I’m a man who values brevity, so here’s the scoop on Shadow Hunters.
All players are dealt a character card at the start of the game. There are 3 types of characters: Shadows, Hunters, and Neutrals. Hunters want to kill all Shadows. Shadows want to kill all Hunters or 3 Neutrals. Neutrals have unique, independent win objectives.
Also on every character card is a health point value (how much damage you can take before you’re out of the game) and a character-specific ability. Character cards are kept face-down at the start of the game and are known only to the players controlling them. The number of players in the game determines how many characters of each type are in the game.
Players take their turns clockwise. A turn consists of:
- Move your colored character pawn on the board. This is done by rolling the 2 dice together (a 6-sided and a 4-sided), add the numbers, and move to the indicated card space on the board.
- Encounter the space you land on. Typically this means you draw a card from a specific pile (although there are others that allow stealing items or healing). There are 3 colored card piles.
Black = damaging items/weapons.
White = helpful/healing items.
Green = Hermit Cards. These are the best way to figure out who other people are. Example: “I bet you are a Shadow. If so, take 2 damage.” If you drew this card, you hand it face-down to anybody else in the game. They read it and must answer either by moving their pawn on the damage tracker up by 2, or say “No effect.” Then they discard the card face-down. Nobody else knows what happened, just the 2 of you.
- Attack (optional) If any character pawns are in range of you on the board (adjacent spaces—3 groups of 2 locations) you may attack one of them. Attacks are made by rolling both dice and subtracting the lower dice roll from the higher dice roll. The result is how much damage the defender takes. This can be modified by both weapons and armor. In the case of rolling doubles, the attack misses.
This sequence of events continues until one team completes a win condition. Along the way players can reveal their characters face-up in order to use their special ability. Typically these are a one-shot (once-per-game only) but not always.
- Accommodates a good number of players (4-8) for most gaming groups
- Takes, on average, 45-60 minutes to play once familiar.
- Excellent replayability as there are many potential characters to be and no game is the same (your allies and enemies will always be different)
- Fun and simple to setup and begin. Beginning gamers will understand after a round of play, and advanced gamers will find enough depth to hold their attention.
- Being eliminated early-on in the game can be irksome when you have to wait for everyone else to finish killing each other (although our gaming group allows for the first person eliminated to re-enter the game with a mystery character set aside at the setup).
- Some Neutral characters have exceptionally difficult win conditions compared to others—making it near impossible for them to win (we remedy this by removing some of these from the game).
SHADOW HUNTERS RATING: 9 OUT OF 10 (Exceptional)
I wasn’t expecting to like Shadow Hunters as much as I do. I’m not typically a fan of “anime style” artwork—which this is—and I wasn’t sure there would be enough complexity or depth to merit playing more than once. However, I was very pleasantly surprised by this game that I’d never heard of until it showed up in the same online category as “BANG!” which is another group favorite of ours. Shadow Hunters is a great example of how a theme in a game can be very minimal to non-existant (basically a group of cray cray random people/monsters running around an enchanted forest killing each other) but because the gameplay, alliances, and element of mystery are so solidly present, the game holds true and nobody questions “why are we doing this again?” We accept that we are a school teacher attacking a werewolf. Or whatever the matchup happens to be.
I think this is a very interesting, unique board/card game mix that will appeal to a lot of gamers out there if they can get past the initial weird/foreignness to the game.