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Those wishing to see the full review (pictures included) can do so at the following page:

http://www.dadsgamingaddiction.com/shadows-over-camelot/

A full list of my board game reviews can be found on the same site here:

http://www.dadsgamingaddiction.com/board-game-reviews/

---

Ah…Camelot. How I respect thee. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been a fan of knights, archers, catapults, and everything else related to stories involving King Arthur, the Round Table, and anything else medieval themed. Perhaps it is because these stories revolve around simpler times, or maybe because some of them involve magic. Whatever the case, the combination of “Camelot” and “Days of Wonder” on the box helped me to take the plunge…though I was unprepared by just how different this game turned out to be compared to everything else in my collection.

Shadows Over Camelot: 3-7 Players, Ages 10+, Average Play Time = 60-90 Minutes

Shadows over Camelot is a cooperative game in which players will be working together to ensure that good triumphs over evil. Similar to Flash Point, Castle Panic, and Pandemic, players will be performing actions for the board in the name of evil, whether they want to or not. Players will be completing various quests to try and earn white swords…earn enough of them, and the players win the game. Like Battlestar Galactica, there is a chance that one of the players may be secretly working against the others. Not only will players be trying to complete quests, but they’ll be suspecting each other, sometimes up until the bitter end. Let’s take a quick look at the components and gameplay before going into the review.

Components

1 Master Board and 3 Double Sided Quest Boards – All of these boards are placed next to each other and contain all of the quests that players will be attempting to complete.

White / Black Swords – These are placed on the Round Table as quests are completed or failed.

White / Black / Green Cards – The white card deck will assist players in completing their quests, among other things. The black card deck will assist evil in thwarting the players, and the green card deck is made up of loyalty cards that determines who the traitor is, if any.

Character Sheets and Colored Dice – Each player will assume the role of a knight, which is accompanied by a character sheet and their colored six-sided die. The die serves as their life counter. The eight-sided die is the only die used for rolling purposes.

Miniatures – These miniatures include siege engines, relics, Saxon / Pict warriors, and knights.

Setup

The boards are placed in the center of the table…the double sided Lancelot / Dragon board is placed Lancelot side up. The relics are placed on their appropriate quest lines / boards. Everyone gets a knight, a character sheet, and their colored die. All knights begin with four life points. The three decks are shuffled separately…the white and black card deck being placed on the board. Everyone draws a green card to determine whether or not they are the traitor…though they can’t announce their loyalty either way. Each person gets five white cards and one Merlin card from the white card deck.

Editor’s Note: Beginners are encouraged to forgo the traitor bit so that they can get used to the game.

Gameplay

For as complex as the game looks initially, play isn’t all that difficult. To sum up a player’s turn…

1. Perform an Evil Action – The player can either place a catapult on the board, draw a black card and follow its effects, or lose a life point.

2. Perform a Heroic Action – The player can move to a new area / quest, perform an action if on a quest, play a special white card, heal, or accuse another knight of being a traitor.

Players continue taking turns until the win / loss conditions are met…

1) Win – Twelve swords are present on the Round Table, and the majority of them are white.

2) Loss - The game automatically ends in failure if twelve siege engines surround Camelot, seven or more black swords are on the Round Table, or all of the knights die.

Explaining the quests and all of their mechanics would be quite the undertaking. To sum this up as best as I can, the black cards that players will be drawing will in some way progress the evil side of the quests. The Desolation card, for example, progresses the evil side of the Holy Grail quest. If players allow these black cards to go unchecked, evil will eventually triumph and quests will fail, resulting in black swords being added to the Round Table among other penalties. Players will need to cooperate and address quests (either alone or cooperatively) in order to push the balance back to good.

To keep the review moving, I’ll point players to the manual (link below) in case they want to learn more about each individual quest and particular gameplay mechanics.

http://cdn0.daysofwonder.com/shadowsovercamelot/en/img/sc_ru...

The Review

Shadows Over Camelot is unlike anything that I’ve ever played before, even though I have played quite a few cooperative games. The artwork is excellent and the miniatures are surprisingly detailed. It’s obvious that a lot of work went into the production of this game. My advice would be to make sure that you have a large table or playing surface, as all of the boards will take up a lot of room.

This game is very difficult to win, in my opinion. It’s possible, of course, but players NEED to work together if they want to win. One thing that players will have to learn to accept from the beginning is that they will not be able to complete every quest…some WILL fail (unless players are very lucky). Evil progresses with every black card, which can occur every player turn if players choose to draw a card in place of placing a siege engine or losing life. Perfectionists like myself will find themselves getting frustrated as they watch things spiral out of control…it’s very easy to feel helpless in this game.

However, the game is flexible enough to where the rules can be bent, if you’re willing to be imaginative. When playing with the kids, I chose to skip the “take an evil action” step every other rotation…that is…players will take an evil action every other turn. This turned the game into a casual, enjoyable experience that I didn’t have to stress too much over. Sure, you can call it cheating, but no one wins on family game night if we all end up frustrated…*shrug*. I’d rather bend the rules a little and ensure that the kids are having a good time. You can take that a step further by ignoring the “if you draw a black card that affects a completed quest, place a siege engine instead” rule. Be creative.

I personally enjoyed working together with the kids (Devonn – 11, Vinnie – 11) to complete the quests. I allowed everyone to show their cards so that we could work together to complete the quests. Even with all of the quote unquote cheating, it was still challenging as we often had to abandon one quest to stop another from spiraling out of control. The kids picked up on the game very quickly and were glad that I had decided to make things easier. I normally take a leadership role in cooperative games with the kids, but they were planning their combat cards to complete straights and pairs for quests all on their own.

Overall, Shadows Over Camelot is a fun cooperative game. You can customize it to be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be, which is always a bonus. The traitor mechanic adds extra tension to the game, as players will be constantly suspecting each other. All of this chalks up to be one unique social experience…an experience that I have enjoyed. If you enjoy cooperative games and don’t mind a challenge, I have a feeling that you’d enjoy it too.

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Andrzej Sieradzki
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It's a great game indeed. Such reviews like yours made me buying this and I don't regret! I found a set of painted figures on sale and they add so much to the overall effect!
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Richard L
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Thanks for the review. I can't wait to take it from the secret gift stash and give it to my about-to-be 13 year old. Just a month to go till the birthday!
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Thank you both for your kind words!

@Andrzej - The painted figured sound awesome, I can only imagine how much life they bring to the game!

@Richard - Happy early birthday to your to-be thirteen year old! They grow up way too fast.
 
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Bill Eldard
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An outstanding review. I, too, like this game, and I think you've captured it in your review very well.
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Eldard wrote:
An outstanding review. I, too, like this game, and I think you've captured it in your review very well.


Thank you!
 
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Travis Hall
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One minor factual correction, just so that nobody goes away with an incorrect understanding of an important rule... The game ends when at least 12 swords are on the Round Table, even if the white swords at not in the majority. If at least half of those swords are black, the loyal knights lose. Furthermore, if you are playing with the traitor (standard game) and someone is the traitor and is still unrevealed, two of those swords are flipped from white to black before assessing the colours, which means that reaching twelve swords with seven white may still not be a win.

As to customizing the game, you certainly can, but I'd advise being careful how you do it. Young kids become older kids and eventually adults, and as they grow up, they may find the lack of challenge in a modified version leads to boredom. (And if playing with the traitor, too easy a game means that being dealt the traitor card just means you have to sit through an hour of play knowing you will lose.) Have a plan for ramping up the difficulty as players' skills improve. In a game like this, some house rules may encourage the development of strategies that will never work in standard play - try to use house rules that encourage the same types of strategies as in the standard game, just with more leeway for poor execution.

Really, the game isn't that hard. I find that generally when people complain here about being unable to ever win the game, it's because they have decided what the strategy should be before ever playing, and refuse to consider alternatives when they learn how the game actually works. I read about people who place many siege engines and devote a couple of knights to destroying them for pretty much the entire game, or who have their entire group fill their hands before ever leaving Camelot (and wind up losing with cards in hand they've never been able to play). Learn good strategies, and you can win the overwhelming majority of your games.

The 13-year-old someone mentioned... That prospective player should be able to play well enough to win the standard game (well, if he or she can't, it isn't just age that is standing in the way, anyway). The pair of 11-year-olds, they should at least be capable of slowly ramping up their play towards the standard game. I've played the standard game with younger, quite successfully.
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Wraith wrote:
One minor factual correction, just so that nobody goes away with an incorrect understanding of an important rule... The game ends when at least 12 swords are on the Round Table, even if the white swords at not in the majority. If at least half of those swords are black, the loyal knights lose. Furthermore, if you are playing with the traitor (standard game) and someone is the traitor and is still unrevealed, two of those swords are flipped from white to black before assessing the colours, which means that reaching twelve swords with seven white may still not be a win.

As to customizing the game, you certainly can, but I'd advise being careful how you do it. Young kids become older kids and eventually adults, and as they grow up, they may find the lack of challenge in a modified version leads to boredom. (And if playing with the traitor, too easy a game means that being dealt the traitor card just means you have to sit through an hour of play knowing you will lose.) Have a plan for ramping up the difficulty as players' skills improve. In a game like this, some house rules may encourage the development of strategies that will never work in standard play - try to use house rules that encourage the same types of strategies as in the standard game, just with more leeway for poor execution.

Really, the game isn't that hard. I find that generally when people complain here about being unable to ever win the game, it's because they have decided what the strategy should be before ever playing, and refuse to consider alternatives when they learn how the game actually works. I read about people who place many siege engines and devote a couple of knights to destroying them for pretty much the entire game, or who have their entire group fill their hands before ever leaving Camelot (and wind up losing with cards in hand they've never been able to play). Learn good strategies, and you can win the overwhelming majority of your games.

The 13-year-old someone mentioned... That prospective player should be able to play well enough to win the standard game (well, if he or she can't, it isn't just age that is standing in the way, anyway). The pair of 11-year-olds, they should at least be capable of slowly ramping up their play towards the standard game. I've played the standard game with younger, quite successfully.


Thank you for your input, but the point of family game night (at least in our house) is to have fun, not to worry about winning or losing. In our house, rules can be adjusted as needed if we feel that the game is too hard or too easy. I'm not exactly training them for a career in board games, after all.

Each family or group of players should play the game the way that best suits their needs to maximize their fun and play experience...after all, isn't that the point of a "game" anyway?

As long as my kids walk away happy that they got to spend time with the family and have fun while doing it, I'm satisfied. That's all that matters to me, but I understand your point of view and I respect whatever works for you and your family.

Thanks for reading the review and for commenting!

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Travis Hall
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vmp0514 wrote:
Thank you for your input, but the point of family game night (at least in our house) is to have fun, not to worry about winning or losing. In our house, rules can be adjusted as needed if we feel that the game is too hard or too easy.

And your focus on your point means you have missed mine. My advice was not that you should not use house rules even if you find that they make the game more fun. My advice concerned how to ensure that your house rules can be adjusted so that the game remains fun when the kids are 15 or 18 or 40.
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Wraith wrote:
vmp0514 wrote:
Thank you for your input, but the point of family game night (at least in our house) is to have fun, not to worry about winning or losing. In our house, rules can be adjusted as needed if we feel that the game is too hard or too easy.

And your focus on your point means you have missed mine. My advice was not that you should not use house rules even if you find that they make the game more fun. My advice concerned how to ensure that your house rules can be adjusted so that the game remains fun when the kids are 15 or 18 or 40.


I got your point, I just didn't agree with it.

"Young kids become older kids and eventually adults, and as they grow up, they may find the lack of challenge in a modified version leads to boredom."

Not every child grows up the same way. Some like a casual experience, others like a challenge. When my kids reach adulthood, I'm fairly certain that they will be intelligent enough to look up the rules and play how they want, if they even play the game at all, despite how they played with me in the past. In the meantime, I've always adjusted the rules in either direction as needed to make sure the game isn't boring.

"The 13-year-old someone mentioned... That prospective player should be able to play well enough to win the standard game (well, if he or she can't, it isn't just age that is standing in the way, anyway). The pair of 11-year-olds, they should at least be capable of slowly ramping up their play towards the standard game."

You make a lot of assumptions about someone else's kids. Sorry, but this rubbed me the wrong way. What if they had ADHD, like mine does? Have you ever lived with a child that has a disability? You can't outright claim that someone else should be capable of what you propose.

"Really, the game isn't that hard. I find that generally when people complain here about being unable to ever win the game, it's because they have decided what the strategy should be before ever playing, and refuse to consider alternatives when they learn how the game actually works."

Winning is not our primary goal. Spending time with the family is. Saying that the game "really isn't that hard" is all well and good, but not everyone plays at the same skill level, nor cares to.

"In a game like this, some house rules may encourage the development of strategies that will never work in standard play - try to use house rules that encourage the same types of strategies as in the standard game, just with more leeway for poor execution."

Again, I'm not worried about training my kids to be expert board game players. There is more to life than obessessing over rules and being able to beat everyone at board games. We play to have fun, as a family, nothing more.

---
We agree to disagree, but I respect whatever works for you and your kids. We've developed our own way of playing games, and it works well for us. My advice to you is to keep in mind that everyone is different and has their own way of doing things. Telling me that my kids (or someone else's kids) SHOULD be able to play at the skill levels you propose is rude, and quite frankly, how I choose to spend that time with them is none of your business.
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Travis Hall
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vmp0514 wrote:
You make a lot of assumptions about someone else's kids. Sorry, but this rubbed me the wrong way. What if they had ADHD, like mine does?

Let's get the real sticking point out of the way first.

Reviews are not about you and whatever group of people you happen to play with. Reviews provide information to those who are otherwise unfamiliar with the subject matter. The only use for discussing your group, your experiences, is to provide a baseline against which the reader can judge the applicability of your comments to their situation.

Here, discussion of your kids is meaningless except as an example with which to help the reader gain insight concerning Shadows Over Camelot. If you do not wish your children to be discussed in such a light, I would suggest you do not use them as such an example. If you incorporate such in your review in public forums with comments features for the discussion of what you bring up, you make them a valid topic of conversation (within appropriate context).

Your offense has no place here. I have provided no criticism of you as a parent, merely mild criticism of your advice as a gamer to other gamers, and more widely-applicable advice to help those other gamers adjust their games, should they feel the need, to their needs, not yours.

Frankly, I don't care a whit what you do with your family, only about what you tell other prospective players to do with theirs.


vmp0514 wrote:
"Young kids become older kids and eventually adults, and as they grow up, they may find the lack of challenge in a modified version leads to boredom."

Not every child grows up the same way.

Hence the use of the word "may". But why not allow for the possibility?

There have been cases brought up in these forums before in which groups encountered difficulties transitioning from play with house rules to make winning easier to the standard game, due, I believe, to those groups having learnt strategies from their easier games that were dysfunctional when play became more difficult. Their earlier choices made it difficult and not enjoyable to play at a higher level, and boring to continue at the level they were at.

I'd prefer other groups, family or otherwise, to avoid that situation if possible. Hence my advice.

vmp0514 wrote:
"The 13-year-old someone mentioned... That prospective player should be able to play well enough to win the standard game (well, if he or she can't, it isn't just age that is standing in the way, anyway). The pair of 11-year-olds, they should at least be capable of slowly ramping up their play towards the standard game."

You make a lot of assumptions about someone else's kids. Sorry, but this rubbed me the wrong way. What if they had ADHD, like mine does? Have you ever lived with a child that has a disability? You can't outright claim that someone else should be capable of what you propose.

Hmm. I guess I should have made mention of possible confounding factors that could affect the estimate of age-appropriateness. Oh, wait... I did.

vmp0514 wrote:
Winning is not our primary goal.

Funny how those who say this adjust the game, in the great majority of cases, to ensure they have very good chances of winning, while those who generally don't hold such as so high a virtue often accept much lower chances of winning.

If winning was my primary goal, wouldn't advise being mindful of the possible (highly probably, I would say) need to maintain a challenge. A game in which players don't have to think fails to maintain interest.

Obviously winning is far more important to you and your group than it is to me. That's understandable, as children often are more easily frustrated by failure than adults (and as you say, you want your family to have fun), but you should get off your high horse and stop implying that a desire to win is a moral failing on the part of others, because it very obviously is not.

vmp0514 wrote:
My advice to you is to keep in mind that everyone is different and has their own way of doing things.

Take your own advice. I've expanded on what you said in order to help the wider audience that your review will reach. You aren't writing to yourself, and you certainly are not being respectful of advice written with that knowledge in mind.
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Seeing as how this isn't very constructive to anyone, I'm puting an end to this "feud" here.

I apologize if I upset you, or if my reviews got you all worked up. Not everyone will like my reviews or how I write them, and not everyone will agree with what I have to say. This is the curse of any writer who tries to contribute his work to any community, which I'm not being paid to do, mind you. Some people like my work and others don't...and I hope that those that don't like my work, move on to find reviews that they do like rather than waste energy being upset over the ones they don't. Or...they can always write their own.

I also apologize if anything I said upset you. I have my opinions and you have yours...I will simply leave us to them.
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vmp0514 wrote:
Seeing as how this isn't very constructive to anyone, I'm puting an end to this "feud" here.

I apologize if I upset you, or if my reviews got you all worked up. Not everyone will like my reviews or how I write them, and not everyone will agree with what I have to say. This is the curse of any writer who tries to contribute his work to any community, which I'm not being paid to do, mind you.

There has been no feud here. Your review simply received a little criticism - quite mild criticism, as I said - that addressed only the topic. This is a part of participation in forums such as this, and adds to the health and usefulness of the community. Not being paid does not give you special immunity to these processes, and you haven't encountered any curse.

vmp0514 wrote:
Some people like my work and others don't...and I hope that those that don't like my work, move on to find reviews that they do like rather than waste energy being upset over the ones they don't. Or...they can always write their own.

Again, you are missing the point of these conversations. Criticisms, clarifications and corrections are best presented alongside the original review, where they are most likely to help ensure that other readers are fully informed. Finding or writing another review does not impact upon this.

When you get right down to it, the best way to avoid these sort of "unconstructive" conversations is to simply accept valid criticism for what it is, and argue against invalid criticism on the merits alone.
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Richard L
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Just my 2 cents worth.

Vincent, your review was good, as I said. I am looking forward to the game.

Travis, your clarification of the traitor scoring rule was worthwhile. The costs/benefits of altering game rules was probably best raised in another, more general, gaming thread.

As a family, we generally play a new game with standard rules and take a painfully long time to get through the first game.
Then we just get into it by playing more.

Children of all ages often find "not winning" is equivalent to failure, this is an issue that needs to be managed. We try to say if playing the game and losing isn't fun, then the game may not be worth playing at all (e.g. Monopoly ??).

That said, our youngest (about to be 11) was very happy after winning our family's first game of Catan today.
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