Board game reviews, strategy tips & session reports
No. of players: 2-6
Amount of time to play: 80 min
Age requirements: 13+
Set-up time: 5-10 minutes
Shadowrift is a cooperative deckbuilding game. You and your fellow players must protect Haven Town from waves of monsters that have escaped the Shadowrift.
Like most deckbuilding games you start Shadowrift by setting up the supply of cards that you may purchase.You must also choose the monster faction you are going to fight and set up the town and travelers. You also add as many shadowrift cards to the monster deck as there are players.
You win if you close the shadowrifts or build all eight Wall cards in the town. You lose if the town contains no Walls or Villagers, the entire Corpse deck is in the town or if a powerful monster gets to Step 3 on the monster track.
Each round has seven steps. They are draw cards, refresh town, refresh travelers, monsters act, monsters gain power, add new monsters and heroes act. Draw cards is simply that. You draw up to five cads, shuffling when needed.
The town deck has ten cards and each turn you place five up to represent the town. The travelers deck has helpful villagers you can add to your town for a cost. There are also infiltrators that when revealed enter the town discard deck. Infiltrators tend to bad for you and the other players. Steps two and three merely discard the old town and travelers and place new ones face up.
At this point any monsters in play act. Monsters follow a track with a start position and steps one through three. When a monster acts it moves to the next step on the track and does the action listed next to that step. Many times it is to kill a townsperson or wound the heroes. If the specific townsperson they are targeting is showing in the town they are killed and move to the travelers deck. You then add a corpse to the town discard pile. If the townsperson is not showing they hunt and kill the first person you dew from the top of the town draw pile. Again any time someone is killed you add a corpse to the town discard pile.
Monsters gain power based on the number of players. If you can afford the cost of a monster it enters the monster track on the start space. Then take that many power points out of the monster pool. That takes care of steps five and six.
Finally at the end of the round you and your cohorts can spring into action. Players may take their turns simultaneously and may take any of their actions in any order. You can seek aid from a townsperson including the current travelers. Townspeople have abilities that can help you gain resources, do extra damage or draw extra cards. You can also purchase as many cards from the supply that you can afford. They cost prowess and/or coins. Resources cannot usually be shared but coins are shared. They stay out until used and then return to the supply. You can also attack. Attacks consists of quick actions and full actions. You may take as many quick actions as you like but only one action per round. If you attack a monster you add a wound card to your deck. Wounds pretty much just clog things up and are rarely useful.
Most hits add one wound to a monster. Killing monster adds to the the bottom of the monster deck and gets you heroism. Heroism is evenly distributed throughout the game and can be used as any type of resource.
When you build a wall it is added to the town discard pile. When in the town, walls can stop smaller monsters and have abilities to aid your defense.
Shadowrift borrows elements from Dominion and Thunderstone to create a unique cooperative game. As you can see there are a lot of steps and things to keep track of, but once you’ve played a few times it should flow pretty well.
The components for this game are hit and miss. The cards are fine but the tokens for tracking things are a bit subpar. The box is decent and has dividers but they are dividers for groups of cards instead of individual ones. I also wish there were more than one set of player aids. All said, nothing here is a dealbreaker.
What comes close to a deal breaker is the rulebook. It is pretty bad and not very organized. I had to go to BGG to figure out a good bit of the gameplay and just how the cards flow. There is no setup example unless you find it online and there should be more examples of play in the rules.
In spite of the rules once things are sorted there are some good things about Shadowrift. I really like how the cards flow in the town and traveler decks. And how adding corpses to the town for not defending the people increases your chances to lose.
I also like how each character can kind of specialize in a specific role. You can buy a bunch of spells to be more like a wizard or cleric. There are skills and loot that can help you if you want to act more like a fighter or rogue. But you can also just be a generalist and get a bit of everything.
I enjoy the fantasy theme and the way the mechanics and interactions help add to that theme. It feels like you are defending Haven Town from the monster hordes while trying to avoid everyone dying. It is tense and the cards and mechanics fit the theme very well.
Shadowrift is fun. I really like the way it combines aspects from two good games to create a unique experience. If you like deckbuilding and cooperative games you should try this out (especially if you like the fantasy theme). Know that you will probably need to spend some time on BGG to figure all the rules out though. And I think I would have rated this game higher if the rules were in better shape. Hopefully the publisher will post an updated PDF of the rules on their site or BGG. Even that could push this game to a 5 overall.
Score and synopsis: (Click here for an explanation of these review categories.)
Strategy 4 out of 6
Luck 3 out of 6
Player Interaction 5 out of 6
Replay Value 5 out of 6
Complexity 4 out of 6
Fun 5 out of 6
Overall 4 out of 6