Shadows Over Camelot, The Card Game

Shadows Over Camelot, The Card Game
From: Days of Wonder
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Shadows Over Camelot, The Card Game is a new Card Game from Days of Wonder.

Every once in a while, when I am running events at a convention, a dealer who knows me will drop off a game for me to check out.  At ConGregate in Winston-Salem, NC, Dan of Walt’s Cards (out of Maryland) dropped off Shadows Over Camelot, The Card Game, a game based on a very good board game.  I love the board game, so I was very intrigued about the card game.

From the back cover:
“Dark clouds gather over Brittany again…”

The card game is a cooperative effort between players taking on the roles of sons and daughters of Knights of the Round Table.  The players unite together to defeat various challenges presented in the game through Rumor cards.  In a sense, they are working together to defeat the game itself.  Right off the bat, this has broad appeal.  Cooperative games are a lot easier to win over  players in mixed crowds.  And they are just plain fun.

The group works together to acquire 7 white swords.  Meanwhile, based on Loyalty Cards distributed at the start, a Traitor may be working against the group to find 7 Black Swords.  Through the sequence of play, each player listens for rumors by flipping Rumor cards and waiting for the right moment to go on quests, while at the same time trying to fish out the traitor.

The bulk of the Rumor cards is related to individual quest like Picts, Saxons, Dragon, Excalibur, and Holy Grail.  These cards each have values that add up.  The “sweet spot” for a successful quest is 11 to 13 points.  As the Rumor cards are flipped, they form the Threat stack. People have to keep the values in the Threat stack straight in their head or the run the risk of being too high or too low.  Too high or low, means you gain a black sword if you attempt the particular quest.  Within the range of 11 to 13, you gain a white sword.

Players can do one of three things each round.  Listen For Rumors is the most common action, where the players flip cards from the Rumor stack to the Threat stack.  The player also can choose to Go On a Quest based on the card on the top of the Threat stack.  When that happens, the Threat stack is laid out into different quests, totaling up their numbers.  For the primary quest, the one that matched the top card, the numbers have to land in that specific range to earn a white sword, otherwise a black sword is awarded. So this is where remembering your totals are important.

From the back cover:
“…and the rumor has it that a Traitor might conspire against the Round Table.”

Communication between players is key to remembering the totals.  However, there are special cards that might impose silence during the game.  When a Morgan card is drawn, all communication between players must stop until another special card – the Merlin card – is then drawn. Like in life, people do not realize how important certain things are until they lose it.  Communication in this is so essential.

The special cards – Morgan, Merlin and Mordred – all have other effects that either occur during play or while totaling a Quest.  As indicated above, Morgan cards are usually bad and Merlin effects are usually good or helpful.  The Mordred card is also bad thing, but not as bad as Morgan.

The Traitor and Loyalty cards are integral in the game.  In the first game I played, I was the Traitor.  However, it was a learning game, so I was not as effective as I probably should have been.  I think I can personally claim responsibility for 1 black sword.  Through the normal course of play, the Traitor can simply feed misinformation to other players about what he remembers in the stack, feigning poor memory, for example.  However, through certain cards, primarily the Morgan cards, more lucrative opportunities arise for the Traitor to thwart the efforts of the other players.  The key is to not let these opportunities go to waste.  The game is short (60 to 90 minutes) and getting 7 white swords easier than you think, especially if you are playing with very intelligent players like I did.

There is also on other card in the deck that could create another Traitor.  The game plays up to 7 players and it contains 9 Loyalty cards (7 Loyal and 2 Traitor).  Game set up creates a Loyalty deck based on the number of players and always arranges it so that there are two extra Loyalty cards left over after dealing them to players. Those two cards remain in play in case the special card called Vivian comes up.  When that card comes up, the player picks one of the extra Loyalty cards and hands the other to someone else.  Both then pick between the new and the old one.  This creates a sense of shifting loyalties and in a large game, increases the chances of two Traitors in the mix.

The third and final thing a player can do on his turn is accuse another player of being a Traitor.  There are benefits and consequences to this.  If the Traitor is revealed, for the rest of game, the Traitor can only flip two cards from the Rumor deck to the Threat stack.  This of course increases the speed that the cards accumulate and forces to players to do more quests and take more risks.  If the person accused is not the Traitor, the group gains a Black Sword.  So the players have to be very careful when they accuse and the Traitor has to be very subtle about his actions.

There are also other cards in the set that the rules say are used in the advanced game.  These are called Knights to the Rescue cards.  You only add this into the game once you are familiar with it.  In a normal game, you usually have 3 extra Morgan cards that do not come into play.  However, in the Knights of the Rescue variant, the 3 extras are in play, set beside the 9 Knights cards.  Every time a Quest is successful, a new Morgan card is shuffled into the Rumor deck.  When a Quest fails, however, the balancing factor is the Knights cards.  The player that failed draws a Knight card and keeps it secret.  These cards can be used to change another player’s course of action, gain intelligence out of the Rumor deck and a number of other things that is advantageous to the players.  However, these cards are dangerous in the hands of the Traitor and give the Traitor more options to sow the seeds of deceit.

In conclusion, this game is about communication, memory and subtle group manipulation (in the Traitor’s case).  It’s a brilliant social game as well as a fun memory game.  I thoroughly enjoyed playing it.  It definitely has some interestingly subtle nuances that players have to master (especially in the Traitor’s case).  It’s fun in general to play the cards, with the switching back and forth between imposed silence and group communication, but with a Traitor in the mix, it is even more fun.  I almost would be inclined to make sure at least on Traitor gets played in the game to keep things interesting.

I want to thank John and Lisa Grigni, Alan Hyde, Jesse Riggs and Mike Welham for sitting down and play-testing this game with me.  It was a blast!

For more details on Days of Wonder and their new Card GameShadows Over Camelot, The Card Game” check them out at their website, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 19

Product Summary

Shadows Over Camelot, The Card Game
From: Days of Wonder
Type of Game: Card Game
Game Design by: Serge Laget, Bruno Cathala
Artist: Julien Delval
Number of Pages: 15 page rulebook
Game Components Included: 62 Rumor cards, 9 Knight cards, 9 Loyalty cards, 16 Swords, 10 Tokens, 1 Rules booklet
Retail Price: $24.99(US)
Number of Players: 1-7
Player Ages: 10+
Play Time: 60-80 min

Reviewed by: Ron McClung