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Subject: Shadows over Camelot - My first go at a review rss

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Gary Goh
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Budding wargamer
My role model for his brains, calm demeanour and appetite for snacks!
As the title says, this is my first attempt at creating a review and I have chosen to do it for my gateway game. In this review, I break it down into 3 parts:

"History" - how I first came across this game, and what attracted me to give it a go.
"Gameplay" - provides a general outlook on the game without going into too much detail
"My Thoughts" - reveals my personal feelings about the game from my gaming experience.


I often wondered whether cooperative games could exist in the boardgaming world and was pleasantly surprised to find that they actually did. I stumbled upon Shadows over Camelot when I was surfing Boardgamegeek and was taken aback (in a good way, of course) at the lovely artwork and pieces that came with the game.

So what's so special about a cooperative boardgame? To begin with, most games require players to pit themselves against one another so as to come out triumphant at the end of the game. On the other hand, cooperative games require players to compete, not with each other, but against the game itself. If this is the case, one might ask how this game can be interesting, if ALL players can theoretically work with one another to bring about a joint victory for themselves? The catch here is, the players are ramping up the difficulty level in these games as gameplay progresses. How this is done is unique to each cooperative game, so I will only touch on this aspect for Shadows over Camelot.

In Shadows over Camelot, players take on the role of King Arthur and his famed Knights of the Round Table and they are pitted against the forces of darkness, led by familiar characters such as Launcelot and the Black Knight. To win the game, players have to accumulate 12 swords—which come in white or black—where they will have to obtain more white swords than black. On the other hand, they lose if there are more black swords than white, 12 siege engines are laid on the board, or when all players' lifepoints have reached zero.

To obtain swords, players will have to go on quests—successfully completing them will yield white swords along with other rewards such as bonus lifepoints and white cards, while losing these quests will yield black swords and cause knights who are on that quest to lose life points. Some of these quests are solo quests—which allow only one knight to be on it at any time—or party quests where more than 1 knight can be involved at any point in time. Some of these quests are: the quest for Excalibur, the quest of the Holy Grail, the Black Knight tournament, among many others.

So how exactly does the game increase in difficulty for the players? In Shadows over Camelot, a player's turn is conducted in 2 phases; the first is known as the "Progression of Evil" phase. In this phase, the player decides how the game is made more difficult—he or she has the option of placing a siege engine on the board, play a black card (which always brings about bad events), or lose a life point. Once this phase is over, the player can then decide what good action his or her character will take.

What effect does this unique turn phase have on the game then? At the start of the game, the players have little to worry about due to the absence of siege engines or black cards which threaten the various quests. However, as the game progresses, there will be many siege engines on the board, more than half of the players will have whittled down their lifepoints to avoid drawing black cards, and are low on cards in hand due to them having exhausted the latter on quests. At this point, tension will have picked up and the race to complete the game will have become more urgent.

There is also the potential of playing the game with a traitor. To do so, players will select a card from a loyalty deck, which comprises of 7 "Loyal Knight" cards and 1 "Traitor" card. The player who draws the Traitor card will attempt to sabotage the other knights in a subtle manner while trying to avoid being revealed by the others. To top it off, the traitor wins if the other knights lose, so some gloating can be expected when the round is over. To me, this aspect of the game ups its enjoyment factor tremendously.

My Thoughts:
Shadows over Camelot is an extremely wonderful game to play and I have enjoyed every single round of gameplay. I do look forward to playing more of this game with my family or peers. A round of play will only require slightly more than an hour, which greatly enhances the replayability factor. It is also extremely fun embarking on quests together with your fellow players, as the thought that the person who is aiding you in that quest might very well be the traitor will constantly be present. In a game where full cooperation is ideal, suspicion of your fellow players will seriously affect how much you can or will reveal to others during your communications.

I personally found Shadows over Camelot to be highly suitable as a gateway game to bring more potential boardgamers into the fold. It worked very well for me because the cooperative aspect was a really new and alien concept which I found to be very intriguing, and I am fairly certain that it will work just as well for individuals who are as open to the idea of working as a collective unit against the boardgame.
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