"Hand of Fate might just be one of the most instantly-atmospheric games this reviewer has ever encountered" - Chris Brown, Game Planet
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"Defiant Deals a Winning Hand" - Daniel Tack, Game Informer
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Everybody in the studio is industriously putting the finishing touches on the HoF2 Preview (formerly known as "the Beta", but there's so much excellent content in there we've outgrown the term), but I wanted to show you a cool new artifact that you'll soon be able to play around with.

Say you're tasked with defending a gormless farmer from a horde of skeletons. Problem, right? Not if you're armed with some Holy Purification bombs.

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Skeletons! I hate them. I don't even like to admit that I have one.

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Ready. AIM...

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POW.

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Let's take a look at that again in slow motion.

Another farmer successfully rescued from their own foolishness.

The bomb artifacts (there are three kinds. Collect them all!) are introduced in the Lovers challenge, and they're provided to you by a mysterious goblin in a false beard. Whoever that could be...

The Lovers is one of the eight challenges you'll be able to try in the preview event. If you still haven't signed up, there's still time! All you have to do is join our mailing list on the HoF2 page.

PS. That was a clever headline and I regret nothing.

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It's time to harass another game developer in the middle of something much more important! This time it's designer Anna Zou, the former intern responsible for the creation of HoF's beloved mischievous goblin mentor, Mr Lionel.

Lee: Who are you again, and what do you do at Defiant?

Anna: I'm Anna and I do design-y things.

What were you doing just before I interrupted you with this interview?

I was working on the CENSORED Encounter Chain.

Oh man, I'm going to have to bleep that name.

yeah, whoops.

I was working on a secret companion's encounter chain*

...writing text and trying to resist making any more potato-related jokes.

Potato related jokes do seem to take up a lot of your time at the moment, so I'm going to return to that later. But first, how did you get your start with Defiant?

In the third year of my Games Design degree I somehow landed an internship at Defiant. Then I got contracted on part time as a Junior Designer. Then I went to Japan for a year to eat all of their sushi and pat all of their tiny dogs. During my time over there, I got offered a full time position as a Designer so I flew back and it's been jolly good times ever since.

I can't say for certain why I was offered this position - probably because I threatened a lot of people, but I can't be sure.

Should I speculate on why?

Well, you already sound crazy. Now I need to know why you think you got the job.

Apart from the threatening, I didn't do much of note during my time as Junior Designer. I did make the encounter Mister Lionel, and apparently people liked that, so presumably, that is a reason why.

We had to lock down Mister Lionel. Didn't want you going off to a competitor and creating the hilarious hobgoblin Doctor Leonard for them, subsequently weakening our brand.

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Yeah I'm pretty locked down - that was the extent of my creativity so....

But I can tell you why the community responded to Mr Lionel - you get him in your deck relatively early on so more players experience him, the card has multiple outcomes, there a very tangible benefit in getting a shield, and the encounter itself is just weird enough to be memorable long after the game is over.

Weird enough to be memorable is my motto in life.

I'm getting that on a shirt for your next birthday.

Do you even know when my birthday is Lee? Hmm?

That's why we have these interview questions, Anna!

You just wanted to strengthen our friendship?

Couldn't be stronger - we have an unbreakable bond already. Moving on, though. Do you remember how it was that you came to create the Mr Lionel encounter? Was there any kind of design brief, or did you just go "A goblin in a fake beard is going to be weird"

I was tasked with looking over the analytics to see if there was anything I could fix. Before the Mister Lionel encounter there was a big spike at the end of the Queen of Dust challenge where players would die a lot, and it turns out the final fight was way easier with a shield.

So rather than giving a shield to the player for this challenge, I thought it'd be more fun to make an encounter that gives you one, but also provides a place that player can gamble their things away, because gambling is fun, kids.

So the encounter was a reaction to the data Defiant was pulling from the early access builds?

Indeed.

There's a hot scoop. That's one of the archetypal HoF cards and it only exists because players were terrible at the Queen of Dust! I hear that the recurring ghost encounter is also yours?

The Queen of Dust is quite a trying fight without a shield I'd say, so really you could say we were the terrible ones for even making it like that.

Yes, I've actually completely forgotten the name of the ghost cards. Probably because they weren't weird enough to be memorable.

(Anna and Lee are talking about the Hand of Fate cards called "Asleep in the Forest" and "Asleep at the Inn". They're great.)

That being said, I hope people cried genuine tears of sadness when they played those encounters. If not, then I'll be very disappointed in everyone, especially you.

I bawled like a baby. Again, this is a sequence demonstrating one of the key conceits of Hand of Fate - despite being a card game that resets itself every session, your experience is persistent and the cards themselves evolve as you play. I think that took a lot of people by surprise - they were expecting a tropey dungeon generator but there's a narrative thread that carries through from start to finish.

Yeah, that's something that I love about HoF too - that you unlock a new card and a world of potential awaits. As somebody who used to play those old text adventures on the computer machine, HoF definitely scratches that itch. Except it's better because it has pretty card art.

Speaking of HoF too... you're now working on HoF2. What an elegant segue!

You impress me more every day. Yes! HoF2! Should I say something else?

The fun part about working on HoF2 is that I get to essentially play more of the game as other designers finish making encounters or challenges too. And then we critique them harshly, but that's also part of the fun!

As a designer, what excites you most about HoF2 (beyond the obvious "there will be more Hand of Fate!")?

I really like how HoF2 has more content for deck-building - not just in a "win the challenge" kind of way, but also in a "I wonder what happens if I put this in my deck with this" way. For example, what happens in an encounter can change depending on what Companion you took along or if you have a particular number of blessings etc.

Creating encounters that make players want to experiment with their decks is exciting to me.

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Ooh, card synergies! Can you provide an example?

Spoilers! Well I can say there's a blessing in the game that adds an extra Huge Success into the Chance Card mini-game, so even if the mini-game didn't have a Huge Success to begin with it would add one, and open up this new branch to the encounter that is previously undiscovered.

I'm not sure if this is too much of a spoiler or not.

Whaaaaaaa

That's amazing.

And of course, companions may make their own little quips and comments on the encounters as you play.

Thank you for bringing up our companion characters! Has their inclusion changed the way you approach encounter design for HoF2?

Narratively, we're able to give more of a voice to the people in the HoF universe. Like what is Malaclypse's take on the scourge of corruption or maybe you can find out about what the deal is with the raiding Northerners from a Northerner himself, Colbjorn.

So we took a new build to PAX East recently, and this build featured what might be your magnum opus - the Lovers challenge. Can I ask you about that? Can I ask about Oswin? What's the Deal with Oswin?

You may not.

(The Lovers challenge tasks the player with escorting a farmer named Oswin on a journey to meet his beloved. Oswin is notable for a number of reasons: he's incredibly handsome, he's obsessed with potatoes, and he can't stop getting kidnapped by skeletons.)

I think it's pretty clear what his deal is - he likes potatoes and rightly so. Potatoes are the king of vegetables.

You don't have to convince me.

If I may be so bold.

You may.

Thank you.

But yes, he seems to just be your run of the mill, friendly farming chap. One does wonder how he got into a relationship with such a woman though.

You're creating a scenario where I have to go back and leave editor's notes in parentheses in this interview, Anna.

Haha, yeah, should I be more clear (I don't want to spoil the Lovers surprise ending).

It's fine, I can go back and provide a synopsis. This'll be crystal clear. What's the design intention of the Lovers? What are you trying to get the player to do/learn?

Initially my design intention was to make sure that this challenge wasn't a typical story of two star-crossed lovers and that it had a distinct challenge goal - which is keeping a companion's health from dropping to 0. We also wanted bombs to be introduced, which tied in well with the keeping-Oswin-alive-in-combat thing.

From there it all sort of evolved. I think a lot of challenges are designed like that, we have a broad topic with maybe some beats we have to hit, and then it changes and grows organically as we create and test and see what works.

What do you think makes for a good HoF encounter?

The writing has to be not crap of course, if it can surprise the players in some way, if players can use it for their nefarious deck-building purposes, if it is intriguing narratively...that is a general list off the top of my head.

Personally I love encounters like the Devil's Carnival in the first Hand of Fate, something that draws you in and has many different branching possibilities on what happens. Some people, I'm sure, aren't a fan of encounters like that. Which is fine, because one of our goals as designers is to make sure that the encounters do different things and are unique from each other.

And to close this out: what else do you like to play? What are you playing at the moment?

Any sort of turn-based strategy game I'm into - XCOM or Divinity: Original Sin kind of games. That being said, I've been sucked into the addictive-ness that is Overwatch lately.

Oh and board games! Inis is such a good board game.

What do you like about Inis?

For those who haven't played it, it's a game with a Celtic theme you have to place down as many of your dudes as you can on the map, or in particular regions. This is all affected by what Action cards you have in this round and what the other players have. It's just good fun to plan what you're going to do in your head and hope that everybody else doesn't counter you or do something you don't expect - which of course they usually do. You never know who's going to win.

And finally: what is the goblin situation vis-a-vis Hand of Fate 2?

Well, Mister Lionel has made an appearance in the game already if you played the last PAX build. Goblins are still around and stealing shiny things, despite the Empire's best efforts to stamp them out. Some have allied themselves with the Thieves Guild - as much as one can ally with goblins.

That's what the people want to hear. Thanks, Anna!

Thanks for having me!

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If you follow our social media accounts (and if you don't, what are you doing? Get over there, they're great!) you might have noticed some strange movements on Twitter. It seems the Dealer somehow managed to escape from whatever nightmare hellscape he's been residing in since the conclusion of Hand of Fate, only to find himself trapped in the wholly new hellscape that is Twitter.

For a while, he seemed content to simply needle the designer of our upcoming Hand of Fate boardgame, or engage in a Dealer-Off with the talented voice actor, Anthony Skordi. That didn't provide the challenge he was looking for, however, and so last week he launched into a full pick-a-path adventure, polling the community to determine the protagonist's actions.

The complete adventure follows, but be warned - the Dealer took to tweet-chains like a pro, so this is preeeeetty long.

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Are you still here? I told you he was wordy. All that trouble and he ends on a cliffhanger? Perhaps he'll get a chance to conclude his tale at a later date. Stay tuned for further adventures!

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We are as keen as you are to find out what’s going on with the impending tabletop adaptation of Hand of Fate, so we sent our communications manager, Lee, deep into enemy territory (or at least a hostile Slack channel) to get this interview with Rule & Make’s Michael “Barantas” McIntyre, designer of Hand of Fate: Ordeals!

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Lee: SO! Who are you, exactly, Michael?

Michael: I'm 26, male, live in Brisbane with my lovely wife. I would describe myself physically as soft.

Accurate. How did you end up designing the Hand of Fate boardgame?

Well, the first time round or the second time? There is a fun story there. Well I think it's fun.

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Tell me the story!

Well, sit back and let me spin you a tale like silk from chaff.

A year or so back, maybe more... through the grapevine we had heard word that Defiant were wanting to make a board game from their super great game Hand Of Fate.

At this point I had only played a little Hand Of Fate so I was intrigued. I was discussing the prospects of this with Brendan Evans, the designer behind Skyward. We were throwing around a few ideas but nothing really came of it aside from me playing a whole lot more Hand Of Fate. I got really into it.

Fast forward a few months I'm working in a computer store and in walk some members of staff from Defiant. I end up serving them somewhat purposefully. (My co-worker regained consciousness later on) and I pitched them a concept right then and there, dropped them my details and waited for a response.

I never heard back. Was I crushed, destroyed, heartbroken? Nope. This was a reasonable thing. I think I had come across as somewhat of a raving fan who wanted to show them how I had all the red string connecting pictures in my garage to explain who the Dealer really was.

But no loss here. I always think, take every opportunity.

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But clearly, all that hard work and obsession eventually paid off.

35% hard work 60% obsession 5% desperation.

Moving further down the road, I'm working with Rule & Make. Doing conventions, spruiking merch and doing some design work when they mention Hand Of Fate. So I was like "Oh yeah they were looking for a boardgame right? I was working on my own thing for that at one point." For a couple of weeks I didn't hear anything about it until I get a call one night. "Hey, we would like you to work on the Hand Of Fate board game for us." I was so excited. But in a totally professional and reasonable way.

From there everything has been a massive blur as we have been hammering out iteration after iteration of Hand Of Fate: Ordeals.

Seriously, one day we will get to release photos of all the versions we have. It's crazy.

So let's talk Hand of Fate: Ordeals. There's a guy in the videogame, and he's clearly sitting down to play a boardgame. Why couldn't we just print that?

Short answer, the dealer really disagrees with being put away in a box every night. I have the scars to prove it.

Long answer, so much of Hand Of Fate comes from your interactions with the Dealer and we wanted to bring you something newer and a bit different. Since we wanted the game to be multiplayer and we didn't want the game to run itself, we needed to reimagine the Hand Of Fate experience for you and your friends on the tabletop.

Plus if you've already played Hand Of Fate you know the outcome, you know the story. So we're making something that builds on that and becomes its own beast.

Okay, next question! Videogame-to-boardgame adaptations are becoming increasingly popular, but a good videogame design doesn't necessarily translate cleanly into a physical game. What are the pitfalls you've had you avoid with the adaptation?

Combat and Literal Magic.

We are really fortunate that Hand Of Fate is such an awesome genre mash of action combat and card game that we have so much that we can draw on to build this board game.

That said, we can't have straight combat like HOF has. It just wouldn't translate right unless we strapped some sort of rockem sockem robots to the side of each game. So we have opted for something a little different. That's all under wraps at the moment, but our playtesters have given us some very positive feedback.

Our other issue is that in HOF the dealer is literally magic. While we have tried our hardest to add the ability to make cards fly around the table into perfect piles, using incantations to defy the laws of physics by drawing energy from alternate dimensions was not within our budget. So we have had to capture the same deck building and board setup in a smooth and easy to do manner but sans the flying ball of cards.

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What have you done to capture the unique feel of HoF in the boardgame?

The feel of Hand Of Fate I think is two fold.

First is the genre mash that is deck construction + turn based dungeon crawler.

Hand Of Fate has an amazing and rich world that is told through the encounters you discover and the cards you earn. We wanted to bring out that emergent storytelling within the board game as well.

The meat and potatoes of Hand Of Fate is a punishing and gruelling trek against the odds in which the player is constantly tempted to push their luck in order to claim victory.

In Hand Of Fate: Ordeals you are still driven to push against the odds and take risks, but you also need to be doing this faster and better than your opponents.

Oh. And you will probably die.

Nice.

Obviously, I've been tremendous to work with, but what has it been like running playtest sessions with some of the designers from Defiant?

It's been great. Stepping into the offices for the first time kinda made everything real for me. Everyone at Defiant has been really eager to play it and they give great feedback. Having Morgan play and watch the game had been pretty intimidating, but luckily he is a nice guy.

It is really interesting to see people so involved in the property get cards and be surprised and excited as they realise what they are or how we have tweaked things for Ordeals.

How has the game changed between playtests? Which battle plans failed to survive contact with the enemy?

How long do you want this interview to be? laughs The game has changed so many times. It never started with a board, we went through so many iterations of how to get cards. I would be very keen to show all the steps we went through once people have had a chance to see it.

Last one: what's your favourite thing about the HoF boardgame? What is it that you personally can't wait for the audience to experience?

I really like the bit where you get to draw cards. Drawing cards is just my favourite thing.

Hehe.

But really. The style of the game is what I like most. It's the combination of rogue-like and deckbuilder that I enjoy the most. Being able to change up, each game, what I will focus on building while trying out new card combinations.

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Excellent. Is there anything else you think fans of Hand of Fate should know?

I think that people should know that this game isn't just Hand Of Fate the board game. It really is its own thing. You can play this to get the same kind of experience as Hand Of Fate but also something new and interesting.

Thanks so much, Michael. We'll have much more information on Hand of Fate: Ordeals soon!

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Given that Colbjorn and Estrella each received a proper press release and debut demonstration at PAX West and PSX16 respectively, I was a little sad that Malaclypse the Bard missed the debut announcement boat. Some time ago I mentioned this to our concept artist, Nick, and suggested we do a blog post detailing the design process for the character. Nick agreed and then proceeded to pester me about the timing of the blog over the next couple of months, despite the fact that I was clearly distracted with complicated matters like trying to figure out how to fit a thousand HoF2 buttons and magnets into my carry-on luggage ahead of an international flight.

Eventually, my schedule opened up, so I walked over to his desk to conduct an interview. Clearly, there was a story here. Why else would he keep bugging me? This was going to be one of those amazing creative journeys full of branching paths and interesting dead ends. I was excited.

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NICK: They told me he was a wizard pretending to be a bard, so I just drew these. They liked this body and this hat, so I drew a new one combining the two. Then I did the finished one.

ME: That’s it. That’s the whole creative adventure. You nailed it first go, everyone was happy, so they made a 3D model of it and put it in the game.

NICK: What do you want, man? I’m very good at my job.

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Damn that man.

Anyway, that’s Malaclypse. He’s a mage disguised as a minstrel, and he doesn’t mind using his gifts, both natural and supernatural, to part fools from their money. In battle, he provides the player with enchanted shields while peppering his foes with magic missiles. On the board, he grants a free respin on the Wheel of Fate, one of HoF2’s new chance minigames. He’s street-smart and world-weary, and his chapters of the story tend to reflect this.

Apparently, he was very easy to design.

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Fun fact: during my first week in the office, our audio engineer asked me to provide scratch dialogue for Malaclypse (Scratch dialogue is a placeholder asset used internally by the dev team to work out action timings). To this day my hilariously nasal bard remains in the game, shaming me every time we test a build. I’m not saying this was definitely a hazing ritual… but it was definitely a hazing ritual and the games industry is populated entirely by black-hearted monsters.

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Being located on the other side of the world to most gaming news outlets means our press releases tend to get distributed while we're asleep. The upside of this is waking up to a pile of positive responses. It's like Christmas!

Hello, yes, we are releasing on the PS4 alongside the PC and Xbox One in 2017. We'll have a new demo on display at PSX 2016 this weekend, and you should come say hi! We're also showcasing our latest companion, Captain Estrella Fiore.

We'll have more to say about Estrella on the weekend, but the feedback so far has been fantastic. As an added treat, here's a couple of pieces of early concept art our character artist begrudgingly (very begrudgingly) gave up.

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Our full announcement follows:

BRISBANE, QUEENSLAND – Nov. 29, 2016 – Hand of Fate 2, Defiant Development’s upcoming action RPG that blends roguelike dungeon crawling, tabletop roleplaying and, collectable card games and roguelike dungeon crawling, will launch on PlayStation 4 in Q1 2017 simultaneous alongside the previously announced Xbox One and PC releases. Defiant Development will showcase a brand new demo of the game at PSX 2016 in booth B1008, debuting the third companion, Estrella Fiore.

Captain Estrella Fiore is encountered by the player in the midst of her third military campaign to the North. She is a terror at range, and while her interests align with the player's, she'll be a fearsome companion. Should the player find themselves on the wrong side of the Empire, however, Estrella will have some hard choices to make. On the tabletop, her unwavering persistence will also grant a second attempt during the new Pendulum minigame, designed to test precision and timing.

Our heroine will lean on Estrella and other companions for support as she clashes with all-new enemy factions, including the new Greed and Frost suits. The Greed faction employs deadly assassins and alchemists to hound the player with swift attacks and evasive manoeuvres, while Frost’s Northerner giants leverage brute force and deadly homemade weapons to deal massive amounts of damage.

Hand of Fate 2 builds on the original game’s distinct RPG storytelling and combo-driven combat with the addition of companions, new fighting styles to accompany the addition of two-handed and dual-wielded weapons, new level objectives, a map-based meta board game, and powerful new cards which can instantly sway a game in the player’s favor.

In Hand of Fate 2, the magical dealer returns to train a new heroine in the game of life and death so she can exact revenge on the protagonist of the first Hand of Fate, who now rules as a xenophobic tyrant.

The game’s challenges will be built from collectable cards. Players will create a deck from these cards, which the dealer then adds his own trials to, before laying out a hand to create a board game. Our heroine will travel from one card to the next, revealing new challenges to overcome including fierce third-person combat, dangerous locations to explore, tense minigames, and Dungeons & Dragons-style decision making. The original Hand of Fate garnered more than 2.2 million downloads.