Saturday, July 20, 2013

Shadow Hunters

In Shadow Hunters players are assigned secret roles, either Shadow, Hunter, or Neutral. Shadows must kill the Hunters to win, Hunters are out to kill the Shadows, while Neutrals have unique victory conditions listed on their cards, such as "You win if the Player on your left wins" or "You win if you're the first to die". Yeah. Neutrals are wacky.

On your turn you roll the two dice to determine what card or action you get this turn. Unusually, Shadow Hunters uses one D6 and one D4 for its dice, and I've had to explain how to read a D4 more than once because of it. There are three colours of cards you can get, White and Black cards are Items or immediate Actions, while Green cards allow you to learn something about the other players.

Green cards are the core of Shadow Hunters. They might say "I think you're either a Shadow or a Neutral. If so, take a point of damage. Otherwise, do nothing." You read the card in secret, decide who you're giving it to and hand it to that player without revealing what's on it to anyone else. Then you just watch how the player reacts. If they take a point of damage, you know that they're either Shadow or Neutral. If they do nothing, they're a Hunter.

Sounds simple, but keeping track of all the possibilities from all the cards you give out begins to tax the memory! Meanwhile, you're fighting off other players who are attacking you, or trying to subtly move toward your victory goal.

Shadow Hunters is an enormously fun game with a larger group. It takes the hidden Cylon element of Battlestar Galactica and makes an entire game of it. If it sounds a bit like Bang!, then that's because it is. You're trying to figure out who's on your team and who isn't, while not revealing your own allegiances too early. Unlike Bang!, if you do get caught out, you can reveal your card and use your characters unique ability to help win the game, but doing so obviously lets everyone know who they can or can't trust.

Unfortunately, Shadow Hunters has its failings. It really doesn't work with smaller groups, despite the box claiming that four player games are possible. Also, I really don't enjoy the theme. The games art and setting are heavily animé inspired. It's an entirely aesthetic thing, but I can't see myself buying my own copy of Shadow Hunters because of it. I love the gameplay, and I've enjoyed many great games with my friends copy. It plays much better than Bang!

I just wish I could take the theme from Bang! and the gameplay from Shadow Hunters and mash them into one, perfect game.

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