WBG Score: 9
Player Count: 1-3
Published by: Lucky Duck Games
Destinies is a fascinating game. Billed as a table top board game version of an RPG, with an integrated digital app, campaign mode, and expanding universe with future expansions, Destinies certainly feels fresh and new. Playing it as a solo is very different to multiplayer, but each time I play this, I feel like I am experiencing something groundbreaking. Let's get it to the table to see how it plays.
Getting Destinies to the table is a little different to other games. The first thing you need to do is download, then open the app on your tablet, phone or device. It's free and doesn't need internet access once downloaded, and Lucky Duck seem to be backing this game so I don't see it going anywhere anytime soon.
Once this is done, open the app and select the game you want to play. There are five options to start with. One stand alone game and four others that make up a campaign. Chose the one you want to do, and player count and mode, and the app will take you through the rest of the set up. You will be asked to select one of three characters to play as, and then you are given your starting item and experience points in three areas. Your intelligence dexterity, and power.
Get all the tokens, money, and cards out and ready, but there is not much more you can do for set- up until the app tells you so. So, press go and start your adventure.
How to Play
Destinies works very differently each game, based on the scenario you are playing. I won't go into too much detail there, as I don't want to spoil the story. That's the main part of the game. But each game, your character will have one of two destinies that they want to achieve. Convince a number of people to join their cause. Destroy a certain number of things. Kill a certain amount of people. That sort of thing. You can only achieve one of these, but don't need to choose now. You can start trying to do both to see which one is easier for you, or change your plans at any moment. If you ever achieve your goal, you will then enter the final stages of your destiny. The game will suggest you go to a specific destination, which when you do, you enter the end game scenario. Your characters 'Finale'. This will be a two or three turn part of the game where you will go through certain skill tests, and you will need to use certain items you have hopefully collected thus far to fulfil your destiny. Succeed, and that's game over for all players. This can lead to a somewhat Three Billboards style abrupt ending for the others around the table in two or three player.
On your turn you can move up to two spaces to previous explored, or new tiles. The app will tell you to place certain map tiles down as you explore them, and add locations and people to them that you can interact with hen you enter them. When you move to a new location new map tiles that surround the new space you have moved to will be added as they are now accessible. When on a tile space, you can chose, generally between two locations or people to speak with or explore. You will tap on the relevant icon on the app, and then be presented with more story, and a series of choices. Perhaps you want to try and steal something? Maybe you want to help someone, or give them an item? All of your choices will be recorded by the app and go towards shaping your destiny. Later events will be effected by your actions. An angel may not want to help you if you have strayed too far from the path of good for example! So, pick wisely.
On your board you will have three or four little wooden discs on each row. You will be given your starting position for these during set up, but will be bale to move them forwards and backwards throughout the game as and when you carry out certain actions. Help a blacksmith in his work due to his sick son, and gain a strength. Pay a wise man three coins, and increase your intellect. That sort of thing. Then, when you have to test one of these characteristics, you will roll your two main white dice, and any purple dice you have access to, and choose to use that skill check, to see what score you get. Your total score from all dice is checked, and then any wooden tokens in numbers equal too or less than your dice total is your score. These are the best example of skill checks I have seen thus far in modern board games. Some cards offers ways to manipulate your score, and these checks are the bulk of the game, and it works so well.
You can see in the board below. If you rolled a nine for intelligence you would score two on that skill check. Or a three for dexterity or strength. You have three purple dice, but they all start exhausted. Each round you can refresh one of these, and use when you wish. Certain actions in the game will exhaust or provide you with access to these purple dice. Having access to all three feels wonderful!
As you move around the map, talking to new people, exploring new buildings, and uncovering more map tiles, there is a real sense of adventure and mystery. You will have a specific goal based on your destiny but you will not always know exactly how to do that, and there are a lot of side quests and distractions to look into. One action you can regularly do is talk to a person you meet about your destiny. This works by showing the QR code on the destiny card, (being sure to pick the right side), to the camera in the app. It works flawlessly, and I have a VERY old iPad. It instantly springs up with new information for you, with the person you are talking to giving you advice as to how best make progress in your quest. Sometimes this can be just the clue you were looking for. Other times, it will tell you of something you have already done.
As you uncover new information, and certain events or interactions send you down new paths, there is a huge feeling of satisfaction. It feels like a mystery game in parts. Like you are uncovering new facts in a deep mystery. At times, it can be frustrating and you may feel directionless, but I find this never lasts more than a turn or two. The game will eventually give you a clue or push you in the right direction. You cannot ever be lost for long in Destinies.
There is an element of luck in this game. As with anything that uses dice. Sometimes your destiny is not entirely in your hands. But you will mostly only encounter things you feel you can control, or at least have more influence in. As you gain experience, you can move your wooden tokens backwards on one of your characteristics, making your future rolls more likely to give you more successes. If you know you will be fighting a lot in a certain scenario, you should choose to increase your skills here first. Having the right tools for the job will also help a lot. It is best to not go to a well without rope or a ladder first. Do not enter a cave with a torch. But there will be times when things escape you that are well out of your control. Who knew I needed Dice for an encounter with a Daemon! I mean seriously!?!
Each round one of your purple dice will be refreshed, if you choose not to use them, eventually you will have access to all three. You can save them up for more testing encounters. And plan your turns accordingly. Luck is involved, but strategy, good choices, and forward planning will help you just as much.
The sort of items you can collect through the game is hugely varied and often bring a lot of fun. Sometimes they will be bought from a merchant. Other times they can be found. You will also be rewarded with them as tokens of thanks when you help other non playing characters. Or you may choose to simply steel them when someone is not looking! Or with force. It's all your choice. But remember, like the great red and white bearded one himself, the app is always watching! Which list will you be on come Christmas? Nothing you do will go unnoticed. All your actions are recorded, remembered, and will go a long way to affecting what choices you have open to you later in the game.
Destinies is a lot of fun. It feels fresh and new. I have experienced a lot of things similar to this. But nothing quite like it. The stories are quite dark, there is a lot of pestilence, famine, witchcraft, and daemons. But there are expansions that bring new story lines in if this isn't for you. The stories re full of character and suspense. And I find myself getting easily lost in them despite not loving the themes and tone, especially when I play with my son.
But it's the stories that make me come back to this. The sense of adventure and mystery that unravels is so intriguing and full of suspense. Despite not being exactly my thing. I love the game no less. In two player or more I do have a a sense of unfulfillment if my destiny is not completed. So, I would say this is more of a solo game than anything else. But it works fine in two or three, it is just set up better for a solo experience in my opinion.
But that experience is so rich. So fulfilling. So rewarding. I would put this up there as one of my favourite games of all time, and certainly one of the best solo experiences I have ever had. I cannot wait to try the other expansions and explore more of this world.