Notes on Shadow Hunters

I’m generally suspicious of games I can win on the first try.  I’m also suspicious of games where you can win by doing very little.  Shadow Hunters fails on both these counts.

Shadow Hunters is a boardgame for 4-8 players, with more being better.  The players are divided into Shadows (bad guys), Hunters (good guys) and Neutrals.  The Shadows want to kill the Hunters, the Hunters want to kill the Shadows, and the Neutrals have more complex victory conditions – mine was just to stay alive.  There was another Neutral who wanted either to be the first one killed (!) or to kill all the Shadows.  The trick is that you don’t know which side anyone is on at the start, so it’s like Bang! for Goths.  But you can end up deducing sides along the way – there are some cards that let you ask questions of people like “Are you a Hunter?” and you can see who your friends / enemies attack and figure it out that way too.  I always get lost in these sort of things and end up accidentally killing my allies, but that’s just me, I suppose.

Sounds reasonably promising, so why does it fail?  Well, my character just wanted to stay alive, so I was able to just pick up defensive items, avoid conflict as much as possible and wait for one of the Hunters or Shadows to wipe the others out.  It was never really in either side’s interest to attack me, so I only took a few scratches.  In the end the Hunters and I won, but it really felt like “winning” the Second World War as Switzerland.  Would it have been better as a Hunter or Shadow?  Maybe, but the battle lines seemed to resolve fairly quickly, and there’s a lot of luck in the game, so you don’t have much control over strategy.

On the plus side, it is pretty quick to learn and play, and games that can take 8 are rare.  But it seems like a better game could have been made with these mechanics.


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