Gameosity trivia time – I love a dark, fantasy westerns. I devoured Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, threw myself into Wild Arms 3 for hours, and loved The Sixth Gun graphic novels, and I’ve run multiple roleplaying campaigns based in weird western worlds of my own design. But I had never heard of The Few and Cursed, or the comic world which inspired it, before we saw that Rock Manor Games was planning on bringing it to Kickstarter. But once I saw what was going into it, boy howdy, did I jump at the chance to preview it!
Mechanically, The Few and Cursed is a deck builder, but that doesn’t feel like the most important thing to talk about (I promise I’ll get to mechanics in a minute, though). The Few and Cursed, as a game, looks to capture the story of several characters, collectively called Curse Chasers, as they wander the post-apocalyptic Pacific Desert, where water is currency and life is cheap. These bounty hunters will go out into the wilds to gun down wanted men (and monsters), find ancient artifacts, and secure precious resources, all the while managing the curse that defines them – a curse which promises to make them incredibly dangerous at the cost of their humanity (and suitability).
At the highest level, The Few and Cursed is a deck builder. Each player starts with a unique deck of cards for their character. In a really neat twist, though, instead of buying new cards to add to your deck, every single round you will add one of two randomly-drawn improvement cards to your deck.
Andrew: Right there, that flips the deckbuilder formula in an interesting way. Instead of having to pay for new cards, you get them for free. But interestingly, you don’t really get to choose (beyond deciding which of the two cards drawn you will keep), so you have to be adaptive to the cards you are gaining, and can’t necessarily settle into the same strategy from game to game. I really like that!
Jess: A lot of the cards you will add also give you the ability to trash other cards permanently, so you can still manipulate your deck a bit. But yeah, you can’t just buy the exact card you want and build some killer combo – got to work with the hand you’re dealt!
In addition to improving your deck, each round players will have encounters, and here’s where the ’emergent story’ starts to take root. Based on your location, you will read a brief narrative passage, and then there will be either some decision you must make, some benefit you gain, or some awful thing which happens to you – hey, that’s just the danger of being out in the waste!
The ultimate goal in The Few and Cursed is to be the one who scores the most points (surprise surprise), and you’ll go about that a number of ways – completing jobs, finding lost artifacts, and (of course) lots and lots of gunplay. The hand of cards you draw each round gives you resources which you’ll spend to do all this, and careful hand management is often the difference between a productive turn or a wasted one (luck, of course, plays a big factor here, too).
Andrew: One of my criticisms of The Few and Cursed is that it does tend to wander sometimes. Without the right hand of cards, you might find yourself stuck somewhere, unable to take the action you want, idling a bit until you do. And that can feel kinda lousy.
Also interesting is the curse mechanic – each player carries a curse on their soul. This curse can be pushed – cards that grant powerful bonuses will also increase your curse level, but when you cross your threshold, your character will transform to their curse state. This can be a boon in the short term – each curse bestows power upon its bearer. However, in time, each curse will gladly consume its host.
Jess: That said, I did love that there was no player elimination in The Few and Cursed. Fall to the waste (or monsters, or your curse, or whatever), and you’ll get bounced back to town, penalized but still perfectly playable. I really appreciated that.
Overall, The Few and Cursed is a pretty stunning presentation. The art for our prototype was phenomenal, and if the final game board is anything like what we were working with, it will be huge and beautiful (in a dusty, after-the-end sort of way). On the other hand, the gameplay isn’t huge – while there are lots of decks of cards and opportunities to score points, ultimately, The Few and Cursed isn’t that hard to grasp and after the first few rounds, you and your fellow curse chasers will be whipping through turns like the seasoned bounty hunters you are.
Jess: I know what you mean, but I also agree with your conclusion. The Few and Cursed feels like a game that you and I will be able to play together when we want to sorta-kinda replicate the feel of one of your dark western roleplaying games, but with more emphasis on game than roleplaying.
Andrew: Yeah, appreciation for the source material (or its ilk) is a definite boon to enjoying The Few and Cursed. On the other hand, the mechanics were pretty smooth once our decks got up and running, and I think we had ourselves a pretty dang good time with it!
So with a week left in its Kickstarter campaign and a handful of deluxe stretch goals unlocked, we absolutely recommend checking out The Few and Cursed, especially if you’ve got an appreciation for the weirder side of the wild west!
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