Shadows of Malice. Devious Weasel Games, 2014. $60. Designed by Jim Felli. 5 map tiles, about 200 cards and 200 tokens, 100+ plastic “Soulshards”, 24 6-sided dice, 1 reference card, 1 rule booklet. 1-8 players. Ages 14+. 1 hour plus 1 hour per player/map tile used.
In this cooperative fantasy board game, players are Avatars who move around the world to find mystics and cities, and gain treasures and Soulshards by combat in monster infested Lairs. After they improve, they must defeat the Stronghold Guardians in hope of revealing all the Light Wells before the Shadows (run by the game) grow and escape Shadow Realm trying to also find a Light Well and use its power to call forth Xulthul! Once this evil is summoned, the heroes’ only hope is to defeat Xulthul in combat before it can extinguish the last Light Well, destroying the world.
The game is very thematic. Each Avatar has a unique Mastery card granting it two abilities, one of which requires a “Soulshard” to power. While movement is dice-based, you can always move at least one hex. There are several types of cities and mystics to reveal, and monsters are randomly generated (Stronghold Guardians are fixed) making it impossible to know exactly what you’re going to find in any given Lair.
There is a lot of dice rolling in combat. Combat is done in rounds with a simple 1d6 for both sides, but modified by several factors (potions, treasures, abilities), some set, most random, each of which may require its own dice roll. A single combat round might require half a dozen or more dice rolls. And there will probably be multiple rounds.
In truth, this system can build quite a combat narrative! My sword roll fails but my amulet roll helps guide my blow and if I hit, my potion roll might add damage. If I’m hit, my shield rolls might stop extra points of damage. The variable nature of item rolls can make each combat exciting or tedious depending on how you view dice rolling.
The artwork is minimalistic, with tokens, not miniatures, but this does not detract from the depth of game play.
Overall, I find Shadows of Malice to be a great solitaire and multiplayer cooperative fantasy adventure game. The rules are well written and the game play straightforward. A complex but not complicated game. Lots of strategic choices from whether to band together to assault a Stronghold before the Shadow gets there, or to split up and go after separate goals. If you’re looking for a solid cooperative or solo fantasy adventure, Shadows of Malice is highly recommended. And there’s an expansion, Seekers of a Hidden Light, coming soon.
This review was written based on a privately purchased retail copy. No compensation was involved.
c2015 by Richard A. Edwards