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Shank

Demetri
United States
Raleigh
North Carolina
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Real quick aside, I've written a good amount of stuff recently and make a point of crossposting on BGG but I haven't been announcing it here lately because I don't know what "self-promotion" means. Here's some recents:

Kabuto Sumo - https://pixeldie.com/2021/09/29/kabuto-sumo-review/, https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2755822/kabuto-sumo-1-2-dos...

Cuphead: Fast Rolling Dice Game - https://pixeldie.com/2021/11/03/cuphead-fast-rolling-dice-ga... , https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2755824/cuphead-fast-rollin...

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Now this, this is something special. Cards and numbers afficionados take note, this one's claims of being different are not just marketing fluff. I've never played anything quite like this and several plays have only left me wanting more.

Shamans is a fusion of trick taking and hidden roles, but it doesn't play like a social deduction game. Think of your role as an assigned bid: most players are shamans who want to follow suit and play nice, but 1-2 (depending on player count) are shadows that are looking to play off-suit and tank the hand. The game isn't a must-follow meaning you can just play whatever at any time, and every card that doesn't follow the lead moves the group closer and closer to a shadow victory.

There are, of course, some additional bits. The player who tossed in the lowest on-suit card each trick gets a token. This could let them reveal their role to the table, or help earn them additional points, or nudge the track, or even give them a knife they can use to just eliminate a player later in the hand. There's more rules to that than I feel like summarizing, but the exciting part is that if a shaman is killed the track gets shoved as far as the number of cards they're holding. This means both sides very much like knives for very different reasons, and hands often involve some amount of cold war-esque arming of weapons just to signal to the table that you mean business.

But what really makes this is that, like any trick taker, you're playing several hands. And that means the roles are also re-dealt. So instead of being stuck hiding your role for 20-30 minutes you're given the fullest extent of the excitement both genres can offer. At the end of the day the winner is the individual who hits 8 points first, not a specific "side", so it's likely you'll end up on different teams from hand to hand and need to balance helping your pals with looking out for #1. Selfishly grabbing points from tokens or bonuses can be worth more than winning a hand, especially if it means you don't have to share with your "friends".

Shamans has lodged itself in my brain like a ritual dagger. It's our group's current obsession, one that's hit the table several weeks in a row and that we are nowhere close to fully understanding, much less fatiguing on. It's the rare case of a genre mashup highlighting the strengths of all its parts, while also creating something truly original, and I'm grateful it exists.
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