D&D Fortune Cards give you the chance to add a random combat ability drawn from a deck of cards to your 4E D&D encounters. Because we all know the one thing 4E really needs is even more combat-oriented powers.
Fortune Cards come in packs of eight, which retail for $4 each. There are commons, uncommons and rares, and only the rares have actual art on them. All the other cards have a basic sigil in place of art (in fact, it looks like placeholder art), one sigil for each of the three types of cards: Attack, Tactic and Defense.
If used as directed, each player is supposed to buy Fortune Cards and build their own deck of cards, which must be in multiples of ten (i.e. your deck can have 10 or 20 cards, but not eight or 15). Each deck has to have at least three of each type of card. At the beginning of an encounter, you shuffle the deck. At the beginning of a turn, you can either draw a card (if you don’t currently have one in your hand), discard the card you have and draw a new one, or just keep the one you’ve got. So you only ever have one available for use at any given moment.
The cards let you do things like knock creatures prone, shift three squares, gain a bonus to attack rolls, etc. None of them are terribly exciting, not even the rares. In our playtesting, no one especially hated the cards, and we used them a few times to get out of tight situations, but people kept forgetting to use them (or draw new ones) because they were so bland. No one really cared all that much about them, even with our 2nd and 3rd level bunch of characters. Our Paragon/Epic level crew wouldn’t even bother.
Fortune cards are perfect for a certain group of players, the ruthless min-maxers who only want to get the absolute maximum damage-per-second out of their characters. The cards give you bonuses with no drawbacks. If your whole party buys enough of these cards to build tuned ten-card decks with the same killer rares (don’t worry, I don’t think they’ll be too expensive on the secondary market), then you will indeed improve your overall combat abilities.
But seriously, 4E combat takes forever as it is, and is already too much the focus of the game. The last thing we need is more powers to keep track of and slow things down. We tried a different method of using the cards, with the DM keeping one deck with all the cards and doling them out as rewards for cool moves or role-playing. That was better, but it didn’t change the inherent lameness of the cards themselves.
I really go out of my way to not relentlessly bash a product. I’m not one of the many Internet forum/blog/Twitter denizens upset that Wizards is “ruining D&D” by adding cards to it. There’s no nerd rage here. But I do hate when a product seems designed from the outset to relieve customers of their money without offering much in return. $4 for eight cards, seven of which have no actual art on them? Uninspired, bland card design? Retreaded powers with boring titles? (“Push Through the Crowd” “Whoops!”). Sorry Wizards, but I can’t find any redeeming qualities in Fortune Cards.