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Subject: Shadows Over Camelot - A review rss

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David Neumann
United States
Whitefish Bay
Wisconsin
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In life you have to do a lot of things you don't f*cking want to do. Many times, that's what the f*ck life is... one vile f*cking task after another.
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Shadows Over Camelot
Game Design: Serge Laget & Bruno Cathala
Published by: Days of Wonder
Online Play: Vassal mod downloadable at www.talesofptolus.com

Shadows Over Camelot is a cooperative boardgame for 3-7 players. The Knights of the Round Table must complete quests around the game board while fighting off the evil influence of Mordred, Morgan, and the Black Knight.

Components:

The game contains 4(!) full-color game boards. Three of the boards are double-sided. The four boards are:

Main Board: Contains Camelot itself (and the round table), the Black Knight quest, the Saxon War quest, and the Picts War quest. It also contains an area around Camelot where siege engines can be placed. It is colorful, beautifully illustrated, and functional.

Grail Board: This is a 2-piece board that fits together like a puzzle. The quest side is magnificent with places for 7 cards on it, each one detailing the plight of the grail from a shining beacon to a shrouded, cobwebbed relic. Some cards placed on this board are titled 'Despair' and the graphics on the board convey that sentiment wonderfully. The other side of the board is decorated to indicate what happens when this quest has been won or lost.

Excalibur Board: This board contains a track upon which Excalibur travels -- toward the knights when good is done, and away from the knights when evil progresses. The image is that of a pond or lake, with the track making an 'S' curve across the lake. The other side of the baord is decorated to indicate what happens when this quest has been won or lost.

Lancelot/Dragon Board: This board is double-sided as well, one side depicting the Quest for Lancelot, and the other The Dragon's Quest. Each board is splendid and details which types/amounts of cards are needed to win or lose the quest.

All quests are labeled clearly on the board with the consequences of losing/winning each quest.

There are 7 character sheets representing each knight that is available in the game. The sheets are double-sided with the reverse of each side indicating the rules for the 'traitor'. More on that later. All these sheets are basically the same with the exception of artwork and the knight's special ability. Each one also includes a detailed reference area detailing what happens in a game turn and all the options the player has. Very nicely done and really limits trips to the rulebook. The knights included with the game are:

King Arthur
Sir Kay
Sir Gawain
Sir Palamedes
Sir Galahad
Sir Percival
Sir Tristan

(you can also download Sir Bedivere from the Days of Wonder website)

There are 3 decks of cards with the game. The cards are done on a very heavy card stock with a linen feel to them. They are very heavy and well done. There is a Black Deck (76 cards), a White Deck (84 cards), and a Loyalty Deck (8 cards). All cards are full color and the artwork is, again, stunning. The white and black decks are divided into Standard and Special cards. The Loyalty deck contains 'Loyal' cards and 1 'Traitor' card.

There are 16 cardboard 'swords' which serve as victory points in the game. The swords are double-sided, having a black-side and a white-side. When a quest is completed, swords are placed on the Round Table on their respective white or dark side. When 7 black swords are on the table, the knights lose.

There are 7 wooden dice, each painted in the color of one of the knights. The numbers are painted on in gold lettering. These dice are used to track life points of each knight.

There is 1 8-sided die used for fighting siege engines.

A well-laid out rules booklet and a separate 'Book of Quests'. The Book of Quests explains in detail the rules for each quest. It is very thorough and easy to follow. It also acts as a reference for every card in the game, and gives you the amount of each card in each deck.

7 knight miniatures. There is a detailed mini for every knight in the game. They are unpainted, but their base is painted in the color present on that knight's character sheet.

3 relic miniatures: The Holy Grail, Excalibur, and Lancelot's Armor. These are all placed on their respective quest and given to the knight that completes the quest or discarded if a quest is lost. Each has a special power that is detailed on each of the knight's character sheets.

There are 4 Saxon miniatures which are used in the Saxon War quest. Basically, when all 4 of the Saxons or all 4 of the Picts are on the board, that war (quest) is lost.

Lastly, there are 12 siege engine miniatures which are placed around Camelot as a result of Black Cards, losing quests, or drawing cards after a quest has been completed. If there are ever 12 siege engines on the board, the knights automatically lose.

Overall, I am extremely impressed with the components in this game. There is even a plastic case for all the knight and relic miniatures to fit into. Days of Wonder really put a lot of love into the game components.

Gameplay:

The object of the game is to have a majority of white swords on the Round Table when the 12th sword is laid there. The knights (except the traitor) lose if there are ever 7 black swords on the Round Table, or if there are 12 siege engines around Camelot.

Play begins with all players randomly (or not) choosing a knight and placing them at the round table. All players receive a ‘Merlin’ card from the white deck, and are then randomly dealt 5 White cards. The White and Black draw decks are placed on the game board.

Each knight is also dealt a Loyalty card. This will tell the knight whether they are loyal to the Round Table, or a Traitor and working for the forces of Evil. Everyone keeps their identity a secret.

Before the game starts all players must place one card on the Round Table and the knights then have to decide the best way to divvy them up.

Every player, then, takes their turn which consists of the following 2 phases:

Progression of Evil
Heroic Action

The Progression of Evil phase consists of the player doing one of the following (none of which help the knights):
Draw a Black Card from the Black draw pile, read it and apply its effect
Add a Siege Engine around Camelot
Lose a Life Point

The Heroic Action phase then proceeds, where the knight may do one of the following:
Move to a new Quest
Perform an action related to the Quest the knight is currently involved in
Play a Special White card (these are cards that have game altering powers…and, yes, there are special Black cards as well)
Heal Yourself by discarding 3 identical cards
Accuse another knight of being the Traitor.

The knight may lose a life point during the Heroic Action phase to perform a different action that the one they just performed. So, you can Move to a Quest, spend a life point, then Perform an action on that Quest. You cannot Perform an Action, spend a life point, then perform another action.

Play continues from knight to knight until either there are 7 black swords on the Round table, 12 Siege Engines around Camelot, or 12 Swords on the Round Table.

Let’s examine each of the quests, then, in terms of the above 2 phases.

Quest of the Black Knight

This is a solo quest. That is, only one knight may attempt it at a time, and if that knight leaves the quest all his progress is lost (all the cards he has played are removed).

Basically, in this quest the knight is trying to lay down 2 pairs of White ‘Fight’ cards, which are simply cards with a numerical value on them between 1 and 5. Note that each pair must be distinct, that is you can’t play 2 pairs of 5’s, for example. He can lay down 1 card during the Heroic Action phase each turn, so it will take a knight at least 4 turns to finish this quest.

During the progression of evil phase, there are ‘Black Knight’ cards that can be drawn from the Black draw deck. These have a numerical value as well and can be placed face-up or face-down on the quest. If the card is placed face-down, the knight placing it gets to draw a White card but then the other knights are helpless in knowing how strong their two pairs need to be to defeat the Black Knight.

The quest ends as soon as the knight completes his second pair, or there are 5 cards played for the Black Knight. The cards are totaled and whoever has the most points wins the quest. Note that the knight or Black knight can still win even if they do not have all the card slots

The Saxon/Picts Wars Quest

These quests are available to multiple knights that can attempt it at the same time. If knights leave this quest, their progress is not removed from the board.

The knights are trying to lay a straight, in order, of the numbered ‘Fight’ cards. That is, lay cards, in order, from 1 to 5 during their Heroic Action phase. For the knights to win, therefore, this quest will take at least 5 turns.

There are cards in the Black deck that call for Saxons or Picts to be added to the battlefield during the Progression of Evil phase.

The quests ends as soon as the knight completes the straight, or there are 4 Picts or Saxons on the battlefield.

Camelot Quest

This quest isn’t really a ‘quest'. There is, however a chance to perform a Heroic action here.

The knights at Camelot can draw 2 cards as their Heroic Action, or they can choose to fight a Siege Engine. This is done by playing numeric ‘Fight’ cards and then rolling the 8-sided die. If the number on the die is lower than the value of the fight cards played, the Siege Engine is removed from the board. Otherwise, the knight loses a life point and the siege engine remains. Either way, the played ‘Fight’ cards are discarded.

Excalibur Quest

This quest is available to multiple knights that can all attempt it at the same time. Cards are not played on this quest, so progress cannot be lost when a knight leaves it.

The knights may, during their Heroic Action phase discard any White card from their hand. Doing so causes the Excalibur miniature to move one step closer to the side of the knights.

The Black deck contains ‘Excalibur’ cards which cause the sword to move one step towards oblivion.

This quest ends when the sword either reaches the knights or reaches oblivion. The board is then flipped and if any ‘Excalibur’ cards are drawn during the Progression of Evil phase a Siege engine is added to the board.

Lancelot/Dragon Quests

The Lancelot Quest is performed first, and can only be done by a single knight. The dragon quest is on the reverse of the Lancelot quest, and only becomes available once the Lancelot quest is won or lost.

Both quests are similar to the Black Knight quest mentioned earlier. The only difference is that the knight needs a ‘Full House’, that is a pair and 3-of-a-kind of the numeric ‘Fight’ cards to win Lancelot, and 3 sets of ‘3-of-a-kind’ to defeat the dragon.

The quest ends when the knight fulfills their obligation or there are 5 Lancelot/Dragon Black cards drawn during the progression of evil.

Quest for the Holy Grail

Let me start by saying that this quest is hard. Probably the most frustrating quest of the game, and therefore probably the most fun.

Multiple knights can take part in this quest. The goal is to have 7 ‘Grail’ cards played on the board.

Knights can play a ‘Grail’ card as their Heroic Action each turn. Their card is played in the first open space closest to the left side of the board.

Black cards called ‘Despair’ (plus some Special Blacks as well) are drawn and played during the Progression of Evil phase. These are placed on the first open space to the far right of the board.

Now, the problem comes in when all slots are filled, some with good ‘Grail’ cards and some with evil ‘Despair’ cards. When the next card is played it does not fill up a slot, but merely ‘knocks’ another card off the board. For example, if there are 4 ‘Grail’ cards and 3 ‘Despair’ cards and a ‘Despair’ card is pulled during the Progression of Evil phase, one of the ‘Grail’ cards is removed and both it and the recently pulled ‘Despair’ card are discarded. So, then there are 3 ‘Grail’ and 3 ‘Despair’.

The frustration comes with the fact that as you lay a card, it can easily just be wiped out by any player’s Progression of Evil phase. This quest causes the most groans and agony, and therefore, enjoyment in the game.

When this quest is won or lost it is flipped over and then any future ‘Despair’ cards cause a Siege Engine to be placed around Camelot.

And that’s it. Each knight takes their turn and as each quest is won or lost, white or black swords are placed on the Round Table.

Of course, I’ve forgotten about the Traitor. There is a good chance that one of the knights is actually a traitor, working for evil. The knights can accuse someone of being the traitor during their Heroic Action phase. If they are correct, the knights get to add a white sword to the table and the traitor’s piece is removed from the board. The traitor is not removed from the game, but his mechanics change so he can focus solely on being rather evil. If the accusation is incorrect, a white sword is turned over to the black side.

Conclusion:

I have heard complaints on BGG about this game, that is is merely an over-produced card game. In a way, they’re right. It is, at its heart, a card game. But to call it merely a card game is to do the game a disservice.

This game is all about the cooperative play.

I do not have any games in my collection that I have had more fun with than this one. I have ranked some games higher (yes, I do have a couple 10/10 games), but this is my favorite game to play with a group of friends and family.

I have had adults screaming and moaning when another ‘Despair’ card comes out, traitors gleefully turning that 7th sword to black, every game a different quest gives you problems and new adventures. And that, too, is what makes the game fun. The theme. The quests feel like quests…when you finish one and throw some white swords on the table there is a sense of accomplishment. The fact that you’re doing it WITH your family and friends rather than competing with them makes this game unique and spectacular. (I know there are other cooperative games out there, but this one is light and short enough to attract those friends and family members who don’t have the interest in or patience to play a game like Arkham Horror).

Heck, I can even get my grumpy old Dad to sit down and play this game, not once but 2-3 or even 4 times a night.

Now that’s saying something!

My score: 9/10

Dave
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Hélio Andrade
Portugal
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best game i ever played, real fun, great stories about our gaming nights with it! A must buy!
 
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Ronster Zero
United States
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John G
United States
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Nice exhaustive review of the rules and components. I'm glad you're having so much fun with it. I need to give it another go. It got pretty stale for us after the first week or so.
 
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Larry Cross
United States
Dallas
Texas
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Superb review ! Thanks a lot.

Our little gaming group is a trio, rarely do we get 4 or more players.

The game indicates it can be played with 3, but do you know if it works very well with only 3? If not, I'll need to sell my copy (still in shrinkwrap).

BestRegards,

Larry
 
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Trevor G
United States
Utah
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I've heard a couple people on here say it doesn't work well with only three players....I disagree. It's more challenging with only three players....but it's a lot of fun. We even play with a possible traitor....haven't gotten one yet with only three....but I can only imagine it makes it almost impossible to win!

A ton of fun and a big challange...what more could you ask for? Rip off that shrink wrap already!

 
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