OK, so overall what do I think after playing three games of Destinies?
First, I think I want to keep playing it. So…there’s that, right? My first impression after playing solo challenger was “This is going into the FLGS used game auction for charity this year.”
But if you sample around Youtube a bit, you’ll see widely divergent opinions on Destinies. I’ve seen some that call it the best app-driven tabletop game out there. Is it?
Well, when I think about app-driven games (and I’m fundamentally on the side of thinking that it’s a fascinating idea that I’m OK with seeing if it iterates over generations into something really good) I have two questions:
- Is the app even necessary here? and
- Could this app-driven boardgame be a better computer game without the tabletop accoutrements?
On question one, absolutely the app is essential to Destinies. It does more than handle narrative beats. It remembers and tracks previous decisions and builds out the game based on those. That includes noting player behavior and how that can affect later stages of the game. In other words, the app is doing a ton of tracking of game situations, player decisions, and even hidden “stats” that the player may accrue from taking noble – or craven – decisions throughout. Which is very cool. And there would be a ton of very complex tracking and effects and rules spelling out those tracks and effects and contingencies that would need to be written and absorbed that the app handles on its own. So, nice. :) Point to Destinies.
On the second question, things get a little less cut-and-dried.
First, the minis in this game are very well done. They’re also very small (in general, though some aren’t) and unless you invest some time in painting them (I haven’t; I have the painting skills of a toddler on a triple espresso in the middle of a 7.4 Richter scale earthquake) a lot of them look the same on the developing game board/map. So there’s a lot of fishing around the game box for “Is this the right fig?” squinting excitement. And since the app keeps track of the minis and who they are for you…it’s tempting to just leave them in the box and trust the game map on the app when playing solo mode.
The minis and “points of interest” chits that go on the map are more useful in 2- and 3-player games, for sure. It lets everyone see the game board/map and plan out their turns accordingly. So that’s good! But…you also get a lot of “Hey, what’s that point of interest there on tile 11” or “Is that the priest or the doctor on tile 3” action going. Which involves consulting the app, or passing the iPad around so that another player can consult the app themselves.
The app also handles “tests”, where a player’s stats and available dice determine what he or she rolls on the test…and then also the number of successes. You put the number of successes into the app, and it tells you what happens. And that’s cool and all…but dice rolling is an RNG that any app should handle just fine.
There’s also a ton of combing through both item cards and map tile cards. Pulling the necessary cards out is pretty easy – no shuffling here, you keep the cards for map tiles and items in numerical order. But both those cards jump around a lot in the order the game brings them into play. It’s easy to find them when you keep them in order, but the end-of-game reboxing can be a chore after a 90-120 minute scenario with two players. Just putting the cards in order back in the stack for next time makes reboxing this game more time-consuming than boxing. And again…shhh, but you could do all this without physical components if you wanted to.
(I found myself really wishing for a 7th Continent-style organizer for easily finding map tiles or item cards in the 1-6 range, 7-11 range, etc.)
So right now what do I think? I think this game plays best as a competitive game with 2 or 3 players. It seems to be the mode the game was “built” around, frankly, and the most interesting game decisions you have happen in the multiplayer competitive games. We did indeed really have a blast with the first campaign scenario, and we’re already finding a time to play the second scenario next weekend.
Solo explorer mode seems decent enough. I hope there are actual failure conditions to this mode (I think there have to be, and I’ll report back on that.) It’s definitely in solo explorer mode where the feeling of “Couldn’t this have been a really neat, narrative computer game” is most prominent though.
For Solo challenger mode, the less said the better. :)
One variant that I think seems pretty interesting is a solo “competitive” mode where you control two characters but don’t look at their destinies (you can still ask other NPCs in the game about your character’s Destiny … but you have to work off those clues to know what to do next.)
What does seem cool to me is that Lucky Duck apparently have a “Make your own scenarios/campaigns” thing in beta right now. I can imagine that there are folks in the community who’ll be able to make some really interesting stuff with those tools. I hope so. The framework of the game using the app seems super conducive to good player-made content appearing perhaps.