I had the opportunity to playtest Stones of Fate by Luke Laurie (published by Cosmic Wombat) at Who’s Yer Con this year. Mikey and I participated in a tournament for the game, which I lost by a good margin. C’est la vie.
Let me start by saying, wow, this is a very slick game! The play is smooth and fast. The interactions are simple, but there is plenty of room for planning and tactics. There are broad strategies to be employed, but it is largely a tactical game, in my humble opinion. Overall, I greatly enjoyed it.
The game is designed by Luke Laurie and is being published by Cosmic Wombat. The artwork is by Ciro Marchetti, and follows the format of a standard Tarot Deck, with some additions for bonus cards and the like. The combination of game simplicity and theme allows the art to really shine, and the artwork and theme are integral, rather than tacked on like in many games.
Stones of Fate is suitable for players ages 12 and up, I’d suggest, provided a little bit of artistic nudity doesn’t offend any younger players or their parents. A game takes about 30 minutes, give or take. Though there is some downtime between turns, the action is semi-constant, depending on how decisive your fellow players are. The primary mechanics are area control, resource management/movement and a bit of memory, though the memory aspect is more of a bonus than a requirement.
I emphasize the speed at which this game can be played because the market is short on quality games that can be played quickly, yet that are dense enough to provoke some real thought. There is a good balance of speed and density in Stones of Fate, and the replayability is nearly limitless. Without doing the calculations, I’d wager there are millions of significantly different scenarios possible from just a single deck.
There are a couple of drawbacks to this game, but they are relatively minor. The biggest issue I have with Stones of Fate relates to how play differs depending on how players are situated around the play area. Because the game requires you to carefully place resources at specific nodes in order to earn points, how one perceives the cards is very important. The act of flipping a card from face down to face up when looking at it can cause some confusion. Some players are disadvantaged if the cards are “upside down” from their perspective, particularly if they do not flip cards in a very specific manner. This can be overcome with enough attention and experience, but it can lead to some minor issues on early playthroughs.
The other small problem I have with Stones of Fate is its somewhat lackluster card design. The iconography feels tacked on and disassociated from the otherwise great artwork. Though symbols are effective, they don’t seem overly well thought out or theme appropriate. Again, this is a minor issue, and largely a matter of opinion. Most players might not have the same reaction.
In summary, this is truly a fun and entertaining game. It is easy to learn, fast to play, and challenging enough to warrant many replays. At the sticker price of $20, it is easy to say that purchasers will get their money’s worth in no time!