New South Wales
Shadows over Camelot
Objective: (What you must do to win)
Your winning objective will be different depending on whether you are a loyal knight, or a traitor.
Loyal knights must work collaboratively to to ensure that at the end of the game a majority (7+) white swords dominate the round table.
Traitorous knights win at any time the loyal knights lose. This occurs when either all the knights die, any point when there is a majority (7+) of black swords on the round table, or when there are 12 catapaults outside Camelot.
Complexity: (How many rules to get your head around)
Shadows over Camelot is a collected group of miniquests that all tie in to the overarching game. On the whole of it, the rules are not that difficult to learn as the premise and how its executed is very easily observed from the layout of the board and the visual cues marked on the board.
Of course, the rules are complicated by the fact that each of these miniquests have their own subset of rules that must be learned. However, I've found that after about the second round everyone clicks into the game and has an understanding of what's going on. Even better, I can always refer players to the turn summaries on their character bios.
As a general rule, I usually play the first game with someone without a traitor and I play as King Arthur (who works really well as a support character), or with me playing openly as the traitor from the start. If there are three players, I never use a traitor.
Aesthetics: (How shiny I think it is)
This is a very pretty game. I deliberately went out of my way to get a copy after Days of Wonder stopped trading directly to Australia. The boards, the card illustrations, the miniatures, the character profiles all have very detailed artwork. It really does enhance the sense of indulging in a fantasy landscape.
I'd say that the aesthetics are one of the best selling points of this game.
Strategy: (How deep the strategy in the game seems to be)
Whenever teaching people the game, I make sure that they are aware of some of the very heinous nasty stuff that can occur from the black cards. I make note of Morgana and the Dark Forest.
I also tend to be a little bit lenient about table talk until I feel the players are confident about the game as a whole. After that, I tend to instigate a no table talk rule. For the most part I try to encourage people to stay in character. As long as players can be euphemistic about the stuff they're trying to share I let it slide. Half the fun comes from watching players develop their own internal language of references to the various needs and demands.
Now, as for overall strategy: go for Lancelot's Armour first. It is so critical. The ability to chose between two black cards could be the difference between royal victory and royally skewed!
The Grail and Excalibur tend to be second priority. However an equally valid tactic is to get them close to winning and then just let them slide away. The black card pile is going to waste a whole bunch of black cards whittling that away and it helps keep the catapaults in check.
I generally tend to ignore the central board quests. If you do it right, by recovering the three artifacts you'll usually be in a position where you have a majority of white swords. From that point (as long as you don't have a traitor) just push the game to pile up the white swords while fending off the catapaults.
If you have a potential traitor, use this time to route them out.
On the other hand... if you ARE the traitor. Go for Lancelot's Armour and look at all the wonderful ways you can subtly screw with the game.
I find the best way to be a traitor is simply to just play a sub par game. Never do as well as you can, and it will drag the whole game down while letting you fly under the radar.
I've never yet lost as the traitor.
Highlights: (What impressed me about the game the most)
You win or die together. The final act when the last sword falls into place and everyone shouts hurrah for collectively winning is definitely a choice moment.
Sticking Points: (What I think could be improved about the game)
Really not much in the way of sticking points. If anything, just getting people's heads around the idea of cooperative play can be a bit of a challenge in its own right.
Duet: (is it good for two players?)
I did make a two player variant of this game with limited success. You can't play with a traitor, and you give each player two knights to control. It does work, but it's a second rate choice compared to the proper game with traitors.
what about with a 3 player game? Even without a traitor the 3 player version is pretty hard.
Eh, I find it rather easy actually. I can get twice as many cards in Camelot, with the same amount of black cards drawn in a 6 player game.
If memory serves there is a 3 player ruleset that does say not to use a traitor.
In theory the game should be easier with more, Having more cards is always good, but the downside is more evil actions between having turns for solo quests. So getting the armour in a 6 player game becomes a bit of a challenge. 6 black cards to your 1 white. So 30 black cards are drawn before you can finish it. Obviously with 4 that number drops alot. So I would say it balances out over time. with 3 if you pick your knights it will increase the chances massively.
Dont underestimate the value of the grail, there are alot of swords to be won or lost and if you focus early then you can do it quick and get a great headstart for the loyal knights!
I played it earlier, even with first time players it works with traitors, if anything it makes the game so much more fun. Random characters are a must, by making yourself Arthur it could feel that your dictating the game a little too much. As long as the more experienced players are open about tactics and give ideas of stuff that can happen it runs very smoothy and nobody gets left behind. Always high on my list to play, I just need the expansion now!
Thanks for the review!