Hand of Fate is a roguelike with a new twist on world generation. I got about 22 hours of fun gameplay out of it, which means I recommend it for its current price of $20.
Gameplay consists of strategic and tactical layer. On strategic layer you move your piece to new encounters around a very basic map (just a bunch of cards on a table). Each dungeon level has an entry point and an exit. Deeper levels are not just a straight line. Each move costs one food. Encounters are mini-quests presenting a few options. When you choose an option, you also further gamble if you are successful or not through hidden cards. There is some interaction between choices and your current progress - for example, heavy armor makes it more likely that you'll fail in climbing dangerous places.
Many encounters end up in battle, which take place on the tactical layer. This layer is real-time RPG, and you get to use equipment and other boons collected in the strategic layer. Often combat is required to reap the maximum benefit from encounters.
There are two basic game modes. In Story Mode, you are tasked with killing increasingly difficult boss mobs. In addition, each boss mob alters the game in different ways so that the strategic meta changes. For example, you may be penalized heavily for buying equipment in shops. Once the boss dies, you win. Most likely you'll fail a few times though. In Endless Mode you instead face an infinite dungeon with increasingly harsh conditions. You also accumulate curses for each additional level you venture down into.
In addition to this, there is also a meta meta. When you play a game, you actually decide before the game starts what encounters and equipment you want in the game. If you hate playing with some helm of crappiness, you can choose not to include it in the deck. The player decides encounters and equipment, the gamemaster decides monsters and some other decks. Depending on what story mode boss you're trying to kill, or what level in endless mode you're on, the gamemaster also spikes the deck with difficult encounters. Once you've overcome an encounter, you take the "token" for the encounter which unlocks new encounters and equipment for future games. This way of unlocking encounters is also used to tell minor stories, for example I participated successfully in a farmer's market auction and thus I unlocked another encounter about a trade guild. Some encounters are locked in though, in one case I helped a certain pirate with something nasty and I was cursed by the captain - the curse remains forcibly in my deck until I can take its token by successfully overcoming the cursed encounter.
The gamemaster also plays against you, so you really feel like you're playing a game of cards. He comments on your progress, your demise, and there are individual voice lines for encounters. Overall, the gamemaster does a great job at adding to the atmosphere of the game.
If all this sounds complicated, don't worry. The game is actually rather straight forward, and quite easy to play but I think hard to master. The randomized world generation on the strategic layer is surprisingly exciting. Although I enjoyed the encounters, if you are looking for deeper quests like in Elder Scrolls series, you won't find it here. Quest descriptions are short and to the point. They are, however, well integrated with the gameplay. You'll never be asked to go collect 5 pig tails because the encounters just don't work like that. Almost all encounters end while you're still on the card.
My favorite encounter is the Devil's Carneval. Once you step on the encounter, you can't avoid it (like you can with some others). Through a set of two in-quest choices you are presented with 16 different outcomes. The worst being an entertaining sword swallower that swallows your currently equipped weapon. The best being... actually I never got the best outcome. But I got lots of other fun things out of it.
You also need to be able to accept a high degree of randomness to enjoy the game. Sometimes, you'll straight up die because the cards just didn't turn your way. There's rarely a way to avoid randomness. Rather, game skill comes in - crafting the right deck for the story, knowing the encounters and which choices to pursue, and of course killing everything in tactical combat without taking damage. Although I should say that some of the most dangerous encounters can be avoided if you land on them - of course, they also have the best rewards...
Ultimately, the game finely weaves all these elements into a damn fine rougelike that I recommend for anyone who enjoys such titles. So far, this is my "good surprise" game of 2014.