I was very excited when I saw this cooperative game mentioned in the Dice Tower news! It’s a two-player (only) cooperative game, just becoming available at Target! Currently, I think it’s a Target exclusive and you can ONLY get it online. My wife ordered it for me online immediately and it just arrived the other day! I have been pleased with most if not all of the Target (Wonder Woman, Jaws of the Lion) and Walmart (Marvel United) exclusive cooperative board games that have been coming out, so I was hopeful for this!
This was a surprisingly small box. It was basically a little bigger than a dual-deck box. There aren’t too many components:
The cards look nice, and the art is nice but they are definitely cheaper cards. Mine had a little tear almost instantly. But I do like the art: it’s very evocative.
The hero cards are decent. I like that I can read all the text on the cards fairly easily. But that’ll change once we get to the rulebook.
This is one of the worst rulebooks I have read in a while. There are a lot of mistakes, and the text is so tiny, I couldn’t read it! I ended up taking a picture of the rulebook with my camera just so I could zoom in on it and read it!! I think this this is the tiniest text I have ever seen.
The Components page was ok, but there aren’t a lot of pictures in the game. I couldn’t “really” tell the cards apart BECAUSE THE ART WAS SO TINY. They are just all “purple”!
I couldn’t read this it was so small. This is where I took a picture with my phone. See below the picture I took!
So, by zooming in on the above picture, I could read the rules. One of the very first set-up had some confusion. Where’s the Zero on the Shadow/Magic Track?
There is NO ZERO indicated on the track, even though the rulebook says there is. After reading through more rules, I figured out that the markers go all to the way to the left (you win if you get the Magic track to the right and you lose if you get the Shadow track all the way to the right).
I could forgive that, but this is just indicative of how bad the rulebook is.
This is the smallest text I have ever read and it put me in a really foul mood to play the game. This was not a very good rulebook: possibly the worst one I have read this year.
Set-Up and Solo Rules
This is a game for ONLY two players. (No Saunders’ Law here). Each player sits across from each other in this game and alternates turns. We can apply the idea of Changing Perspectives and play Shadowed Kingdom solo by playing both players (and swapping chairs a lot). Recall, the Changing Perspectives idea is where you “ignore” the secret information of your compatriot(s) and make decisions solely on the information of your current role. In this game, the roles are simply player one and player two. When you switch to the other player, you can only make decisions based on the information available to that player. (Don’t forget to switch sides on the table too!)
Above, you can see I have a pad of paper with each player’s knowledge. As the game proceeded, I updated the knowledge of each player independently. There are times when there is no information (the two cards I pushed got taken out, and I have no idea what’s in there), so I usually just “pushed” in hopes of getting something good.
Theoretically, this idea should work for this game. After all, there’s not much information to record for each side, and you can make decisions based SOLELY on the state of the board and your secret information (much like solo rules for Shipwreck Arcana). It should work. But, it doesn’t. The game is simply too random. There’s never really that much information available to make any useful decisions.
The game is both way too simple and way too complex at the same time. You can really only do two things on your turn: “Discover” a card (push a card) or “Dispel” a card (slide left or right). The Kingdom area is a 2×2 grid: when you push card, you push a column towards the other player, and the other player has to read and so what the card does. If you dispel, you have to use your oldest card (yes, your OLDEST card … of two cards) to push a card off one row (that card is discarded and your new one takes it’s place). So, every turn you are either pushing to a column or sliding a card out of a row. The Kingdom remains 2×2 for the whole game.
The complexity comes because there are a lot weird little idiosyncrasies: The card you dispel with HAS to be the oldest. You can only have 1 or 2 cards, depending on whose turn it is. If you get pushed to you take the card, do the action, put it in your hand. If you dispel the card, you discard that card and randomly draw from the top of your deck. The idea, I think, is that the current player (about to play) always has two cards and the other player has one card.
It’s just that, there are a LOT of little rules for such a small game.
The way you score is simple: your compatriot “pushes” magic to your side. You need to make it to 6 Magic to win the game.
If you unfortunately push Shadow, then the Shadow Track increases. If it makes it to 6, you lose.
The Magic/Shadow Track:
The base strategy seems pretty simple: if there’s Magic, try to put it out so it can get pushed. If there’s Shadow, don’t put it out unless you have to, and if so, immediately dispel it.
The problem: this game is just luck. Every so often, you get a glimmer of information, but then something takes it away ALL THE TIME. Magic and Shadow both make you reshuffle your decks and start a new deck. You ONLY have two cards at any time you play, so you don’t have much choice. You have even LESS choice when you dispel, as you HAVE TO use your oldest card. When you dispel, you still have to RANDOMLY draw the top card of your deck and play it. (You don’t really have any control over what’s the top card of your deck). Many of the cards just randomize the Kingdom.
The problem: you have too few decisions and too much luck.
Oh, and I have heroes with special powers: I never used the special powers once in the game! So, what’s the purpose?
I didn’t enjoy this game at all. I thought it might be like the Mind with Special Powers (you aren’t supposed to talk or strategize). It wasn’t: there’s no notion of “reading each other” … you just play cards. I was hoping it might be like a simpler Shipwreck Arcana. It wasn’t: there’s so much randomness. There were no real decisions in the game, and there was WAAY too much luck.
For a while, I thought this might be a good game for kids, but I don’t think this after playing it. There are far too many weird and confusing rules that “straight-jacket” kids into doing things a special way (discard your oldest card, push a card and make your friend read it and keep it, do the special text even though it’s not clear who they are referring to). And there are rules that are unclear that infuriated me and would confuse kids.
This is a complete miss for me. I may do a second part of this review if I can get my game group to play this, but I hated this game: The tiny terrible rulebook, the lack of decisions, and the abundance of luck. Stay away.