The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Archive for the ‘Shadows over Camelot’ Category

Shadows Over Camelot & Timing

Chris Farrell’s review of Shadows over Camelot hits on an important concept in games:

The Endgame: Games should, cooperative or not, ratchet up tension towards a climax…. In Shadows over Camelot things are not driven to conclusion adequately and there is sometimes not a clear finish line to strive for, and the game does not carry its own momentum to the end. The Knights sometimes seem to get into a holding pattern … I found the endgame ultimately unsatisfying.

Tension provides excitement. In fact, my first (& only) game of Shadows over Camelot ended exactly as Chris describes (but was fluky in other ways). I’m sad to hear that the endgame lack of tension shows up again.

Tension should build towards the endgame (perhaps steadily, perhaps with peaks and valleys), but you don’t want the fun to end before the game. Sometimes tension is artificially spiked at the end … how many games double their scores in the final round?

The TimJim/Prism line of games stands out for having mechanisms that clearly racket up tension — Throneworld removes the economics phase when someone is in a victory attempt, Suzerain requires the marriages, Time Agent can have the sudden shutdown of the primary time machine, as well as the resources building so that eventually one player can “guarantee the cut”. [Of course, my favorite of the bunch, Fast Food Franchise, doesn’t seem to have any specific rule to provide tension. You don’t necessarily want specific rules to push the game to a climax.]

I still have high hopes for Shadows over Camelot, but I suspect Chris is correct.

Written by taogaming

June 29, 2005 at 12:28 am

Shadows Over Camelot Initial Thoughts

Days of Wonder had a demonstration set for Shadows Over Camelot. As you can imagine, it was in constant use. I got to play one game.

The players take the role of the Knights of the Round Table (and Arthur) and go on quests to secure Camelot and win and lose as a group (ala Knizia’s Lord of the Rings). The catch is that one of the players will probably be a traitor (cards are dealt to indicate loyalty).

The mechanics of the game are unimportant, beyond that. I like the basic idea. Werewolf is very popular these days, but I don’t care for it because there’s not much of a system, just social dynamics. [There is, I suppose, a game there. Just not one that interests me.] Camelot has a game system that’s more interesting. On each turn a player must take a bad action (lose a life, draw a bad event, or add a siege engine to Camelot) and then gets to take a turn. If that’s all it had, I wouldn’t give this a second look.

Players can communicate, but may not show cards or give detailed information about their hand (card titles, values, etc). Sometimes cards are played face down (as are discards). So the traitor has some leeway. Initially, each of the knights has a power (that is often hard for other players to verify is being used ‘correctly’). The loyal Knights need to ferrett out the traitor (or lose VP) and the traitor wants to get enough VP to win (via false accusations and failed quests) or simply over-run Camelot.

I want to play Knights again, probably several more times. Our initial game was weird in that the traitor made a good (perhaps great) opening move; but the loyalists effectively won the game before it paid off. I’ve heard of other games where the traitor got a touch lucky and then won handily. I suspect the balance is off, but the traitor/loyal mechanic is one worth exploring.

Cooperative (or semi-cooperative) games are tough to design, so I’m encouraged by the attempt. I don’t know if this will stand up to repeated plays, though and worry that the random determination of characters and loyalties greatly influence how hard the game is to win, which would prevent balancing variants. I’d like to try the game “Gunboat” style, where communications are severly limited. That would probably be much harder for the loyalists, since the traitor does not need to communicate with other players. Interestingly, that would probably make it like Bang! with unbalanced sides.

So I’m unsure if it’s a good game yet, but it’s captured my interest.

Written by taogaming

April 18, 2005 at 8:08 pm