Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Classic WGR Review - Shadows Over Camelot

Shadows over Camelot is one of the games I will be bringing to the Boardgames Are Really Fun event this coming Friday, so I thought this would make another good classic review to bring back to life from the Windsor Gaming Resource Forum. This review was originally written back on February 14th 2006. As I did last time, I will include my current thoughts on the game after the classic review.

Original WGR review:

Quickly: great game, best co-op game I have played.

Summary: 
Players each take the role of a Knight of the Round table and embark on various Arthurian quests. Players work together to complete these quests in an effort to beat 'the game' itself. Quests vary from Jousting the Black Knight, Battling an insane Lancelot, Finding Excalibur, Defeating a Dragon, the Wars with the Picts and Saxons, and of course The Quest for the Holy Grail. Play is simple with a ton of strategy. Each turn you must advance the cause of evil and then complete a heroic action. Advancing evil is done by drawing a black card (which generally makes one of the various quests harder to complete, or something special and evil happens) or by taking 1 point of damage, or by adding a catapult around Camelot. If the field around Camelot fills the game is over. Heroic actions include moving to a new quest, fighting catapults, playing special cards or doing a quest related event. The quest related events vary by quest. In Camelot you get 2 cards, against the black night you must play 2 pairs of white cards, against the Picts or Saxons you must play a straights of white cards, etc. Each knight also has a special ability (examples include, moving from Camelot for free, drawing extra cards, or getting to peek at the top black card. There is one final twist, there is a chance (a good one if playing multiple players) that one of the knights is actually a traitor and they are working against you. Rules exist for accusing this traitor and the way they influence the game for the side of evil. The game ends when Camelot is surrounded, all knights are dead or 12 swords are on Camelot. Swords are gained when quests are completed, black swords if the quest was failed and white if it was won. The greatest colour of swords at the end determines the winner.

The Good: 
This was a great game and a ton of fun. It is by far the best 'team up' game I have played. The components were beautiful, I haven't seen a game this nice looking in a long time. The game play is very quick once you get into it. The game has a great feel of tension once it gets moving as you feel you are fighting a battle on multiple fronts (Picts and Saxons to the left and right, an almost full field of catapults and Lancelot looking too tough to defeat all at once for example). There is a 'table talk' rule that is awesome. Basically you can discuss what you want as long as your don't give away the value of the cards you hold. This basically turns the game into a roleplaying session as all players are saying things like "I will need assistance in the final hour in my war with the Picts" (generally meaning the player doesn't have the final card for a straight). This element really made the game. It would have still been a good game, but this rule and the resulting roleplay pushed this one up a few notches. The card mechanic made things random enough that each game we played felt very different. One game getting just overrun by evil and the next being a closer fight. Advanced rules and variants exist for when you master the main game to add more longevity to it.

The Bad: 
The plastic the figures of the knights were made of was odd. It was a bit rubbery. This probably makes them more durable, but I wouldn't consider painting them due to this consistency  The game is confusing at first, and takes a few goes before you even understand what is going on. It's really very different from anything out there. It's not a pick up and play type of game at first. Really I can't think of much else.

The Ugly: 
This game is HARD! I guess you have to expect that for a co-op game, but man is it hard to even come close to victory. I would say this probably give the game longevity though. I don't think our group will be using the variants that make the game harder any time soon.

Overall: 
A great game, the best co-op game I have ever played. The roleplaying aspect due to the 'table talk' rule really pushes this to the next level. The game is very different from anything else and will take a bit to learn due to that. Don't expect to win this one the first time out (or the second or third time)

My thoughts now, six years later:

Well I think the fact that I'm bringing this game out to an event this coming weekend more than six years after writing this initial review speaks to how much I still enjoy it and the games longevity. This is still one of the best games I own and I still think it's the best co-op game out there. Yes to me it's even better than fan favourite Pandemic. As to the review itself, most of what I said six years ago still stands. My worry about the soft minis was unfounded, these miniatures are actually firmer than many on the market like those in Battlelore or Reaper Bones and I now own painted versions of the Knights. I still love the way this game mixes a traditional card based board game with roleplaying elements and I fully expect that I'll still be bringing this one out to events six years from now.

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