Designers: Johannes E. Benjamin III, James W. Muckell, and Josh K. Buel
Artist: Miguel Angel Perez Lopez
Publisher: Pure Fun Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 3-9
Playing Time: 10 minutes
DISCLAIMER: This is a preview of Shadow Strike Melee. I was sent a prototype version of the game. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.
The time has come to prove yourself as a true ninja warrior. You step out onto the battlefield, clad in your robes, your trusty shuriken in hand. As you take note of your opponents, seeing their strengths and weaknesses in their stance and form, you make a startling realization: whether from overconfidence or a lack of foresight, you're not actually sure how you match up against your foes.
Let's hope that shuriken comes in handy.
Shadow Strike Melee is a fast-paced game of hand management with a twist: you don't know what your hand is! Use your items wisely to turn the tide of battle, hone your skills at the last minute, and get one over on your opponents to be the last ninja standing.
Having corner protectors as part of the stylized box art adds a certain flair to the package.
Rules and Setup:
On a player's turn, they choose an opponent to duel and play one of their Fight cards face up on the table. The opponent does the same, and whoever plays the highest card wins the round. Players may also play Item cards on their turn to help change the outcome of a fight, only replenishing Item cards once they've used all of theirs. The loser must turn one of their outward-facing Fight cards towards them, and the cards that were played are replaced from the Fight deck. Once a player has lost three duels, they discard their hand; the last player left is the victor!
Everything you need to play, and a handy divider in the game box to keep it all organized.
Setup for the game is a breeze, as all it takes is separating and shuffling the two decks. Each player receives three Item cards (with blue backs), which face the player, and three Fight cards (with purple backs) that they face away from themselves. The Team cards (with character designs on the front and back) are only used in team fights to designate whose side you're on, but when used, they go on the table in front of each player. The first person to have won a game, any game, goes first.
Four teams of two square off in no-holds-barred combat!
Theme and Mechanics:
Shadow Strike Melee has a very cartoonish ninja theme, which I believe it embodies quite well. The items and artwork play on childhood expectations, especially with items like the "Energy Bar" being able to immediately enhance a character's performance. Even the game's duration reinforces the idea of a fast-paced ninja brawl that could be seen on a Saturday morning cartoon lineup.
I've already lost two duels. Let's hope my final Fight card can beat hers...
For such a compact game, the hand management mechanics shine and tie into the theme surprisingly well. The general idea is that you have a good sense of what your opponents' abilities are, but you're not entirely sure how you stack up against them (having cards flipped around to signify this seems like an ingenious idea to me). Your item cards can help you gain an upper hand, whether to force which cards are played or to join into the fray of a battle you feel confident on winning, but otherwise, you only have your opponents' hands to work with. However, as time goes on, you replace your Fight cards and can even play cards that were flipped after a lost duel; this equates to each player starting to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, possibly giving them an upper hand in later fights. My one gripe is that with only three cards to work with, you could be eliminated rather quickly without a chance to strategize.
One rule that I'm a big fan of is that anyone caught giving hints, whether it be a teammate trying to help their partner or a player attempting to psychologically influence an opponent, automatically takes a hit and must flip one of their Fight cards over. The whole point of the game is not knowing how you fare against others until the moment of conflict, and hint-givers only serve to take away or negatively influence this mechanic. I for one appreciate a game that is willing to punish cheaters and poor sports.
A six beats a five! I'm alive for another round, at least!
Artwork and Components:
As stated above, the art has a very cartoonish look, from the wide eyes of the ninjas to the dramatic emphasis lines on the cards. The card design elements are subtle enough to not detract from the artwork. I'm not particularly a fan of the backing for the Item cards; having the Hit markers on the backs of the Fight cards adds a fun visual element, but only having a simple logo for the Item cards seems a bit lackluster.
It's quite interesting how simple lines, depending on their location, can be so descriptive.
The game contains a total of 120 cards, all of which feel like they're good quality and fit snug into the box without issue. Fight cards are numbered zero to ten. There are only three types of Item cards, but with how quickly games go and the distinct lack of time to plan a strategy, three types of Item cards seems like a perfect amount. The included rulebook does a very good job of explaining the rules clearly and concisely.
The three types of item cards within the game. The "Smoke Bomb" is the most versatile,
allowing you to either change cards or join another fight.
Shadow Strike Melee delivers a fast-paced game with a fun twist on existing mechanics and cartoon artwork to boot. It's the perfect filler game and is a cinch to learn.
For those looking for a component-heavy game with intense strategy, look elsewhere. Some may not be fans of the art style, and it's hard to see this as anything but a filler game.
Embrace the lack of strategy and the randomness of your hand; the next game will start soon! Or, for longer games with more potential for strategy, consider increasing the hand size to five.
Players Who Like:
Fans of fast-paced competitive games like Love Letter and Coup will get a kick out of this one.
I am giving Shadow Strike Melee 7 out of 10 super meeples.
See David's original review at http://www.everythingboardgames.com/2017/11/shadow-strike-me...