I played in a Living Forgotten Realms game this morning at my friendly local game store. One of the guys who works there (a person I consider a friend) had a stack of the cards for players to look at. He knew that I wasn’t all that excited about the cards, and he was eager to tell me that I was wrong – the cards were AWESOME, in his opinion.
I looked through the stack of about 50 cards (some of which were duplicates, of course). Verdict: I’m still not impressed.
The cards seem to give minor bonuses to attack or defense or have a minor effect on the board. I think that’s the appropriate power level, since they’re pure add-ons to the powers that player characters already have. If they were super-powerful, the game would be warped and the DM would have to increase the challenge level of encounters significantly in order to make things interesting.
However, with these minor bonuses, it just feels like too much extra stuff to keep track of without enough benefit. On your turn, you now have your full array of normal powers PLUS one more card in your hand to keep track of. That card changes every turn (generally speaking, as I understand the rules of Fortune Cards), so you never get to the point that you’re totally familiar with your character’s abilities. Heck, I kept forgetting that my elf hunter ranger had Elven Accuracy this morning, and that power is always there! Fortune Cards would be one more thing that I would be likely to forget about (and then kick myself later).
Overall, I don’t think the cards add anything meaningful to the game. It’s another layer of complication on a game that, in my opinion, has enough complication already, thank you very much. If you want more twists in your game and bonus powers to give out to players, then Fortune Cards might be a great fit for you. For me – not so much. And that’s even ignoring the whole cost and rarity aspects (which bum me out, too).
By the way, Wizards of the Coast has cleared things up a little bit (in my opinion) about what organized play events will require the cards. They’re starting a new series of events in September that sound similar to the competitive Dungeon Delve events that have been held at several conventions. These are really tough adventures that you’re not expected to be able to just win. It’s strongly implied that Fortune Cards will be required for these events.
Some players will probably love this. If you’re a big-time tactical gamer and want to survive the hardest possible encounters with your min-maxed character, this is right up your alley, and building a powerful deck of Fortune Cards will help. That’s not my cup of tea, but I know some players will love it.