Haven Town is under attack! The Shadowrift has expelled hordes of monsters upon the town threatening total annihilation. The villagers are scrambling to defend their homes from Drow, Glacien, Zombies, Storm Lords, Necromancers, Demons and Fire Dragons. How will Haven Town survive? Who will step up and be the Heros of Haven Town? Do you have the skills, strategy and magic to protect Haven Town? You better hurry before Haven Town is full of corpses and everything is in flames.
Publisher: Game Night Productions
Game Designer: Jeremy K. Anderson
Ages: 15 to adult
Playing Time: 40 – 100 minutes
Contents: 1 rulebook, 25 1-point tokens, 6 5-point tokens, 454 Game Cards, 6 Scenario Cards, and 1 Heroism Marker..
Suggested Retail Price: $45.00
Parental Advisory: Safe for kids
With this review I am going to do things a bit different the reason being as that the rule book for this game is so bad I don’t even want to consult it for this review so I will tell you about my game experience instead.
Shadowrift is a game from first time game designer Jeremy K. Anderson and while his first attempt at the rule book fell short (as is to be expected for a first time designer) his game didn’t. Shadowrift is a completely different deck-building game experience than any other I have encountered and that is a good thing!
In Shadowrift the players have the job of working as a team to protect Haven Town from total destruction from the creatures clamoring through the Shadowrift hell bent on wiping out Haven Town and everyone in it. This game is a truly co-operative affair in which strategy is paramount to actually fend off the denizens and come out on top. In a typical deck-builder, you may have to have light interaction with other players with the exception of a few LCG’s (Living Card Games) from Fantasy Flight Games.
As the Heroes in Shadowrift not only are you attempting to build a strong and powerful deck to use but you are also fighting monsters as well as building a separate deck for Haven Town in which you may have infiltrators, monster effects or a town full of dead bodies that slow that decks effectiveness with junk or even frozen areas of town that have to be freed up in order for the villagers to be helping the heroes with special villager card powers or benefits they may tap into. So in effect you have a trifecta approach to deck-building that is completely new and unique in my experience. It provides all kinds of interesting situations for the Heroes to have to decide what to do and in what order.
The game also comes with 6 different monster types that are basically scenarios for the Heroes to defend against and each one gives a completely different feel to the game. Not only is this very cool but it provides a ton of re-playability to the game. When paying $45.00 for a game, the last thing you want is to burnt out on it after a few plays due to already figuring out the strategy or it just not being deep enough to play over and over again providing a rich, rewarding gaming experience.
There are recommended cards for using with the 6 different monsters but you are not required to use them. The players may put together what ever cards into the purchasing area that the players feel make the most sense or have figured out what card combos work best through experience.
Experienced board gamers know that one of the dangers of playing a co-operative game is that sometimes you have that one person who likes to dominate the session and think that his strategies are the ones to use. They want to pick everyones moves for them and basically ruin the whole game experience for the other players. This game doesn’t stop that from happening, but if you can find a good group of people to play Shadowrift with you will have an amazing experience with it. It is a very solid game with great mechanics, lots of good game tension and decision making to do! The players have to figure out their roles and what cards are necessary to buy to defend Haven Town.
One of great things about this game is in the village deck. If your village ever comes up showing 5 cards that are not villagers or walls then you lose the game! The monsters are great about killing off your villagers which in turn puts lots and lots of corpses in to the village deck and at a much faster pace than you think. This makes managing the village deck a serious priority. A great mechanic that adds a whole other level of depth and game play.
The players have wounds and/or burns when fighting the Fire Dragons that populate their decks and you get one of these for ever turn you attack or one per monster attacked. This of course clutters up your deck very fast and now you have to implement an additional strategy with card purchases or villagers to clear out your decks.
The Monsters win if the whole village is corpse ridden or no villagers appear at the beginning of the next turn or if the corpse deck runs out of corpses.
The players when when they seal all of the Shadowrifts that appear out of the monster deck or by building eight walls in the village.
This is currently one of my favorite deck-builders and I hope to see more expansions for this game as well as an updated rule book.
Ok so now for the bad stuff. As I mentioned earlier, the rule book is atrocious. I had to do hours of research on boardgamegeek.com to learn all the rules and what some the card effects, order of actions etc. I am still not sure what the pawn that comes in the game is for as I can’t find a reference to it anywhere so there maybe a part of the game play I am still missing. I know there are cards that effect whomever is holding the pawn but I am not sure how who holds the pawn is determined. So be prepared to do some research with this game.
When you open the game, it is not completely intuitive on how it breaks down into the card box for separation or ease of find cards. The cards should have come in order to break them down easily for the purchaser. There is no mention in the rule book how to do this properly.
There is also no reference in the rulebook as to how to set up the cards on the able. Since it’s release there are some player aids on boardgamegeek.com to show you how to do this.
There are 6 black tokens that come in the game that I have no idea what their use is for, so I have been using them as the seals on the Shadowrifts.
The cards are also a bit of an issue. The art on the game is great! However cards were already flaking on the corners after just one play. You will want to sleeve these cards if that matters at all to you.
The suite spot for this game is 4 to 5 players. Any less and you are going to have trouble dealing with all the monsters, village issues and wounds in your decks. This game has a lot going on!
I know it seems like there is a lot of negativity about this game but please bear with me. While the rule book could be (much) better and the cards are a bit flakey the game play itself is awesome. Shadowrift is one of the best games I have played in recent memory and every person who loves deck-builders should own it. Aside for a bit longer learning curve most players should intuitively understand the mechanics and be able to find what they are looking for rather easily on boardgamegeek.com for rules clarifications although my personal opinion of this is that should never have to happen. Publishers and designers need to become much better about their rule books.
So far there is minor talk of a 2nd Ed. game but date yet and at that time obviously a much better rule book should be included.
I am giving Shadowrift an 8.5 out of 10 stars for game play but a 6 out of 10 for the trouble of having to learn the game everywhere other than the rule book it’s self.
This game is Geek Certified!
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