Room-in-a-box, Oct 2017
The Fate of London is Deckscape’s second game, and follows a similar structure and style to its predecessor, but is a step up in difficulty level.
As before, the game consists of a set of sixty large format cards. There are no separate instructions; you simply start at the top of the deck, and the first couple of cards explain how it works. Most of the deck consists of either item cards or puzzle cards. Items are set aside as clues or resources, and puzzles may be immediately solvable or only once you’ve found a relevant item. On solving a puzzle you flip the card to check the answer, and if wrong record a penalty mark. Each wrong answer is counted as five minutes extra in the end-game scoring system.
The largest part of the game splits the deck into multiple piles, to give a non-linear structure where different people can work on different puzzles and where it’s not always obvious whether the players have everything they need to tackle a puzzle or not.
That’s all the same as the first Deckscape game. Also unchanged is the emphasis on observation-based puzzles. The skills that are important for this game are pattern recognition, mental rotation of shapes, and spotting relevant information in the midst of distractions. What’s novel is the use of lateral thinking, with items sometimes used in unexpected ways. I suspect this will divide opinions. On one hand these provide some of the most cunning, unexpected answers of the game; on the other they tend towards ‘gotchas’ and rely a little too much on players bringing their external knowledge about common objects to the game.
Speaking of which, one puzzle card in this game is perhaps the most flagrant violation of the ‘no external knowledge’ convention I can remember, where the knowledge in question is thoroughly obscure trivia. There’s a visual hint to help and I imagine the designers expect players to use that not to know the answer, but it’s pretty subtle and ambiguous. One other puzzle card had a solution that we felt was an outright cheat, in that the only correct answer used an approach I’d have assumed was not permissible had anything else worked.
The Deckscape style of game is very portable and replayable, with a decent hinting system and good quality cards. Where their first game was light and accessible, The Fate of London is more challenging. It’s also more variable, with a couple of poor moments but also puzzles that are tough, clever and interesting. At present the UK pricing is more than double what it costs in its home country of Italy (and you may struggle to find The Fate of London here at all), and it’s too slight a game to really justify that cost, but if you get a chance to pick up a copy at its original price it’s well worth grabbing one – just be warned that a couple of the puzzles may leave you grumbling.