created : almost 2 years ago

Shadespire review parts 3 (Game play)

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hello everyone !!

Today i'd like to complete my review of Shadespire with the part 3 : game play.

Before writing it, i wanted to play at least 10 games with different players to get a good taste of the game. I'll admit from the start that i didn't played as mush as i would have liked. Only 11 games, so considering a game is 3 rounds i played 33 of them and only made 132 models activations. When you think about it it's no more than one game of Bloodbowl ! So don't trust every thing i say as my point of view could change !

Shadespire is a game with 2 facets of equal importance, it's seem a good idea to divide this review in 2 parts. The first one is about the models activation and action resolution, the second is the deck building part and the role of cards.

It's going to be quite long so let's get started right now !

Models activation

To get a good grasp of what i am talking about i'll better explain de rules and the dices very fast. Before analyzing the way the game is played.

I) General rules

Rules and dices :

A) Rules :

Rules are super simple so it's already a good point !

The game is played on a hex board, in the box you have 2 double sided panel that you can use to build the terrain you want.

Games last 3 rounds, during a round you get 4 activations (like 4 actions points). For 1 point you can : move a model, attack with a model, switch the model to defense mode or charge with a model.
After you spent an activation the other player do the same. Once we have used the 4 activations the round end. After 3 rounds the game is over. (In competitive mode it's the best of 3 games ). It's totaly allow to spend the 4 actions of the same models.
You'll notice that the charge action while costing only one action allow move + attack so it's super efficient, the drawback is that after you have used the charge action on a model this model can't activate for the round. The move action can only be used once per model and per turn.

This way of playing is really fun, you don't wait long period of time like in Bloodbowl. It's a Ping Pong of actions. It's like playing magic or chess you have to anticipate the reaction of the opponent before each action and it's super interesting.
The piece trading theory so common to Magic the gathering are going to be central here too. The only problem you can have with the alternate activation is that if the other player is a lot better, you are getting rekt ! (but it's a good thing)

B) Dices

-Signification of the attack dice :
Hammer : Count as a "Hit" symbol if your character use an hammer attack. (2 faces per dice)
Double sword : Count as a "Hit" symbol if your character use an Double sword attack.
Support symbol (half moon) : Count as a "Hit" if you have 1 more support than the defender.
Support symbol (full moon) : Count as a "Hit" if you have 2 more supports than the defender.
Crit : If you score more crit than the defender score crit you win.

-Signification of the defense dice :
Shield : Count as a "Hit" symbol if your character use an Shield defense.(2 faces per dice)
Dodge : Count as a "Hit" symbol if your character use a dodge defense.
Support symbol (half moon) : Count as a "Hit" if you have 1 more support than the attacker.
Support symbol (full moon) : Count as a "Hit" if you have 2 more supports than the attacker.
Crit : If you score more crit than the attacker score crit you win.

In a nutshell

These stormcast score hit on a 4+ (hammer + crit) on attack and same on defense(shield + crit)

This guy score hit on a 5+(double sword + crit) on attack and same on defense (dodge + crit)

Support :

Little comment on the support system :
When you attack, you have support if you have one friendly fighter in an adjacent hex with the target.
When you defend, you have support if you have one friendly fighter adjacent hex with the attacker.

The support concept is fundamental in controlling the board. Spending activation on attack with support is a lot better than be forced to waste attacks against defender with support.

II) Actions & inspirations

A) Action
When you activate a model you get 4 choices (+ 3 corner case choice)

Move : You move the model up to "move" Hex. I really like playing on HEX, not only it remind me of Battletech and FMP but it solve all the diagonal move problem ! So Big +1 on the Hex !

Attack : Simple attack action. you roll your dices vs defense dices of the target, if you score more hit you inflict the damage noted on the attack stat line. (note there is no benefit of winning by 1 hit or 5 hits). If it's a tie and you score at least one hit on offense you can push the target 1 hex back.

Charge : Move + attack, it's a very powerful action but using it prevent reactivating this model for the turn.

Defense: You go on defense, the benefit is that both dice symbol (shield and dodge) count as Hit. You'll notice you'll get a lot of value of this action with a character that has dodge symbol on his card. Ex : A bloodReaver defend usually on 5+ (dodge and crit) going on def add shield for a 3+ ! Ok bloodreaver only have 1 dice on defense (non inspired Stormcast too btw)

Draw/cycle: You can use your action to draw one extra card or cycle an objective card (more on this in the cards part). As we are total noob at this game we didn't used it yet. I am sure it will be useful when you have a well planned deck.

pass: You can pass !

B) Inspiration :

All characters cards have 2 side, a normal one and a gold one, the inspired version.
To be inspired you must meet some criteria. Once you are inspired you stay like this for the rest of the game.
The inspired face grant a significant buff so it's good to keep that in mind and try to get inspired. (Stormcast are a joke they get a 4+ chance of getting inspiration each time they roll for defense ! better focus one to avoid triggering their inspired side ^^)

C) Reactions

Reactions are like their name point it, you can make an action out of your turn.
Only one reaction can be used per trigger. So you can't react twice on the same trigger.

That's it for the Models section, It's already a good miniatures combat game and that could have been just this.
But there is a deck building aspect that will blow your mind ! Cards are so important i'll say they have more impact than actions !

The cards

Yea it's true, cards are more important than actions ! maybe not for the first 3 games. After that you understand something so important !!! Each model can move only once per turn so that 3 times per game ! This is where you will need cards for extra push, reaction move and things like that. Because if you don't have move cards in your deck, you can't adapt. Imagine a warrior get pushed after you have moved it, it's over he can't do shit for the whole turn ! You can still push other warrior in BTB but yea Cards are vital !

There is 3 types of cards : Upgrades, Ploys and objectives

I) Objectives :

To get Objectives right you need : Glory, Objectives cards, Cycling.

A)Glory !
I know i didn't touched this yet, but it's time i explain the victory condition : the Glory !
At the end of the Third round of the game we count the number of glory point you scored. That's mean you can finish the game without a model on the board and still be the winner (quite hard but it happened to us once ^^).

You gain Glory points by completing objectives, the twist in Shadowspire is that Objectives are not fixed. Before the game you made an obj deck with 12 cards and by completing them you gain glory. You can trigger these gains during the end phase or after a specific action (killing a warrior, loosing everyone ...)

B) Objective cards

There is many different type of obj cards. It's vital that you choose your objective cards wisely when you build your deck at home. Depending on the 12 cards you selected, your game-play will be totally different. There are tonnnnnnnnns of cheeky strats : Zoning, holding objectives (on the map) , avoiding combat, dying.

Interpreting the objectives pursued by your adversary is really important, but it impose of knowing what cards he can use. In a nutshell it's like magic, if you don't know the Meta or the cards aviable it's a lot harder ! I mean if you play against a pure Blue deck you watch untapped land before casting super important spell ;) It's the same in Shadowspire, for exemple there is an objective cards worth 3 glory " if there is no enemy in your territory at the end of the game". You can suspect it's the goal of the of the opponent if he make the fight happen in yours. But only if you know this card exist !

II) Upgrades and Ploy

While objective cards are important you don't play them that often during a game (3 to 5 average but may vary with different deck strat).
Uprgrade and Ploy are the meat of the cards play. They are both played during the power step, but have different rules.

A) The power step.

In a word it's the card phase, after you have played a warrior you get priority to play a card. If used the other player can play a card too, then it's your turn and so on. If both player pass the priority, you can't play any more cards this activation. So there a bluff option : passing first to fish a card play.
ps: Yes you can pass and if your adversary play a card you can play a card.

There is no limit to the number of cards played in the power step so you can empty your hand after the first activation if you want ! Even at the end of the game there is a power step (after the last activation). It's not sage to keep power cards, because at the end of each turn you refill your hand to 5 !

B) Upgrades and ploy

Both are limited at 1 per deck, the deck must be at least 20 cards. you get 5 cards per turn for 3 turns and you can draw extra cards by spending activation. You can also discard your hand at the start of the game and redraw 5 cards, discarded cards are lost for the game (you can also do it for objective cards). Discarding your hand was an heated debate in our game group, i think, unless you have the most powerful hand possible you should always throw the first hand ! If you remove 5 cards and stay with 15 in the deck, you draw 5 more with 10 left in deck. Then when turn 2 start, you draw your 5 cards you know already what cards you will have in the third. You can also do it with objectives cards (hand of 3 cards on a deck of 12)

Upgrade cards are permanent buff, they are really strong once used. The warrior keeping the benefit for the duration of the game unless specified otherwise. Upgrade cost 1 glory to use, so you can play them only after you completed an objective card. Don't worry at the end of the game spent and unspent glory count toward the VP count.

few exemple :

Ploys are the instant, interrupt and sorcery of Shadespire. There is a bunch of choice here, from neutral to factions and warriors specific cards. Collecting them from different starter set might be useful if you want to do tournaments ! I'll say this but i am not sure as i don't have a card listing (YET) and GW only sent us the starter box. (bouhou)

That's all folks !
This is my review of the game and his different aspect after 11 games played(lol). I plan to play more this week (with a bit of luck) so if my point of view evolve i will make another post (I hope not, i have my fill of typing for a few weeks !)

conclusion :
I love this game ! i play warmachine, bloodbowl, mtg, board games on a weekly basis (i know i play too much !) and Shadespire could take a slot (i think). Granted it's only the beginning but depending on the delay between expansion and the creativity of the future cards it could be HUGE ! huge like Magic, really.

Ps : There are rules to play 3 and 4 players but as i only have one box i can't comment !
Ps: I can't comment on cross deck building by using neutral cards from other pack as we didn't got them.
Ps: The rule hint strongly about extra board because they even consider the players to have a "Collection of boards"

Official website :