Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Shadow Hunter

I played a new and strange board game called Shadow Hunter during my trip this week.  The essentials of the game are that everyone is assigned a role in secret and then you attempt to win the game based on the role you are assigned.  Some players will be Shadows who need to kill all the Hunters and some players will be Hunters who need to kill all the Shadows.  There can also be Neutral players who have all kinds of crazy win conditions like "Be the first person to die or be one of the last two people to die" or "Have the person to your right win".  There is also a guessing game where you use cards to try and figure out who the other players are so you know who to attack and what to do.

One of the really interesting parts of the game is that players can still win even when dead.  It is possible for a Shadow to die and then end up winning anyway because the Hunters all end up being killed by somebody else for example.  It is also entirely possible for all players to win simultaneously if the Neutrals with the correct win conditions are in the game though it looks to me like in most 6 player games of Shadow Hunter 2 people will win and 3 would be fairly common..  The game is quite random but still fun for a hardcore gamer since you can play by doing very complicated calculations to figure out which character is which or you can just stab whoever seems convenient if the calculations are too tedious.  Of course doing all those calculations is regularly pointless since often you end up getting exploded by people shooting at random anyway.

The thing I was thinking about is whether or not having multiple people win is a good thing.  I do think that letting dead players win if their win conditions arise is awesome in a game designed around lots of players since it means that people who get in a bad situation can still try to make plays that maximize their chances of victory.  It gets rid of the problem that once a player gets beat up they end up just playing kingmaker and losing interest in the game.  Most multiplayer games that are quick to play are very random and don't much satisfy the need for challenging, competitive play so I think that generally having lots of winners is a fine thing.  People enjoy winning and as long as their choices and strategies noticeably impact their chances of victory it is a good thing to let several win at a time.  Heck, even if the game was very tight and competitive it might be great to have multiple winners in big table games since people do feel dejected if they never win and with lots of players you are going to have large winless streaks in games with just one victor.  I

Overall I really like Shadow Hunter.  I will never play it extensively since there is so much randomness there but it has some great ideas and games with many players that resolve quickly are great to have about for parties, especially when you have people arriving or leaving regularly.

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