Tag Archives: Fantasy Adventure Game

Shadows of Malice

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

Fallen

Fallen. Watchtower Games, 2014. $50. Designed by Tom W. Green and Stephen C. Smith. 30 Story cards, 3 Heroes (each with 1 hero card, 10 signature power cards, 9 skill cards), 3 Dungeon Lords (each with 1 lord card, 10 signature power cards, 11 final battle cards), 28 creature cards, 40 core power cards, 24 equipment/treasure cards, 12 omen cards, 16 critical injury cards, 22 custom dice, and 80+ tokens and a rulebook. 2 players. Ages 14+. 90 minutes.

This story-driven, fantasy card and dice game pits a single hero versus a dungeon lord and his creatures in three rounds of adventure followed by an epic showdown.

The hero player chooses one of three heroes, each of which come with a specialized skill deck that allows you to develop using experience gained during play. All characters have a specialized deck of 10 Power cards that they mix with half the generic Power deck to create a unique deck for this game. The other player chooses one of three dungeon lords and sorts his creatures into their three levels and places four to start.

The mechanics are really straightforward and the rulebook is one of the best I’ve ever read being well organized, detailed, and clearly written.

Gameplay revolves around the dungeon lord randomly pulling a story card (there are 30 in the game) and then reading a series of fantasy situations and choices. The hero’s choice then determines which type of challenge will be done.

Challenges are then resolved by both players creating and rolling dice pools modified by various cards, including equipment, power, skills, creatures, treasures, omens, and fortune tokens. The winner gains experience that can be used to upgrade hero skills or creature levels, and both sides may gain additional benefits.

Once three story cards have been resolved (each takes about 30 minutes), then the upgraded hero and dungeon lord face off in a final battle. The challenges here are based on the lord’s unique deck of Final Battle cards, where the first to win three challenges is proclaimed victor of the game.

If you’re not a fan of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure games, then this may not appeal. There are only 3 heroes and 3 dungeon lords, and although all of them are unique that is a limited cast to choose from even with so much replay ability from the various card decks.

If you enjoy story-driven games that also deliver a quick playing, card/dice, head to head gaming experience, then, like me, you may find the game so enjoyable that you’ll be wanting more. Luckily expansions are on the way. Highly recommended.

This review was written based on a privately purchased retail copy. No previous relationship with the game publisher nor compensation was involved.
c2015 by Richard A. Edwards