ICv2 Stars: 4 (out of 5)
Posted by Nick Smith on October 12, 2017 @ 3:30 am CT
Publisher: Cool Mini or Not/Fishwizard
Release Date: September 2017
Game Designer(s): John Hawkins, Michelle Menard (game design); Sean Andrew Murray (art)
Format: Card/Board Game
Number of Players: 2 to 4
Playing Time: 45-60 min.
Product #: GTW001
Age Rating: 14+
ICv2 Rating: 4 Stars out of 5
This game has gorgeous graphics on every piece in the game, and is visually impressive. There are a couple of flaws, though, which are regrettable. The first is that the pieces which make up the board are printed on very thin stock. Since these pieces are hexagonal, and are the board, there is no way to protect them other than to find a laminating machine. The other difficulty is with the cards. Some of the print on the cards was tiny enough to be difficult to read, especially on cards which provide your money. The markers used to show your control of a district are stands which require you to insert thick cardboard pieces into a tight stand, and these are showing slight wear very quickly. The box insert does not leave room for these to remain assembled, and the game cries out for a better card organizer. Without that, be prepared to do lots of sorting every time you open the box.
The game itself is excellent, with game mechanics that support the concepts in the game very well. Players each control a faction in a city with an evil overlord. Each player is in rebellion, but the factions do not get along. To make things worse, the city is being attacked by monsters, possibly at the behest of a magician nominally working for the evil overlord. So, in a four-player game it’s a six-way battle for control of the city districts. Each faction has leader cards that slightly modify the game for that faction, but these do not dominate the game. The game seems to be well-balanced and interesting, but a couple of the monsters are really, really difficult to kill. That can be frustrating, because the event cards can bring them into confrontation with you at a moment’s notice.
The game is both an area control game and a deck-building game, a rare combination which, in this case, works surprisingly well. You build up your deck to create temporary armies which die horribly in battle with the monsters, the city guard or the other factions. Still, you earn "infamy" points as you go, and the most infamous faction at the end of the game wins, unless the monsters get out of control and everyone loses.
The players must band together well enough to fight the monsters, even if their main fight is against the city guard and the other players. It is sometimes better to risk your whole active army against the monsters, and weaken them enough so that other players can stop them after you’ve slowed them down. Because of the deck-building mechanics, once you’ve purchased a card for your deck, you’ll get it back in play eventually, but you are very limited in actions, and the game will last no more than a dozen turns, so plan carefully!
There is a great deal of replayability due to the modular nature of the game board and the variety of forces available to the players. Each game has different cards available to build your decks, and an expansion of more leaders, more different insurgents and more city sectors could keep players going for years.
The component flaws are the only thing that kept me from giving this a fifth star. For the price, it’s amazing, but I’d have been happy with a higher price and better board pieces. Complex enough that younger kids would find it frustrating, so there is a good reason for the age rating.
--Nick Smith: Library Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.
ICv2 Stars: 4 (out of 5)
October 16, 2017
Here's a review of Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire , published by Games Workshop.