Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Shadow Hunters

Plays: 5Px1.

The Game

Shadow Hunters is a secret identity team game, like Bang, The Resistance and The Message: Emissary Crisis. The two main teams are the Hunters and the Shadow. They aim to kill off each other. Some players will play neutral characters. They win by achieving their unique personal objectives.

The game starts off with the six location cards randomly distributed to three locations. On your turn, you roll two dice (a four-sided die and a six-sided die) to determine which location card you go to. Usually the location card will ask you to draw a card and apply its effect. Sometimes it asks you to either injure another player or heal yourself. After that you may attack a player at the same location, i.e. on the same location card or the one next to it. The attack value is determined by rolling the two dice and taking the difference, e.g. rolling and 6 and 1 will yield and attack value of 5.

The game board has an injury track on the left, where everyone starts with 0 injury, and three locations with 2 cards each on the right. On the injury track, the health level of every character is marked, so if your injury marker reaches that spot, your character is dead and you are out of the game. The position of the markers are a clue to an opponent's identity. If his marker has passed or reached specific spots on the track and he is still not dead, then you know he must be one of the characters with a higher health level.

There are three types of cards. Black and white cards are equipment and spells. Equipment are placed in front of you and take effect every round. Spells take effect immediately and are then discarded. Black cards seems to be more powerful, but sometimes they can injure you too. Green cards help you determine the identities of other players. After drawing and reading a green card, you pass it face-down to another player. That player then reads it and does what it says. His action will give you clues to his identity. E.g. a green card may ask the recipient to take one damage if he is a hunter or a neutral. Having a green card passed to you can help you guess the identity of the card giver too. If he continues to attack you after knowing your identity, then he is likely from the opposing faction. The bystanders who don't get to see the content of the green card can also make guesses based on the subsequent actions of the two players involved in this green card transaction.

Every character has a single-use power, and to use it, you need to reveal your identity. The power is strong, but the danger is you are telling everyone who you are. So this should be used with caution.

The Play

I did a 5-player game. An experienced player taught four of us newbies to play. With 5 players, there are two hunters, two shadows and one neutral. The rule teacher, as is customary, was attacked by all of us when everyone was unsure who was on which team. That was not a good idea at all, since he could be your teammate. I guess we weren't taking the game too seriously. Afterwards, we were shocked to find that we had almost helped the teacher win. His character turned out to be a neutral with the objective of being the first to get killed. If we had not felt guilty for piling the hurt on him and then decided to "spread the joy" around a little, we would have easily killed him off early and given him the win.

Our game teacher (black) was hit left, right and centre and was already severely injured in the early game.

In the early game I had no clarity at all who was who. I didn't get to draw green cards much, so I could not deduce friend or foe. It seemed we were all randomly attacking each other, and just trying to keep the injury evenly spread so that no one was "left behind". Well, maybe the others had some clue about who was who and knew what they were doing. I was rather clueless. Attacking is actually optional, and not attacking is probably a good idea when you don't know for sure whether you are attacking an enemy. In our game we got the ball rolling with the random attacks, and we couldn't slow down.

By the time I found out who my teammate was, I was glad to find that she was the least injured player. We were in a good position. We were hunters, and one of the shadow players had already been killed. Once I identified my teammate (by using a green card), I attacked another player immediately, which should be a clear enough message that I was on her team (or perhaps I could have been trying to mislead her). I decided it was time for me to reveal my identity so that I could use my special ability, which was a strong attack. Soon we killed the other shadow player, and won the game.

The Thoughts

I enjoyed The Message: Emissary Crisis very much. Shadow Hunters has a very similar feel, but somehow I didn't enjoy it as much. It might be because 5 players is not ideal. I think the game needs at least 6 players, 3 each of hunters and shadows. The other thing that bugs me is I don't seem to be spending much time trying to work out who is who. This should be the crux of the game, but I am dependent on the die roll to be able to pick green cards to help me identify friend or foe. There was a fair bit of luck in the game I played. However the impact of this randomness might have been our own doing - because we chose to attack even when we were not yet 100% sure about one another's identities. We probably should have played less recklessly. Overall though, there is still significant luck because of the die roll determining what you do on your turn.

If I play this again I would insist on having at least six players.

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