Sunday, July 8, 2018

Played some Shadespire!

So I've been trying out Shadespire, and after three games, I have to say I'm pretty impressed!

I went into the games having read all the rules, glanced over a few of the cards, and honestly, had quite a few concerns, some of which trying it out have allayed.

I'd like to talk about what I was concerned about pre-game, and my thoughts after three games (one of which was three player).

The game is too simple
I read the rules, and really, the game didn't wow me after that.  You get four activations, can move or attack (or both), or do other things.  Attacks are just roll dice for both sides, check for crits, if tied, check for relevant symbols, do damage.

During play, I noticed that although the rules are really as simple as they seem, the interplay of actions during the battle phase, and the positioning of models on the boards really seem to create enough depth.  Given that, the simplicity in the rules is almost a positive- you don't want to get bogged down with them while playing- you want to play the game, roll some dice, and get into the parts where your decisions matter.  Makes sense.
Movement doesn't matter
I was really concerned about this- it looked like once you charged, you basically just sat there swinging at each other until a model was gone, then you moved into your next battle.  In three games, this hasn't been the case though.  Moving has been extremely important, and positioning to deny a charge, or prepare for appropriate supports has actually seemed to be quite valuable.  This becomes evident with the cards that allow any sort of movement- Sidestep from the Core Set seemed to completely destroy a plan I was setting up, for instance.  So three twgames in, I'm not too worried about this.

Do the symbols on the dice matter?
Let me do this by example.  Obryn the Bold is starting next to Targor.  Obryn the Bold rolls two dice, needing hammers on the attack.  Targor gets 1 dice, needing an arrow, to get any form of defense.  A successful attack kills the model.

But wait!  Crits are more important.  If Obryn rolls a crit, and Targor doesn't, it will be a hit, regardless.  If Targor rolls a crit, but Obryn doesn't, it's a miss, regardless of what's on the roll.

Each dice has one side that counts as a Critical, as well as sides with symbols for the different attack and defense types, as well as symbols for when your fighter is being supported (either on attack or defense).  But really, these symbols are almost irrelevant when you look at the critical symbols.

For some hard numbers- normally, Obryn hits about 59% of the time.  If Targor's dice had NOTHING but that one Critical symbol on it, Obryn would hit about 65% of the time.  Six percent is one in sixteen, or so.

Most things in the game start with a single defense die.  Some can gain a second when getting inspired, or through other means.  And this sort of crit thing really feels most evident with the defense die.

I've run the numbers for quite a few simulations- I realize it's not as dire as I initially thought... but man, it is something that I still wonder about.  More games will be enlightening here.

Deck Building
I honestly started out by thinking that deck building wouldn't be very satisfying.  You essentially are building two decks with 32 cards total, all as singletons.  I figured the lack of variety would make me lose interest quick.  I'm very pleased to learn how wrong I was.  A brief check of decks online (here) shows several different, interesting builds for each of the warbands.  There are some overlap between some decks for the same warband, but the variety of objective choices in the decks seems very telling of very interesting build choices when constructing the deck.
Also, despite the singleton nature of deck building, there are a lot of subtle (and not so subtle) ways to get some consistency out of your decks.  For instance, the Earth Shakes for the Chosen Axes can double as a second copy of Sidestep, or as a second copy of Distraction, from the Core Set.  The point is- if there are effects you want in duplicate in your deck, there are likely ways to get them.

The fact they are releasing a card expansion pretty soon, to me, further reinforces this.  If deck building weren't interesting, would there really be a market for a bunch of cards to add to your decks?  Of course not.

The Bottom Line
Honestly, I've been very impressed with Shadespire.  As a big fan of the LCGs from FFG, I really appreciate the way they are releasing cards, and the variety of deck building choices has me eager to find more chances to play.  The miniatures are top notch, as always with GW.  The mechanics of the game are very smooth and easy to teach and play.  This is a game that I can see easily finding time to play as a filler for conventions or even other gaming hangouts, and one I look forward to expanding my collection with in the future.

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