Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 25 August 2015

Tis a silly place:- Shadows over Camelot

Game Title: Shadows Over Camelot
Designer: Bruno Cathala & Serge Laget

Manufacturer: Days of Wonder

Year: 2005

After what must have been months wandering that dark forest we finally found the holy grail, to think a cup of such simplicity could turn any water placed into it to the nectar of life! We returned to Camelot victorious, champions of England! That was when I found out that Arthur had already left in search of a legendary sword, I could not let my king struggle alone so I mounted my steed and rode out towards the fabled lake. When I arrived I saw Arthur desperately trying to swim out towards a sword that was being held aloft by someone underwater. His plate mail dragged him down and he was struggling to even tread water. I would bite my tongue before calling my lord a fool, but still found myself feeling a bit smug as I swam out to him after removing my armour. Summoning all my strength I managed to pull the king from the treacherous waters, though I fear that I was too late. Arthur was barely clinging to life, coughing up water and choking it back down at the same time. I knew what to do, grabbing the grail from my discarded gear I ran to the water's edge, scooped it full of the lake's green liquid and watched as it turned perfectly clear. Sprinting, I arrived back at the king just in time.

"A toast, long live the king!

I drank deep as breathed his last.

Shadows over Camelot is a cooperative 7 player game with, potentially, a traitor. The game features a choice system where you can choose which of three bad things happen at the start of your turn, combine this with having to keep your hand, and some actions, secret and an amount of light roleplay (you can’t discuss individual cards etc). This all fosters an element of distrust even between the loyal players. Meanwhile you face threats from the board on numerous fronts, failing to act fast can result in your goals slipping further out of reach.

The game is largely divided into separate quests, there are 5 combat quests where you have to use army cards to defeat invading armies/the black knight/Lancelot/a dragon, the quest for the holy grail and the lady in the lake, you must succeed in as many of these as possible while ensuring that Camelot doesn’t fall to the catapults that are appearing. Succeed a quest and you get healed, some cards and most importantly some white swords to place around the round table. Fail a quest and you get hurt and acquire black swords.  If the black swords are too abundant when the game ends then you lose, so be careful.
The game board as the game begins, On the main board there are 2 invading armies on both corners, a duel with the black knight and catapults to fight. On the bottom board is the quest for the grail, the top right is the lady in the lake and to the right is the fight for lancelot's armour.
 Your main enemy will be time, you only have 1 heroic action a turn normally, and that’s after performing an evil action (which typically require 1 action to reverse). To make matters worse even moving from one quest to another uses an action, of course you can perform a second action at the cost of 1 hp (you start with 4), but the second action cannot be the same as the first, so it’s usually only useful for playing special cards or moving and starting a quest in 1 turn. Lose all your hp and you are out of the game, if all the loyal knights die then the game is lost.

There are a few choices when you have to perform an evil action, you can lose 1 hp and do nothing evil, you can add a siege engine outside Camelot (these can be fought off, but it takes a number of cards) or you can draw a black card, which can be anything from invading Celts, the black knight growing in strength or Morgana cursing the knight’s quests. As mentioned there is a traitor, and one of the actions you can do is accuse someone of being the traitor, if you are right then you gain some white swords, but a false accusation leads to more black swords and a step closer to traitor victory. Then again with 8 role cards and a maximum of 7 players there is always the chance that everyone is loyal, this can make for losses due to a group of innocent knights accusing each other endlessly.

A game part way through, all the quest cards are reversable, which reveal 2 more ways to get catapults and the dragon quest.

As you may expect the traitor wins of the knights lose, I’d love to give some strategic advice for being a traitor in this game, but I’ve never drawn the traitor card. I might suggest getting the 3 treasures as all three can be abused in some way, that and fostering a level of distrust, throwing away good cards etc.

The three treasures are all rather powerful: Lancelot’s armour lets you draw 2 black cards and choose which to play (handy if you want to choose the lesser… or greater of 2 evils), The holy grail allows you to revive a knight who just died to full hp (wouldn’t it be a shame if someone forgot to hand it over at the last second?) and Excalibur increases your fighting strength against siege engines and the combat quests, it also allows you to counter the effect of the black cards once (though perhaps you could just let this one slide and wait for a worse one?).
Sir Tristan is a 'loyal' knight of the realm, he holds the grail and has 2 health remaining. Every knight has a unique special ability, though some are more useful than others.

Shadows over Camelot is a game I enjoy, though like most co-ops it can suffer from the over analysing slowdown of 1 player. Shadows counters this by making cards hidden so you can't really plan other peoples moves, and anyone could be the traitor, so is that person ignoring that "carefully thought out" advice really evil, or just fed up of being dictated to? The game runs best with people willing to obey the light role-play rules, rather than just inventing 'in character' terms to refer to specific cards. Shadows can be is quite overwhelming at first, but it's one of those games with an intimidating instruction book, but it's actually fairly simple to play once you get into it.
Also it's a great excuse to bring out all your favourite Monty Python references, which I won't lie, has affected the score.


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