may not. Use what you learned to take into the next turn as you edge towards your goal.
Some places on the map will allow you to trade for new items or weapons. You can spend any gold you have as well as sell items already in your possession and purchase any of the tools on offer. A sword will help you in power tests, while a rope might help you in dexterity tests. Use these wisely to drastically improve your chances later on in the game. If you are poorly prepared as you enter the finale you may well end up failing.
The finale can begin after a player has fulfilled the criteria on their Destiny card, and takes place over several turns. After you’ve begun your finale you can’t go back to taking normal turns, you will now face a series of final tests at the end of which you’ll either win or be defeated (or if somebody else finishes theirs first you lose). The first player to successfully finish their finale wins the game!
I’ve always enjoyed adventure games that involve a story. Mansions of Madness was particularly good and we also enjoyed Betrayal at House on the Hill, although we’ve never owned one so we’re relatively new to the genre and are by no means experts.
The app drives the game along really well, with plenty of background story to get your teeth into, if that’s your thing. Each decision you make feels meaningful, sometimes you’re picking between two seemingly similar outcomes and you’re trying to guess how the non-player-character (NPC) will react. Often this will end in you being frustrated that things did not go your way, instead you will need to return next time.
I’d recommend using a tablet to play with as we were straining over a smartphone (our iPad is so old it isn’t compatible), but it was largely fine and the QR scanner worked easily (too easily at one point as I accidentally scanned a horse instead of holy water and wasted my turn).
I loved that you could use certain items you found along your way either to further your skill tracks, or to sell them for gold, or sometimes during your various encounters, forgo a tricky dice roll. For example you might have some food which you could discard to give you a one-off dice rolling benefit, or you could give it to a hungry person during an encounter and get them to help you, rather than leaving your fate to the roll of the dice.
Something else I love about the game (I’m sure others won’t) is that you never know how many successes you will need to pass a particular test. On some occasions 1 success will be enough, other times 3 won’t be- it varies with the difficulty of the task so if you’re trying to steal a rope off a blind old hag you might need 1 success, compared to slaying a giant werewolf which might take 4, 5 or even 6. Because you don’t know what you require to succeed, you’re trying your luck, but I like that a lot because it feels more realistic. You don’t know what it takes to kill a werewolf, but you can guess it would be much more difficult than stealing some rope off a blind old hag.
I’ve seen plenty of reviews that mention how luck-based the game is. In some cases that’s true – there’s a lot of dice rolling – but you can even the odds by improving your skills and adding items that will help mitigate that luck- some even help after you’ve rolled the dice. But I would disagree that it is blind luck whether certain landmarks and NPCs help you, hinder you or do nothing for you as you can use logic to have an educated guess! Yes, sometimes that won’t work and you’ll be barking up the wrong mysteriously shaped tree, but generally once the map has been explored a bit you should have a reasonable idea of where to go.
Fair enough, it can be a little frustrating if something you do gives a massive hint to the other player(s), for example Jess visited the Blacksmith and got a hint about something that I could use on my very next turn to my advantage. This balanced out over the course of the game though so wasn’t a problem.
Aside from those minor gripes (and they are minor, in my opinion), the only thing that feels odd is that it is a competitive game, a race to fulfill your own destiny, rather than cooperative like so many other storytelling games. I guess it is an attempt to be very different from Mansions of Madness etc. but for the quests we’ve done so far, thematically it would make sense for the characters to work together as the destinies (or goals) are very similar e.g. a big scary creature to kill. Why would these two characters go about their business on their own when it would make more sense to work together?
Sometimes events will occur between turns (irrespective of what you did that turn), for example a new creature might appear, or a new map tile will turn over etc., which was very cool except that once it happened while we were both mid-finale. Because during your finale you can’t do anything else it was a bit odd, we wanted to go and explore the new creature that arrived but couldn’t.
On the subject of the finales it felt a little bizarre that you never know whether you’ve been successful in your skill tests or not, even after the test is finished. In some ways it raises the tension as you never know whether you’re about to be defeated or win, but when you only get one success in a skill test you feel as though you’ve failed, but you don’t know until the end.
That said it was still a really really fun game to play, we were really immersed in the app experience and overall story. The game is very well made, the miniatures are great and the dice look really nice too. I love the artwork of the map tiles and how the card backs give a hint as to what is there without giving too much away, although they are cards rather than the thick card we’re used to in other similar games. We can’t wait to play through the other scenarios and highly recommend this game to you!
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