Questeros: The goblin's journey
Questeros is a soloable game -currently on Kickstarter- about a goblin's quest through the 21 challenges of the Major Arcana. As the 'tarot lady' of the Solitaire Times team, I took a look at the campaign even though the artwork didn't really match my tarot preferences. I wondered if the gameplay might be fun enough to warm me up to the style.
As if sensing my doubts, Wes Woodbury (the designer) contacted us, and I decided to grab the chance and quench my curiosity. I chose to use my Thoth tarot deck, equipped the goblin/Fool with a Sword and 3 coins, and off we went for our first encounter. The goblin's life points are signified by the set of 1-10 Cups cards, and the game begins by shuffling the deck and drawing a hand of 5 cards. The goal is to encounter and survive all the Major Arcana cards.
Each Major Arcana in Questeros has been renamed to fit the fantasy theme of the game: the Magician is the Warlock, the Empress is the Centaur, the Sun is the Order of the Monks, etc. Each of them also has a special requirement that the goblin must meet. Some are hostile and have to be fought, others demand to be given specific cards, and others can be turned into allies. On your turn you can take up to 7 actions that allow you to draw cards and upgrade your weapons so that you can prepare for the upcoming fights. Your sword can be upgraded by adding cards of higher value in numerical order (so your Ace of Swords can become 2, 3, 4 etc.), and the same happens after you unlock you magic Wand by encountering the Mentor (High Priestess).
Combat can be lethal. Death and the Devil will almost deplete your life deck, and it's not easy to heal your wounds. Exhausted cards of any kind (weapons, coins, and life points you have used) can be brought back by destroying Court cards (Pages, Knights, Queens, Kings) from your hand. They can, however, only recover cards up to a certain value: you cannot, for example, recover any weapons above the value of 5 so, before exhausting your resources, it's good to think if you might need to get them back.
All in all, this is a solid solitaire card game. Familiarizing yourself with the requirements of the Major Arcana is key to succeeding, as you can then plan ahead and make better decisions on which cards to keep and which to sacrifice. I've had a session in which the Succubus (aka The Lovers), who demands that you randomly destroy two cards from your hand, made me throw away my level 4 and 5 Swords thus preventing me from using them later as upgrades... So the next time I played, I made sure I didn't have any super valuable cards in hand on that round.
The first sessions teach you lessons like that. You have to play the game a few times to figure out how to best manipulate the deck, and that is something I liked a lot.
Now, let's go back to the artwork. When I said it isn't my style I didn't mean it isn't well-made; it very much is, and John de Campos' talent is obvious. I can imagine it's not easy to imitate the RWS and at the same time create a whole new setting and characters. Gamers who love epic fantasy classes (goblins, elves, barbarians and the like) will feel at home with this deck and enjoy the Minor and Major Arcana adaptations. I must say that the more I look at it, the more I'm leaning towards adding it to my collection.
I cannot speak to the multiplayer and RPG fate deck uses of Questeros, but if you are thinking about backing it for solo play exclusively, I recommend taking the time to learn and actually use it as a tarot deck too. The solo game is a filler, so chances are that you'll play it a few times at first and then leave it aside, but if you use it as a tarot too, then the value-for-money of the package is excellent.