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Review: Underhand review – A clever card game with a Lovecraftian twist

Managing a cult is no simple task. You’ve got to worry about recruitment, taxes, rival cults, and snooping police. And of course those ancient eldritch gods that demand sacrifice and relics. 

Underhand takes that idea and molds into a single player card game.

The end result is an interesting blend of roguelike and resource management.

Tax free

Much like Reigns, Underhand asks you to deal with the situations and struggles of your cult. Each event is drawn from a deck for you to react and gives you three choices to consider.

Perhaps a promising relic is only a single expedition away. Maybe an opportunity to install an undercover cultist arrives.

These events are quite varied and new ones pop up as you progress and unlock special persistent rewards. However within a single game, it’s common to get same cards often, making the deck and gameplay feel repetitive over extended play.

Whatever the event, it’ll cost you supplies or people or funds to react to it, and that where Underhand’s clever design shines.

Cultists for hire

Your ever-changing hand consists of multiple card types. There are relics, money, food, cultists, prisoners, and so on.

Act rashly, and you’ll find suspicion cards both clogging your deck and making a potentially game-ending police raid or other events more likely.

It’s this constantly rotating door of resources that makes Underhand so enjoyable. Every event, satirical or deadly alike, costs resources of some kind.

Want to infiltrate the police, makes sure to have a spare cultist card. A plague strikes your cult? You can pay for an expensive doctor or just quarantine the whoever’s caught it. 

Deciding what course of action to take won’t have any major impact on the story, but it will change your hand and make you consider your next choices more carefully.

You always know the consequences of a choice – money for food, sacrifice or save – so considering the state of your hand and thinking turns ahead is crucial. 

Trade or fight. Embark on an expedition. Sacrifice cultists or prisoners. Pay the taxman or convert him at the cost of suspicion. It’s choices like that, that make Underhand a fun Lovecraftian diversion.

However, no overarching narrative means there’s no forward momentum or drive. Underhand is very much a moment-to-moment, turn-by-turn experience. 

The repetitive nature and lack of any larger plot dulls Underhand‘s luster but its quick yet satisfying gameplay loop, its clever card mechanics, and robust variety of events and special scenarios make it a worthwhile title to check out.