Monday, 12 December 2011

Games for many who game, part 2

A full moon is bathing the castle walls in a pale light.  Jupiter is bright and high in the sky, and the great hunter Orion is upside-down - as usual.  Following on from my last post, it is time for me to close this category and write up:

The last two of five:

Games for many who game:

Published by: Days of Wonder
Designed by: Serge Laget and Bruno Cathala

In Shadows over Camelot players are knights hoping to see Camelot survive a series of challenges the game system besets it with.  Players must work together to solve quests, such as searching for the Holy Grail, fighting off the invading Picts and Saxons, and making sure the fields before Camelot are free of siege engines.  Each knight is different, having an individual special power that allows them to break the usual game rules in a specific way.  Utilisation of these special powers and effective team-work are essential to winning.

Shadows over Camelot is a game that arrived on the gaming scene to much fanfare.  It was, as well as Knizia’s Lord of the Rings, a major influence over the rise of co-operative games.  Co-operative games are designed so that the players must work together in order to defeat the game system, one of the issues with this concept is that a strong personality in the group can dominate other players.  Shadows over Camelot included a very interesting twist to help mitigate this potential issue: the introduction of a traitor.  Players are dealt loyalty cards at the beginning of the game, and these indicate whether you are a loyal knight of Camelot, or whether you are the filthy traitor; whose aim is to help bring Camelt to ruin.  There will not always be a traitor in a game of Shadows, but the fact that there may be means that you must be careful about who you trust, and how you work as a team.

Every turn players must take one ‘evil’ action, which hurts either themselves or their efforts in some way, and one good action.  Players move around the game board fighting off enemies, achieving quests, gaining special items, and destroying the siege engines mounting up before the gates.  The presence of a traitor makes the team play aspect of the game very interesting, the traitor will want to stay hidden for as long as they can, and reveal themselves at some devastating moment.  This means the traitor will work with the team, but will try and be as ineffective as unobtrusively as they can.

Shadows over Camelot ends when the Round Table fills up with swords, and swords may either be white (good), or black (evil).  If there are seven or more white swords on the table at games end the knights can rejoice and retire to Ye Olde Camelot Inn for a well deserved digestif.

The production values in the game are spectacular, with beautifully illustrated cards, boards and tokens, as well as a bunch of very nice plastic figures representing the knights, Saxons, Picts, siege engines and artifacts.  This level of production really help builds the atmosphere, and when played in the right frame of mind Shadows is a game that lives and breathes it’s setting.    

Shadows is at it’s most fun and enjoyable when played in the right spirit, with a dash of role-playing in the team banter as the players struggle through the challenges set by the game.  When played in this spirit, it is a highly enjoyable and greatly amusing game.  Well worth playing.

Published by: Asmodee
Designed by: Laurent Lavuar and Eric Randall

Formula D is a game that could easily fit into the next category I’ll be writing about (Games for many who don’t game): it is a simple to learn game, that still remains a lot of fun.

Formula D is a racing game (I realise I’m spelling out the obvious here), it plays with up to ten players and lasts a satisfactory amount of time.  Formula D is all about pushing your luck and playing the board well.  On a given turn players will choose whether to change up or down gears, with each gear represented by the different sized dice, with a different range of numbers on it.  Players will then roll that dice and move their car a number of spaces according to what was rolled - no more, and only less when tires and brakes are spent.

So, you roll the dice and move... roll and move games have a notorious reputation for being low on choice and high on luck.  However, Formula D is a game that is full of interesting choices that directly affect how well, or how poorly you will place.  The key to the game is the board, not only do the outer lanes on the race track have more spaces than the inner lanes, but each corner has a rating which indicates how many times a player must stop in that corner.  A long gentle curve may only require one stop, while a sharp turn may require two or three.  Players will need to consider what gear they are in, and therefore what dice they’ll roll and how many spaces they may move as a result.  Overshooting the corners - entering them too fast - will cost tire and brake points, losing all of those will mean you’re out of the game.  Gearing cleverly, so as to be hitting a higher gear when leaving the corner, is an important thing to try and achieve consistently.

Of course, there are other cars on the road as well, and players will need to consider where those cars are when making their choices about gears and where they’ll be moving.  You may well be forced to take a corner tighter than you can afford, or be pushed into an outer lane, meaning you’ll have more ground to cover just to keep up.

Asmodee reprinted this game from the older edition of Formula De, and have done a splendid job.  The board is large, luxurious and double sided.  The little trays for the car stats are an excellent addition, and the street racing side of the board can be a lot of fun.  There are also a range of expansions available which add in other boards - and given the fact that playing the board well is key to winning - a new board is a wholly new experience.

Formula D is a game that plays with up to 10 players, it is simple to grasp, and exciting to play.

Two that just missed out:

One I’ve never played:

If you have any games you think I've missed, or have any other comments, add them in the comments section!


  1. This page is excellent :). 2 of my personal favorites here, especially Formula D.

    One of my favorite games played at a con was a 12 player Formula De race. We had the 3 leaders all spin just before the last corner (I was one of them, needed a 7 or less, rolled an 8 on the 8 sided die!), and we all ended up side by side, BLOCKING the track! The ensuing cars piled up behind us braking and downshifting like crazy. The guy in 8th or 9th at the time ended up winning, because he carried more speed through the corner. I think I got going and ended up 5th...

    I seem to be the only person who doesn't enjoy Citadels. Should give it another try maybe been a few years...

  2. I like Formula D but with the wrong people (and there are many) it can be so s-l-o-w.
    Players end up counting out every space, then doing it again, and then count a third time but following a slightly different line - and what should be an exciting, fast, race game falls into analysis paralysis.

    My favourite race game, by a long shot, is Snow Tails. I think that fits the category well.

    Shadows, I like, but my game group never really had any interest and now, with Battlestar Gallactica, it just never gets chosen.
    I've played with the kids a few times but it spends most of its time on the shelf, which is a shame.

  3. Citadels is one of those games that suits a certain type of group play - I've found it can either be really fun, or last too long. Ultimately that's why Red November made this list, but Citadels didn't.

    That game of Formula De sounds fantastic! It really suits a large group of players - and does it well!


    Yes - with the wrong group Formula D can take too long - I prefer to 'shoot from the hip' with my turns rather than count every space as well!

    I've only played Snow Tails once, but from what I recall it was a very solid little game, and a lot of fun! Next time I'm at a con I should try and get a game in.

    I've never played Battlestar - I've never seen the series, so the theme doesn't pull me in - whereas the theme of Shadows is something I really enjoy. I watched a game of Battlestar once from a nearby table - and it was a trainwreck - the players all looked as if they were being mildly tortured - this has probably coloured my desire to chase down a game of it!



  4. Bohnanza is my default go-to game for 6 or more. It's always a hit with my (very casual gamer) friends.

  5. Yes - Bohnanza is great! I will be writing about that in the next category - but it could easily have made this list as well!

  6. I really enjoy playing BSG despite having no interest in the TV series. It is a lot more tense and argumentative than Shadows, though.

    Bohnanza remains a great game although I prefer Space Beans.