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Subject: I have a perfect score at Shadows over Camelot ... rss

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Randall Bart
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... and it's likely to stay that way, because I don't intend to play again.

It was seven player, three or four of us first timers. We were told that no group had ever beaten this game, so we had to stick together and work as a team. They were lax on the limited talk rule, because they had never won. We were told that by convention you should put high Lancelot or Dark Knight cards face up (to warn people) but most of them down (for the extra card). No one ever put one face up.

From the outset the game seemed very flat and mechanical, and nothing occurred to change that impression. You need to place Grail cards on the Grail quest faster than the Despair cards appear. If we get seven ahead, we win, if we get seven behind we lose. The Excalibur quest is exactly the same, except any card can be played there, and it's five ahead wins, five behind loses. Saxon/Pict quests are just play five cards in order before four Saxon/Pict cards come out. Dark Knight and Lancelot are slightly more interesting, but only slightly.

We dodged a bullet on the Lancelot quest. The guy who went on it intended to play two 5s and three 1s (13). He had played his 5s, then realized he had acquired a second 4 (through no effort of his own) and the fourth black card had already been played. He played a 4, burned a life, and played another 4 (total 18). Soon the fifth black card came out. The traitor had put some big cards face down, but we won the quest 18 to 17. Because we won that we went on to win. If we had lost we would have lost. The rest was just staying ahead of the Excalibur and Grail quests until we ground them out, and players occasionally working on the Picts and Saxons. (I figured out how to tell those two apart: The Axin' Saxons.) No one ever faced the Dark Knight.

The strategy of the game seems blindingly obvious: Keep on top of the flip over quests (Lancelot, Excalibur, and Grail), and let the main board suffer until you've beaten one of those. Occasionally burn a life or a Merlin to avoid failure or put you over the top. Don't flit around the board, because that costs a turn, and wasting a turn is as bad as burning a life. I saw no chances for great ingenuity.

The game ran about 2:20 including teaching the rules. Accounting for newbie slowness, after a couple plays the advertised 90 minute time looks to be accurate. To me that is way too long for a game with very little substance.
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Matt Hoffman
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Barticus88 wrote:
He played a 4, burned a life, and played another 4 (total 18). Soon the fifth black card came out. The traitor had put some big cards face down, but we won the quest 18 to 17. Because we won that we went on to win. If we had lost we would have lost.


You can't lose a life to do the same heroic action. You can only lose a life to do a second different heroic action. So... perhaps your score should be 0-1.
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Tim Seitz
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hoffmanmw wrote:
Barticus88 wrote:
He played a 4, burned a life, and played another 4 (total 18). Soon the fifth black card came out. The traitor had put some big cards face down, but we won the quest 18 to 17. Because we won that we went on to win. If we had lost we would have lost.


You can't lose a life to do the same heroic action. You can only lose a life to do a second different heroic action. So... perhaps your score should be 0-1.


pwned


In every game I've ever been in, the traitor has always won. Then I played with a group who said they had never lost, and I turned out to be the traitor! They were pretty disappointed when I won the game.
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Michael Basil
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You need to play with our group... we have still never lost... I almost want to loose just to say that I have!
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Brian Moyers
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Sure the substance of Shadows can seem a bit flimsy. To me the enjoyment comes from the interaction between the knights and the tension of a possible traitor. Without those elements the game is very boring. I would suggest you get some more plays in and remember that you can't take the same heroic action more than once per turn.

FYI - In our group the ratio of wins to losses is about 50/50, and games with a traitor result in the traitor always winning.
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Laurence Parsons
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I agree that the more interesting aspects of the game come from working out who is the traitor. It's also important to follow rules, especially about burning a life for a second heroic action. That would certainly make the game easier.
However, if you still find the game easy, it does lend itself to handicapping without too much thought.
Try starting with a couple (or more) seige engines on the board.
Take one less card at the start.
Start on one less life (really difficult).
Start with a black sword on the table.

Personally, I find it challenging enough, especially with a good traitor, but there are some ideas for you.
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Randall Bart
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hoffmanmw wrote:
You can't lose a life to do the same heroic action. You can only lose a life to do a second different heroic action. So... perhaps your score should be 0-1.

Really? I think we finished two other quests the same way: Play a Grail, burn a life, play a Grail, and play a 4, burn a life, play a 5. I don't have the rules, but the player reference cards are in the gallery, and sure enough it does say "different". Yep, we should have lost. From a game design perspective that's a better rule. Unfortunately it further limits your options in a game where you don't have enough real options.

The game is just too flat. It's never play the Grail card now, because it's worth more right now than last turn or next turn. The quests need character. I would play a variant of this game where the quests are reworked into something better than counting white card and black cards. Edison said "Genius is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration." Hitchcock said "Drama is real life with the boring parts cut out." This game is long on perspiration and short on drama.
 
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Amus
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It also makes it more challenging if you don't deal out a merlin card to each player at the first or throw the card into the middle at the beginning. Modifying these two rules makes it very hard and a lot more fun. Removing both of these rules has made it more fun for our group as early black cards are far more dangerous (as there is no way to counter them) and it makes it harder (a little) to tell who the traitor is.
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Guy Steuperaert
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The two times a different action is in the rules, so you are definatly wrong there.
In my group we enjoy the game. We help eachother out and we try to play by the hearth of the game. While doing so you look passed the cardnumbers, or at least i do.
Also i cant see how people can say they always win this game. I played it five times now and although i can see some strategy working better then other its still not a sure thing. You cant control the black cards so always winning has to be some party lucky. And you also cant control other players, unless you dictate them what they have to do. So someone will sooner or later made one or more mistakes.

Anyway i enjoy this one greatly, it also looks very nice If all you see are pokerhands then i would indeed not play this game and just play poker instead.
 
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Randall Bart
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freduk wrote:
However, if you still find the game easy, it does lend itself to handicapping without too much thought.


If the only problem were that the game is too easy or hard, that would be easy to address. It's the "without too much thought" part of the game that bugs me. The traitor gets to be clever and devious, and the others get to find him out, but that's all the game has going for it.
 
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Bob
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My group also finds the game interesting; especially in dealing with the different aspects of the game and dealing with the traitor. Haven't kept an accurate count, but I'd hazard to say we've (Knights) only won about 40% of the time. Guess that means we're too good at playing the Traitor... shake

Others have offered several ideas for improving your enjoyment of the game. Personally, we find it challenging as is.

Bob

 
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Randall Bart
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To illustrate my point, let me give an example of how a quest could be improved. This is off the top of my head, not particularly well thought out, and certainly not playtested.

Number the Grail spaces 1 thru 7. Put a number 1 thru 7 on each Grail card. Whenever you play a Grail card, if the next space is the number on your card, discard a Despair and place your Grail card. This way you have the need to play a Grail card now while it's worth double, or play a Merlin now to preserve the double value of a Grail card. This would add some texture to the otherwise flat card counting mechanic.

Obviously this would make the game easier. If you don't want it easier, you could put numbers on the Despair cards and apply a similar rule, again giving reason to play a Merlin now to avoid the double Despair.
 
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Guy Srinivasan
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SoC, like many games, is very good when all of the players know the game very well. The first thing to note is that in general turns should go very fast. Most turns do not require a decision, as you've noted, which is not the standard Eurogame design. Everything revolves around the Traitor. Since there are few real decision points (which is fine if everyone is playing quickly, which they will do once they all know the game), the subtlety is recognizing when someone just made a decision and updating your beliefs about who the traitor is based on what you think should/could have happened.

Tabletalk ruins this. Disallow it. If you leave the Grail that should be talk enough to say "if I'm loyal then I'm out of grails or you should pay very close attention to where I went because it's quite important, OR of course I could be the traitor".

IMO if you play with 6+ people without handicapping you should win every time, traitor or not. And with 7 players and tabletalk, well, don't be surprised if you never have to make a decision. You could have thrown 5 siege engines on the table at the beginning and still won if there were no newbies.

There really isn't room for ingenuity in beating the quests when playing as a loyal knight. That's fine, the game isn't about beating the quests, it's about detecting the traitor while beating the quests.

You live in Seattle - PM me with your email address or something if you want to get in on a tight game of SoC.
 
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Randall Bart
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GreedyAlgorithm wrote:
There really isn't room for ingenuity in beating the quests when playing as a loyal knight. That's fine, the game isn't about beating the quests, it's about detecting the traitor while beating the quests.

snoresnoresnoresnore I want to be clever.

GreedyAlgorithm wrote:
You live in Seattle - PM me with your email address or something if you want to get in on a tight game of SoC.

How about some Power Grid?
 
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Guy Srinivasan
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Oh, there's plenty of clever, it's just in different places. After anyone-but-Tristan draws up to 12 cards at the table, then goes to the Grail and plays 5 grails and then Reinforcements to give everyone at the table but himself a card, someone who's currently at the table should go to one of the Wars and play a 1. If grail-knight doesn't join you he's more likely to be the traitor. Make sure to dump all (or all but 3 if you're afraidykittyscared) of your Merlins just before the deck shuffles. Arthur should give high cards in the beginning to whoever is just after Percival to maximize his special power/Armor combo usage. It's like poker, you just have to have the mindset to get elated when you eke out a +2% edge you hadn't seen before.

Of course playing the traitor is in many ways similar. As traitor you always want to legitimately have 1 life and try to go to quests that are doable but might require some black deck stalling. There are some fiddly plays too, like if your starting hand has two 4s, keep collecting 4s and play perfectly loyal, then go to the Dragon late-game and make sure a 4 (preferably not yours) is played. Endeavor to be the one to draw the last of the white cards before they are shuffled, because you can then play some unique white card you were hoarding immediately as if you just drew it, but it won't go into the new draw pile.

Don't beat the Wars when there are no Picts/Saxons to fight, it wastes turns. Don't go to the Black Knight when no cards have been played unless you plan to beat it 1-1-2-2. Spike the Wars and Excalibur and the Dragon. Never fight a siege engine unless your plan is to burn through your Fight cards and then die. Notice whenever anyone violates one of these principles and either figure out why they thought it was a good plan or increase your belief that they're the traitor.
 
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