Monday, November 16, 2020

My changing opinion of Handful o Hazards

 Handful o’ Hazards is the first (but not the last!) game I’ve tried from the 2020 PnP Solitaire Contest. It’s a set of tiny little scenarios for a tiny little dice system. Each scenario is on a wallet-sized card and I’m a big fan of games that you can take anywhere.

Each card is its own little game and scenario with each one is a generic scene from an action movie. An unnamed archeologist with a fedora who clearly not a reference to any Harrison Ford running through a hall of traps. Escaping a biker gang or a giant shark. That sort of thing.

The actual mechanics are roll five dice. Check off two pairs on rows with the fifth die getting checked off on the side. You need to complete all the rows with Ws (for win) before you complete any area that has an L (for lose)

Sooooo... the game lifts Sid Sackson’s Solitaire Dice/Can’t Stop Express/a-bunch-of-other-names entirely and adds a tiny veneer of theme and some restrictions. The end result is very playable but doesn’t have the more flexible open structure of Sid Sackson’s game.

While I realize that the is supposed to be a handful of tiny stand-alone games so you can pull a card out anywhere and have a quick game, I think it would be stronger if it was more of a campaign. That could be just having the scenarios form one story or completing a scenario giving you a tiny bonus  (like a one time +/- to a die) That would make the game stand out more from Sackson’s game.

BIG EDIT: aaand I found out that there is already an expansion set of five scenarios that did exactly what I wanted from Handful O Hazards. Handful of Hoodoo lets you play a campaign of three scenarios. You choose from two level one and two level two scenarios with the final level being the same. And you will get bonuses and penalties depending on if you win or lose scenario.

I actually quite like how the bonuses and penalties are handled. Depending on what you get, you modify the rows as opposed to dice manipulation. Seeing as how I’ll probably be playing the game while waiting in the car with a dice app, this is elegant and functional design choice.

And there’s at least one more expansion on the way.

I have to admit that Handful of Hoodoo completely flipped my opinion of Handful o Hazards. It went from a hack of a game I like that hasn’t had anything interesting done to it to ‘oh, now this is interesting.’ I’ll actually recommend it to folks I know who like the Sackson game.

I look for either two things from a PnP solitaire game, apart from being any good. Either I want to easily be able to get a quick game in or I want a meaty game. Handful o Hazards does a nifty job of the former.

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