Also good are the new companion characters, four NPCs who travel with the player during their challenges, influencing outcomes both at the game table and on the battlefield. Colbjorn, a mighty outcast warrior, uses his powerful dual swords to knock enemies about during real-time combat sequences. He can also influence dice rolls, adding a fourth die to the mix, but at the cost of taking him out of battle for three turns.

Keeping a companion character sidelined during battle in order to use their luck-enhancing skills is a tough call. The game’s combat is a lot more polished this time around. It’s not just about knowing when to block and when to dodge. It’s about knowing the enemy’s weaknesses and strengths and planning accordingly. New weapon types like dual daggers and massive two-handed hammers are quite effective against certain foes, but not so much against others. With battles often consisting of a mixture of multiple enemy types, having a friend like the armor-shattering Ariadne on hand can come in quite handy.

Companion characters also bring their own stories into the game, with special encounter cards that let you explore their personal journeys.It’s one of the ways Hand of Fate 2 brings a lot more character to the table, along with the ability for the player to customize their in-game avatar, male or female.

The game’s most important figure in the game is the Dealer. The cloaked figure, voiced with dulcet gravel by British actor Anthony Skordi, has quickly become one of my favorite video game characters. He’s a consummate game master, guiding the player through their challenges with equal helpings of advice and scorn. “You find yourself once again in the company of prayer and religion,” he says at the beginning of a challenge involving gathering spiritual blessings. “Haha, how unfortunate.” Sure, he’s pursuing his own agenda, seeking revenge for being unseated as the master of the game at the end of the original Hand of Fate, but I can’t help but love the guy.

The original Hand of Fate is like playing Dungeons & Dragons with only the core rulebooks. The mechanics are sound, the framework is solid and the game is entertaining, but there’s not a lot of variety. That’s fine—first adventures are always a little clumsy. Now that the Dealer’s had a century to pore over Monster Manuals, combat supplements and adventure modules (I’m picturing him reading on the toilet, and it’s great), he’s at the top of his game.