Friday, May 08, 2009

Shadows over Camelot

Shadows over Camelot is an odd game, as it is generally co-operative, where everyone plays a knight of the round table, and you go on various quests to defeat the forces of evil (or, in a couple cases, the forces of "not you"). As you succeed at quests, you gain benefits, the most important are white swords. White swords are important, because you need them to win. Black swords are awarded when you fail a quest. Once 12 swords of any color are placed, the game ends. If the players have more white swords than black swords, then they win. Otherwise, they lose.

There are other ways to lose, as well. If all knights are killed, the game ends. If 12 catapults are placed around Camelot (generic representation of the growin strength of evil forces), then the game ends. But as long as the knights are on the ball and doing their jobs of completing quests, then things will be all right.

Well, that would be the case, except for the way the game works. Every turn, the player whose turn it is has to do something bad. They can lose a life point from their knight (putting him closer to death), they can place another catapult around Camelot, or they can draw a black card. Black cards always cause something bad to happen, usually related to one of the possible quests. The way the quests work is that they "build up" bad cards until you lose. A couple of the quests are tug-of-war style, where bad cards move something closer to the losing end, while good cards move something closer to the winning end. The others just build up bad cards. Either they fill up and you lose, or they fill up and are compared to your cards, highest total wins.

To win quests, knights have to move their tokens to specific quests, and then play cards on those quests. This might be playing certain numbers of Fight cards, or laying grail cards on the Grail Quest, etc. It ends up being a pretty neat mechanic, because bad things are happening all over the place, but you have to focus on one thing at a time. Sometimes other players can help you on the same quest, but sometimes you are all on your own, and you need the right cards in your hand to win the quest. Yes, winning quests is done with the playing of white cards, which are one of the possible knight actions each turn. You can move, you can draw new cards if in Camelot, or you can play white cards where you are. It leads to fairly tense games in my experience, where the knights are trying to get the right cards to the right places while they slowly lose ground in everything they aren't actively engaged on.

One neat potentiality, which I've never actually seen happen, is that one of the knights can secretly be a traitor, working against the other players. The traitor wins if the knights lose, because he is actually an agent of evil. Each player has a 1/8 chance of being a traitor. This adds an interesting dynamic to the game, because you are never quite sure who is actually a traitor. You can accuse other players of being a traitor, but you better be right, because being wrong flips a white sword to a black sword, which is pretty bad.

I've played this game twice now, and both times the knights have come close to winning, but lose a few turns before they would be able to win. It has been pretty tense all through the game, and I have to say the game is fun to play. I can see how some people might not like it, due to its non-standard setup and game play, but it is worth trying out if you get a chance.

No comments: