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Subject: Mr. Saucy Revealed rss

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Geoff Dunbar
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Game night at the Neighbor's house, with myself, the Borrower, Mr. and Mrs. Saucy, Disney Girl, and of course the nefarious Neighbor himself. We began with two games of Metro, a new game for me. Sadly all record of these games have been buried beneath the sands of time, but let the record show that I distinctly recall craving a pretzel while we were playing. Or perhaps spaghetti, I'm not sure.

Following that, attention shifted to the shiny new box, containing Shadows Over Camelot, which I had hauled from far Western parts to fascinate and delight the assembled crowd. (This is all true, as my house lies exactly one house to the West of the Neighbor). I had played Shadows several times in the past, while the rest were in for the first time, despite their reputations as seasoned gamers.

I've heard Shadows proclaimed as a good gateway game, and maybe it is, but by the beard of Merlin does it take a long time to explain! There isn't _that_ much to the basic gameplay, but you have to explain how all of the quests work (they all act a little different), you have to give at least lip service to the different types of white and black cards, and so forth. Eyes were beginning to glaze over. Not to mention the snide, "Oh great, now we're going to play Dungeons and Dragons!" that came out of Disney Girl's lips. I don't think she meant it in a positive light either, I'm sorry to say (for all of you D&D aficionados out there). I added just a few strategy tips (stay in Camelot until you can make good progress on a quest, most prominently), which I recommended taking with a grain of salt due to my never having participated in a victorious game of Shadows before.

The early game went fairly well. We mostly gathered cards early on, until the Borrower headed to the Grail, while myself, Mr. and Mrs. Saucy headed for the Saxons. We decided to get the Saxon quest within one card of victory and then table it so there would be some Saxons there when we finished it. Meanwhile Launcelot's Armor and Excalibur were lost uncontested. We mostly drew black cards in the early game, with the theory that we should build up as much "random badness" from them before the more "controlled badness" of losing life points or adding siege engines Meanwhile accusations of traitorous behavior were flying left and right, but nothing really suspicious had occurred yet. For me, half the fun of Shadows is making baseless accusations of others and making them squirm, and most of the other half is in actually trying to figure out who is the traitor.

The Neighbor went to challenge the Black Knight, and had a decent full house ready to go. There were a few black cards there, all face down, but all had announced that the Black Knight was "weak" or "middling at best". So, when a 7 showed up (7 is the most powerful Black Knight card), we knew that the traitor was "in da house", so to speak. Myself, Disney Girl, and Mr. Saucy were the likely suspects. However, it turned out to be a really nice traitorous move, as the Neighbor then lost his battle by a point or two, bringing us to six black swords. Just one more black sword and Camelot would be lost.

Shortly after this, Mr. Saucy discarded three 4 Fight cards to restore a life point, and the table stared. He assumed what I would have, in my inebriated college years, described as a "shit eating grin" (he later described it as a smirk, but I think that's underselling the case). Assuming my best "TV lawyer drama" post, I pointed and exclaimed "Traitor!", and he was unmasked. I believe he actually missed a winning move where he could have falsely accused someone and added the fatal seventh sword, but it wasn't obvious to him at the time.

But at this point, we were actually in pretty good shape. We had a ton of life points, a ton of empty siege engine spaces, and plenty of cards. We stopped drawing black cards altogether and made a rush at getting the remaining four swords we needed. The biggest trick was that we had to be sure to finish the Pict quest before the Grail quest, because doing the Grail first would have yielded six swords of each color, for a loss, whereas by doing the Picts first we ended up with thirteen swords, seven white. And we did it, for the first victory of the Knights of the Round Table that I've every witnessed!

Mr. Saucy made a nice traitor, especially with his villainous sideburns, although he commented after the game that keeping all the actions straight was difficult (when to draw cards, etc). I can see this being confusing especially when you have the added pressure of being the traitor in your first game. I suppose the rules suggest playing without a traitor for your first game for a reason, but what's the point of that? Disney Girl reluctantly agreed that Shadows was nothing like Dungeons and Dragons despite the miniature warrior figures. Beyond that everyone seemed to enjoy the game and we'll try it again with this group sometime.
 
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Marc Hartstein
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You're right. Mr. Saucy, if he hadn't yet accused anybody of being the traitor, could have won the game immediately by pointing at another player.

I'm inclined to disagree with your "stay in Camelot and draw until you can make good progress" advice, however. If everybody spends their first turn drawing ("praying", as we like to call it), things start to pile up against you rather viciously. While it's nice to have a full hand of cards which gives you options, when you're praying in Camelot you're not out there fighting evil.

Most quests aren't made to be won by one knight alone against the forces of darkness. Instead, they should be ganged up on by a team of knights arriving as they're able to take meaningful action. This way they get beaten quickly so you don't have to panic about them, and more knights gain life to allow you to be productive in the future. Life is for spending, and quests return almost as many cards as they cost to prosecute.

In particular, Sir Tristan and Sir Palamedes should frequently go out and fight wars. They end quickly, Palamedes gets extra life, and Tristan gets sent home where he can take advantage of his power again. Especially if the cards won in the war are judiciously given to him, and especially if somebody other than Tristan finishes the war.

I agree with your decision to largely draw Black cards, however. In my opinion, there are only four times a loyal knight should choose not to draw a black card:

1. A Quest is in imminent danger of being lost (one more black card will lose it), and a knight plans to repair the situation. It can be worth losing some life or adding a couple of siege engines to wait until that knight's turn and not risk the bad results if you draw the wrong card. This is risk management, so each knight needs to weigh the risks for himself when deciding whether to draw.

2. Sir Percival has gazed into the immediate future, or any knight has used Clairvoyance to see the future, and has recommended not drawing from the deck until some action is taken by a knight. Some cards are worth having played a little later, and sometimes it's worth letting the person with Lancelot's Armor get rid of a scary black special card.

3. In extremely rare cases, some knight (most likely Sir Palamedes) might find he is going to gain enough life before the beginning of his next turn to bring him above six. The best way for him to spend life (and therefore not waste some) might be to spend it instead of drawing a card. This seems unlikely, as spending your life for extra actions is very valuable.

4. The endgame. At some point, an astute player might count the remaining spaces on the round table, the remaining empty siege engine spaces, the remaining life for each player, and the status of available Quests and realize that it's possible for the knights to win the game without drawing any more black cards. Since the black cards introduce randomness, it may be that victory is only guaranteed if they're not drawn.

Sorry if that got long-winded. Sounds like you had fun. Thanks for sharing, and be sure to tell Mr. Saucy he'd done a good job with his lie on the Black Knight, and he almost had you guys.
 
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Travis Hall
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MarcMagus wrote:
You're right. Mr. Saucy, if he hadn't yet accused anybody of being the traitor, could have won the game immediately by pointing at another player.

Or by just continuing to play loyally. If he had done that, you would have had very little chance of finding the traitor, and two white swords would have been flipped to black at the end of the game. You did include that in your explanation, yes?

Quote:
I'm inclined to disagree with your "stay in Camelot and draw until you can make good progress" advice, however.

No, that's good advice. Going out before you can make proper progress just means you will have to return to Camelot, wasting actions by moving out and back without actually getting something done.

Problems arise, though, when players take the principle too far. Very rarely do you need a full hand before you are ready to make "good progress". Four Grail cards in hand are generally enough to start on the Grail quest, depending on the signals you are getting from others. A full house for fighting Lancelot is only five cards. Any five cards is enough to win Excalibur (if somebody else comes along to counter black Excalibur cards).
 
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Geoff Dunbar
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Wraith wrote:
MarcMagus wrote:
You're right. Mr. Saucy, if he hadn't yet accused anybody of being the traitor, could have won the game immediately by pointing at another player.

Or by just continuing to play loyally. If he had done that, you would have had very little chance of finding the traitor, and two white swords would have been flipped to black at the end of the game. You did include that in your explanation, yes?


I did, but who knows if it "took" on first play. I think one of had him figured out with the hidden 7 on the Black Knight quest, so he was probably getting fingered anyways. Discarding 3 "Fight 4" cards for a life point made it pretty obvious, though. He did a nice job as a traitor for his first game, in any case.

Geoff
 
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Geoff Dunbar
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Wraith wrote:
MarcMagus wrote:
I'm inclined to disagree with your "stay in Camelot and draw until you can make good progress" advice, however.

No, that's good advice. Going out before you can make proper progress just means you will have to return to Camelot, wasting actions by moving out and back without actually getting something done.

Problems arise, though, when players take the principle too far. Very rarely do you need a full hand before you are ready to make "good progress". Four Grail cards in hand are generally enough to start on the Grail quest, depending on the signals you are getting from others. A full house for fighting Lancelot is only five cards. Any five cards is enough to win Excalibur (if somebody else comes along to counter black Excalibur cards).


On reflection, I think you're both right. The tendency is for newbies to rush out to do quests right away, wasting valuable turns running to and from Camelot. So, for newbies I think the advice, "Gather cards before going on quests" is good. But once you know what you are doing, you can get more creative, particularly with willing and able cohorts.

Geoff
 
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Marc Hartstein
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Wraith wrote:
No, that's good advice. Going out before you can make proper progress just means you will have to return to Camelot, wasting actions by moving out and back without actually getting something done.


True. In my experiences (generally of seven-player games), the majority of the players have the cards to go off and make proper progress on a quest right away as long as the knights are willing to work together.

gdunbar wrote:
Discarding 3 "Fight 4" cards for a life point made it pretty obvious, though.


That reminds me. All discards are face-down. I believe this also applies to the three cards discarded to gain a life. Players are expected not to cheat and play three non-matching cards, but you don't have to tell the other players what you're discarding.
 
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Travis Hall
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gdunbar wrote:
On reflection, I think you're both right. The tendency is for newbies to rush out to do quests right away, wasting valuable turns running to and from Camelot. So, for newbies I think the advice, "Gather cards before going on quests" is good. But once you know what you are doing, you can get more creative, particularly with willing and able cohorts.

Yes, experience brings a greater ability to know when you have the cards you need to make a difference. You should always get the cards first, but especially when it comes to group quests, you can come a lot closer to going out with only the bare minimum without screwing it up.
 
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