Shadows Over Camelot
Days of Wonder
3 to 7 players, approximately 90 minutes
Welcome back. The holiday season is always a rocky one for planning, and you just never know what is going to happen. Last week was painful (medical issues cropped up), but we are back, and going strong. I want to thank everyone for their patience and for continuing to follow my blog, even through the ups and downs.
This week we have another hidden identity/traitor game. This one comes to us from Days of Wonder, who gave use Ticket to Ride and Small World, among others. When I say it is a hidden identity game, it really isn’t. everyone knows which part you are playing. What is hidden is whether or not you are the traitor. Shadows Over Camelot is a co-operative game where each of the players takes on the role of one of the Knights of the Round Table. The players go on quests to try and defeat the game itself. However, there is a chance that one of the players is actually a traitor, and will be trying to make as many quests fail as possible. When quests are completed, a number of sword tokens are placed on the Round Table. If the quest was a success, those swords are white. If it failed, the swords are black. Once the table is full, the game ends. If there are more white swords on the Round Table, the Knights have won. Otherwise, the forces of darkness have won, Camelot crumbles, and the traitor wins (if there is one).
Shadows Over Camelot is different from a lot of the board games I review here in that there isn’t a single playing board. There are several (just as there are in Battlestar Galactica). Each one is used in a different way.
These two boards, for example, represent the quest for Excalibur and Lancelot’s Quest.
This board is used for the Quest for the Holy Grail.
Most of the quest locations lay out a place to guide you in playing various white cards (for the players) and black cards (for evil). When one side or the other is full, the quest ends. Usually, the white cards must have a higher total than the black, but in addition some of the quests require cards to be played in a certain pattern. For example, while attempting the grail quest, players will place white grail cards on the left-most open space, while darkness will place them on the rightmost. Whichever side can fill the board first wins. If the knights win, they have the power of the holy grail, if not, it is lost to them.
Lancelot’s quest requires a full house (three cards of one value, two cards of another) to complete. The dragon’s quest requires three sets of three of a kind. Players go on these quests to play cards before the game can play all of its black cards. Successfully completed quests will gain additional white cards to play, heal the knights, and add white swords to the Round Table.
The Grail quest, and Excalibur boards, once completed, are flipped over. From that point forward, any time a black grail or Excalibur card is drawn, a catapult is added to the board. Lancelot’s quest is also flipped, but it then becomes the Dragon’s quest. Once the Dragon’s quest is complete, any of those cards drawn also add catapults to the map. In other words, the more quest that are completed, the faster evil lays siege to Camelot.
This is the main board. It shows Camelot, as well as three more quests: The Picts, the Saxons, and the Black Knight. These quests are continuous. Each time they end, a new one starts up. In addition, there is the field in front of the castle, where enemy siege engines are placed.
Like any good co-operative game, there are multiple ways to lose:
If, at the end of the game, there are more black swords than white on the Round Table;
All of the knights are dead;
If there are twelve catapults surrounding the castle.
Let’s take a look at the rest of the components:
The rules summarise each of the quests, but the Book of Quests details everything that needs to happen to successfully complete each quest. Players are also given a character sheet. These sheets summarise the rules and sequence of play, as well as listing the special ability of each of the characters.
The box comes packed with miniatures for the Picts and Saxons, each of the Knights of the Round Table, Excalibur, the Holy Grail, and Lancelot’s armor. Each knight gets a die that matches the color on the sheet and the base of the miniature to show the knights current life total, plus a d8 to use when trying to fight off catapults. Twelve catapult miniatures and sixteen swords round out the set.
I’m a sucker for miniatures. Any game that gives me miniatures instead of, say…meeples, is pretty high up on the cool factor.
And then there are cards. Black cards that will be played for the forces of darkness, and white cards for the Knights. The black cards are played on the quest locations to try and defeat the knights. Most of the cards are specific to the quest they affect, while some of them represent random events that generally make life more difficult for everyone. White cards are also quest specific, but you can discard them in groups of three to heal up. The white event cards are useful, but there aren’t many, and you have to hope the one you need comes up when you need it. The green cards are loyalty cards. There are eight of them, and one of them shows a traitor. The pack is shuffled and one dealt to each player. It is thus possible that a given game won’t have a traitor in it. You just never know for sure.
Each turn, the players get two actions. For their first, they must spread evil. You can draw the next black card, and apply its effects, or add a catapult to the siege, or you may suffer a point of damage. You have to do one of the three. This choice becomes very difficult at times.
After that, you have a choice of heroic actions. You could go on a quest, or draw more white cards. You could play special white cards or use your character’s special ability. If you are on a quest, you can play cards into that quest to try and complete it successfully. Sometimes a player will choose to add a catapult and then play cards to fight catapults. A Merlin card is useful for removing a catapult without other cards, but you won’t have enough of them.
The game continues in this fashion until there are twelve swords on the Round Table. If the traitor has not been revealed at this point, he is revealed, and two of the swords are switched to black. If there are more white swords, the knights win, otherwise, the forces of evil and the traitor does.
You can accuse other players of being the traitor, but incorrect accusations cause a sword to be flipped to black. The goal of the traitor is to make the knights fail without being found out. Once he is exposed, he plays the game slightly differently, but in the end, his goal is to make the rest fail.
I have been wanting to experience this game for some time now. I am glad I finally got a chance to look into it. It is a bit pricey ($59.99, but that seems to be normal for a game these days), but well worth it.