Board Game Review: Shadows of Camelot
Author: Ixialdor Lathanril
Shadows over Camelot is a cooperative game by Days of Wonder for 3 to 7 players. The game takes place in the kingdom of Camelot as King Arthur and his Knights defend Camelot from evil. The game introduces a very interesting mechanic by allowing for the possibility (more on this later) of a Traitor who is working against the Knights to destroy Camelot from within! This review will discuss the mechanics of the game, some of the rules, and include some pictures of the game as well.
The game box is very good construction with excellent storage for the pieces, cards, and boards. I have owned this game for a few months now and have not had any issues with the pieces of the game getting all mixed up inside the box.
The game comes with a variety of game pieces that come unpainted. They are a very basic grey, but can easily be painted (as any good gaming nerd would do). I have painted a few of my pieces, which you will see in some of the photos!
The game board is laid out as depicted in the picture below. The large board to the left is the main board which contains Camelot (where the Knights will all begin) and three of the quests the Knights can complete.
The objective of the game is to defeat evil and accumulate swords around the round table. If the majority of the swords around the table are white, good guys win. If the majority of the swords is black, evil prevails.
There are also other ways in which the forces of good can be defeated, which will be covered in a moment. Each player/s turn is divided into two phases. First is the Progression of Evil. Every player must progress evil in one of three ways:
1) Draw a Black Card- The game comes with 76 Black cards, 64 Standard and 12 Special. The standard black cards work against the various quests the Knights are attempting to complete. The Special Black cards have effects of varying levels. Some not so severe, some, extremely!
2) Lose a Life Point- Each player begins the game with 4 life points. Any player may Fall on their sword, so to speak, and progress evil by losing a life point. Any player who reaches 0 life points is dead and out of the game. If all Loyal Knights are out of the game, evil wins! Players may replace life points by completing quests or by discarding three identical cards.
3) Place a Siege Engine around Camelot- Players may choose to place a siege engine around Camelot. You must be careful; 12 siege engine surrounding Camelot, and, you guessed it, evil wins. Players may destroy siege engines by doing one of two options. Option one is to discard Fight Cards (numerically valued from one to five) and roll the included D8. If the result of the roll is lower than the total value of cards discarded, the siege engines is destroyed. Option two is to discard a Merlin card. This sounds great and easy, but Merlin cards are something that can be very useful. Discarding three Merlin cards (as a group) can allow the players to ignore one Special Black card!
The second phase is the Heroic Action phase. All players begin in Camelot. While in Camelot, players may choose to draw White cards or fight a siege engine. Drawing cards is really important at the start. Players may draw cards until they have up to 12 White cards in their hand, after this, they may no longer draw White cards but still can receive White cards in a few other ways.
Other Heroic Actions that can be performed:
- Move to a new quest- Any player may leave Camelot and move to a new quest. Players can also leave the quest they are currently on and either return to Camelot or go to a new quest. Be careful in doing this because any cards played to complete the quest you are on are discarded if you leave a quest before completing it.
- Perform a Quest-specific Action- Each quest has an objective the Knight(s) must do to complete it. Any player may lay a card to complete their respective quest.
- Play a Special White Card- There are 15 Special White cards in the deck (84 white cards total). Much like the Special Black cards, the Special White cards can give considerable aid to the Knights.
- Heal yourself- As previously described, any player may discard three identical cards to regain one life point. This can also bring your total above 4, but not higher than 6.
- Make an Accusation- If you are playing with a Traitor and there are 6 siege engines or 6 swords (any color) on the table, players may accuse a Knight of being a Traitor. Each Knight may make only one accusation per game. If the accusation is correct, add a new white sword to the table and the Knight turns over their Coat of Arms. The traitor then follows the instructions of being the Traitor. If the accusation is false (Knight is Loyal) then turn one white sword over to black.
In addition to the Heroic Actions above, each Knight has a Special Ability that may be used on it's turn. For example, King Arthur may trade one card with any Knight on his/her turn. Each Knight's ability is different and some are more useful than others. Also, any player may sacrifice one life point to take a second Heroic Action. This can be very useful in helping you win, but can also cost you the game.
There are a total of 7 possible quests the Knights may perform. Some of these quests are solo quests and others are multiple Knights that can be tackled as a group. Three of the quests have a special treasure that is awarded. The quests are as follows:
- The Black Knight (Solo Quest) - In this quest, one Knight must place fight cards in pairs. For example, I could place two Fight 3 cards and two Fight 4 cards. If the sum of the fight cards is higher than the total of the Black Knight Standard Black Cards on the board, then the quest is won for good. If four Black Knight cards are placed on the board before the pair of White cards are placed or the total is higher than the sum of White cards, the quest is lost. This quest can be completed multiple times.
- The Saxon/Pict Wars (Multiple) - These quests are two different quests, but follow the same rules. The Knights must place a straight series of Fight cards on the board before four Pict or Saxon tokens (gained by drawing Black Cards) are placed on the board. These quests can be completed multiple times.
- Lancelot (Solo) - This quest is completed by the Knights laying White Fight cards to obtain a Full House (three of a kind with a pair of another suit). If the sum of the cards is higher than the Black Lancelot cards, the quest is complete. If the total of the Black cards is higher or five Black Lancelot cards are placed before the full house is laid down, the quest is failed and Lancelot’s Armor is lost! This quest can only be completed once and awards the player who completes it with Lancelot’s Armor. Lancelot’s Armor allows the player to draw two Black Cards during their Progression of Evil phase. One of these cards is played, the other is placed on the bottom of the deck.
- The Dragon (Multiple) - This quest is completed by the Knights laying White Fight cards to obtain 3 three-of-a-kinds. If the sum of the White Cards exceeds the total of Black Dragon cards, the quest is completed. This quest can only be completed once.
- The Quest for Excalibur (Multiple) - This quest is completed by the Knights discarding any cards. Excalibur begins the game in the middle of the river. Each card discarded on this quest moves Excalibur one position closer to the player’s side (5 places) of the river. There are Black cards in the deck that move Excalibur to the frozen side of the river (5 places). If Excalibur reaches the players side of the river, the player playing the last card wields Excalibur and completes the quest. Excalibur allows the player to add +1 to the combat total of any actions. For example, playing White fight cards that total 5 would be a 6 for whoever wields Excalibur. If Excalibur reaches the frozen side of the river, the quest fails and Excalibur is lost forever.
- The Quest for the Holy Grail (Insert random Monty Python reference of your choice here…) (Multiple) - This quest is completed by the players discarding White Grail cards. A total of 7 Grail cards is required to be placed to complete this quest. If 7 Black Grail cards are placed this quest if failed and the Grail is lost. Completing this quest awards the Grail to the Knight who places the last card. The Grail allows one player who is about to die (reach 0 life points) to be revived and return to 4 life points. Once used, the Grail is removed from the game.
This game is very fun and could be played with young children (recommend without a Traitor for younger kids). Game play can take up to 90 minutes, but runs very smooth once you start playing. The introduction of the Traitor introduces a wonderful change of pace to the game. There are 8 loyalty cards in the box, one traitor, 7 loyal Knights. These are shuffled and dealt to each player (shuffle all 8 no matter the number of players). This means, there could be a game where you have no traitor at all! The game runs for $44 on Amazon (definitely worth it). The link included is an Episode of Tabletop with Will Wheaton featuring some actual game play of the game.
One important note, there is nothing in the rules requiring the use of King Arthur, but it is highly recommended that one player be Arthur (his ability alone makes him worth using). Also, it does not state that Arthur CANNOT be a Traitor. I recommend you make this a house rule as his powerful ability can make it very difficult if he is the Traitor.
All in all, this is a great game that is definitely worth purchasing. I highly recommend it to any gamer, regardless of gaming experience!
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