Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review: Shadow Hunters Expansion Set – Bring Your Poker Face!

Shadow Hunters is a board game for 4-8 players in which you play a character from one of three factions: Shadow, Hunter or Neutral. Shadows are essentially the villains in this game and, in order to win, they must kill all the Hunters. Hunters are aligned on the side of good and win by killing all the Shadows. Neutrals are unique in that the win condition depends on the character you’re playing. The objective sounds fairly straight-forward and easy, but there's a catch: you don’t know which character a player has and therefore don’t know what their faction is.

I'll get to how you figure out another player’s faction in due time, but let’s start from the beginning. The board is fairly simple and consists of two major zones: the damage zone (keeps track of the amount of damage each player has) and the action zone (determines what action you can make). Each player gets two colored wooden pieces, and one is placed at ‘No Damage’ in the damage zone while the other is placed in the center of the action zone. The action zone is set up such that there are 3 pairs of card-shaped areas arranged in a circle, and one of 6 action cards is randomly placed in each area. Each card has one or two numbers (2-10) associated with it along with a specific action. Players can move their piece to a card if they roll the number associated with the card using a 4- and 6-sided die. Once on the action card a player performs the action, which can be healing, damage to a player, stealing equipment or drawing a card from one of three decks (Hermit, Black and White).

Hermit cards are extremely valuable at the beginning of the game since they allow you to determine the identity of a player without the knowledge of everyone else. These can also be used later to potentially damage other players if you already know their identity. I like this aspect since it means these cards aren’t completely useless after you've figured out everyone’s identity. Black and White cards can heal or damage other players through single-use spells/items and equipment. Keeping with the theme, Black cards favor Shadows and White cards favor Hunters. Equipment stays with you throughout the game and generally affects your attack by adding more damage or allowing you to attack players in other areas. Attacking may be done after an action and is carried out using the dice. When a player has received an amount of damage equal to the hit points on their character card that player is dead.

Aside from hidden identities, one of the most unique aspects of the game is that you can still win if you’re dead. All Shadows or Hunters win if they kill the other faction, even if some of their members are dead, and certain Neutrals win by dying first. It also adds in an element of camaraderie between members of the same faction since you can reveal your character and potentially use an action or special ability to help your ally before you perish. Special abilities are another key aspect of the game since they help determine when to reveal your identity. Certain characters, such as the werewolf, are better revealed early since its special ability is ‘Counterattack’ so you can damage other players as they damage you. Other special abilities, such as a single use heal, should only be revealed later on.

This is a really fun game, and it only takes 30-60 minutes depending on your deduction skills and what characters are in play. The game is rated for 10 years of age and up, though I would probably lean more towards 15 since some of the artwork is slightly graphic in that weapons are smeared with blood, and the wording on some of the Hermit cards can be quite baffling. Aside from the blood-smearing the artwork is actually quite beautiful, and some of it reminds me of anime characters. Overall, I love this game, and I intend to pick it up one of the times I’m back in the US since it’s cheaper there.

1 comment:

  1. This game sounds a lot like the Battlestar Galactica board game, which I LOVE. I'll have to pick it up!