This is a 1-6 player cooperative Deck-Building Adventure Game by Jeremy Anderson and published by Starling Games/Game Salute.
This review/feature is about the second edition which has revised rules and cards. Having not played the first edition I don't know exactly what has been revised, but this edition is super fun, great to play, edge of seat frustrating and exciting.
Under the direction of Dann May & the author, even in this day and age when games are saturated with amazing fantasy illustrations and paintings, the artwork is incredible. Some of these games are quite expensive and depend on their art to make up for lack of good gameplay, SHADOWRIFT is not one of these games.
SHADOWRIFT has a cost between £60.00-£80.00 which puts it high-mid in boardgame cost range, but the value is right there in the box - 540 splendidly designed cards in full colour and excellent card stock quality. Plus rules that are both unique and comparable to other deck-builders at the same time.
A horde of nasty, bitey, clawed monsters are besieging the town of New Haven and it is up to the heroic few, player's characters, to save the day, and the town. Being the picky so-and-so that I am, I became confused by the size of New Haven (not that it matters at all to the game) as the author calls it a Town then says Villagers are defending it. A Villager lives in a Village (hence the crazy name) and Townsfolk live in Towns. Okay, nit-picking over!
The Heroes win by either sealing all the Shadowrifts (something we have so far found to be extremely difficult but fun trying) or by Constructing 8 walls to turn New Haven into an undefeatable impenetrable fortress (slightly easier if the players work hard cooperating).
The Heroes lose if the Horde defeats all the Villagers, destroy all the Walls, deplete the Corpse card stack, or a Monster takes the Annihilate the World action.
Player cooperation is one of the towering enjoyments of SHADOWRIFT. By discussing the possibilities between us the game becomes more of a social event. We enjoy our game sessions immensely, whether we are in competition with each other or cooperating, and some games are truly intense whilst others are jolly. SHADOWRIFT has intensity and cooperation within a fun and lively environment.
Many years ago, Magic the Gathering™ changed the face of card games with their exquisite card design, basically Title, Illustration, Text. A large number of recent card games, be they collectible, deck-building or single-deck, still rely on this format. It is easy on the eye, easy to read and easy to understand. SHADOWRIFT designer Jeremy Anderson obviously agrees that you cannot better perfection and instead of trying to he has put his time and brilliance into the game, knowing full well that the card design will ensure players are not confused by the icons and symbols and can spend more time taking in the nuances of the rules without being fazed by the cards.
Like many games, the Text on the cards takes precedent over any contradictions in the Rules. If there is something you want to do (mainly because it is something you would be able to do in similar styled games) that isn't on a card and you cannot find in the Rules, then it's simple - you cannot do it!
Each player begins with a similar 10-card 'starter' deck. As expected you shuffle these cards and deal yourself 5 cards as a beginning Hand. If this is your first game it is suggested that you select Dragons to be your adversaries - these are supposedly the easiest monsters to defeat. Later on, after you are confident with the game, you can add some randomness by using the Randomizer cards, taking the first 8 Hero cards and 1 Monster Faction card.
When you change the Monster Factions in your game you should know that the designer has put a lot of thought into each of the six factions. He has created a specific mini story/adventure to ensure your games are distinctive from each other. These changes can be seen in their setups and mechanics, the monster's specialities and their abilities.
Page 10 of the excellent Rules book has a 13 bullet-point play order for the solo variant. The differences between the 13pt solo turn order and the multiplayer game turn order are the points 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 which are basically points 1, 2, 3, 7 and 8 repeated. I won't go into complete details so I'll just list 1-8 in order. Draw Cards. Refresh Town. Refresh Travelers. Monstersd in Play Act. Monsters Gain Power. Add Monsters. Heroes Act. Cleanup; then for Solo play repeat Draw Cards. Refresh Town. Refresh Travelers. Heroes Act, Cleanup.
The Monster Factions are Drow, Necromancers, Glacien, Storm Lords, Demons and Fire Dragons and, as said already, they each have their own special and normal abilities. They have such specialities as Hunt, Rampage, Annihilation, Break Wall, and the most popular of all . . . . KILL!
Hero actions have 'at any time' attached to them, meaning you can perform them in any order. These are. Seek Aid, Play cards, Resource Actions, Attacks, Skills, Loot, Gain New Hero cards, Hire Villagers (there you go again, Villagers or Townies? I'm still mildly picking at nits) or Build Walls.
The box is designed for the base game plus expansions as it comes complete with Headed large card, and thick soft sponge, Dividers to keep all different card types tidy and easily available.
Deck building games have been around for a few years now. The first major one of these, Dominion, is still spoken about with reverence amongst gamers and still one of the top DBs played. SHADOWRIFT 2nd edition is not equally as good as Dominion, it is overall a couple of steps up on it. I like the DB game style a lot and find SHADOWRIFT to be a great exemplification of the genre.
Since originally writing the above I have found myself with some alone time which allowed me to play SHADOWRIFT in solo mode. I will repeat (from previous reviews) that solo board games aren't really my favourite. I am not going to fib and say that Shadowrift solo has changed my mind but I will say that I did mostly enjoy it, even though the monsters creamed me, and I missed having the social interaction.
I would like to say that the rules are a delight to play solo but there's no true delight in getting battered by them, at least not on your own. To balance play, negative effects and monsters hit solo players hard, in my experience they hit quite hard (very hard actually) and make success something to strive for, often. It hasn't changed my mind about solo board game play, but it has challenged my need to win (at least once).