Back into the Gloom
Shadows of Kilforth is a fantasy adventure card game with a gothic twist. Shadows is a sequel to Gloom of Kilforth and acts as a standalone expansion, which means that both can be played separately, or combined for a random or curated experience.
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Straight out of the box, Shadows of Kilforth is visually stunning. It captures the dark fantasy gothic feel. The artwork throughout the cards is clear and thematic and there's a really good balance between image and information size on the cards themselves. What stands out, even as you unpack the game for the first time, is the discrepancy between the cards and the wooden tokens used. The colors feel off between the 2 components, the gothic muted tones of the cards and the bright yellow, red, and green of the tokens feel like they come from different games. The included dice are perfectly colored and toned to the system, plastic tokens in the same hues as the cards would have been much more fitting.
Shadows of Kilforth can be played solo, or with up to 4 players. Players all have their own mini-campaign to carry out, with the aim of completing it in order to take on the final boss, one of 4 Ancients. If playing with more than 1 player, games can be played cooperatively, with heroes helping each other out to complete tasks and taking on the Ancient together. Games can also be played competitively, where players race to complete their own mission, and defeat the Ancient before any other player.
There are several decks included in Shadows of Kilforth, which makes it look component heavy, but it's extremely easy to set up and run games. There are 26 Location cards, 2 are starting locations, with different difficulty levels, and the other 24 are put into a 5 by 5 grid on the table, with the starting location in the middle. A night deck, 4 decks of locations, and 4 decks of rewards are then shuffled and placed beside the location cards. An Ancient is randomly drawn and each comes with their own ability cards and plot deck. Players then select from 8 races and 8 classes to create their character and also chose 1 of the 8, 5 part sagas that are available.
Players need to complete each of the 4 chapters of their sagas, before attempting the finale. Chapters are completed by owning or discarding cards that match the keywords on their saga and paying 5 gold. Keywords and gold are gathered by moving around locations and battling enemies, meeting strangers and completing quests. Characters level up after each chapter is completed and the Ancient appears on the map after the first player completes their saga.
Each turn, players get a number of actions equal to their health characteristic, which can be used to move around and battle enemies. When moving to a new location, players draw a card from the locations matching encounter deck. The revealed cards will detail what needs to be done to complete the encounter, usually a test, which if completed, gives the player a choice of rewards.
The testing mechanic for Shadows of Kilforth involves rolling an amount of dice equal to the skill of the character, and getting enough successes, 5 or 6's on the dice, to complete the task. Successes can be carried over across the turn, but while battling enemies, damage done to your character also reduces the number of actions they can complete, which can spiral bad rolls into a wasted turn.
Testing does feel extremely swingy and a couple of good rolls can see one hero screaming through their saga, while a poor roll during a battle can leave another lagging badly behind. This can be offset by players choosing their battles well, as certain race/class combinations can be very good at some tests, but poor at others.
During competitive play, there is a catch-up mechanic that stops players from getting too far ahead, and as players gain equipment and level up, they can offset weaknesses or improves strengths. During cooperative play, it emphasizes the need for players to help each other achieve tasks by exchanging items, or teaming up to defeat enemies. Solo play can see some grinding at early levels to complete events in order to progress, but this eases as characters level up and is very in-keeping with how a character should progress and improve.
The different races, classes, and sagas, along with the variety in the way the map is set up and the different decks for encounters give Shadows of Kilforth a decent amount of replayability. Exploring the different class combinations is enjoyable in its own right. The components for Shadows of Kilforth take-up a sizeable amount of table space, but the cards and tokens can be transported easily in a couple of deck holders, which make it an incredible portable game.
There are a few expansions available for Shadows of Kilforth. A world playmat that has spaces marked out for each element of the game set-up and individual player playmats for their character are extremely helpful. Pimp My Shadows includes card standees for the ancients and character races (just the classes are included in the core set), along with larger tarot sized cards for the locations and more dice, in 2 colors, which are extremely helpful for simultaneous battle rolls. Dark Shadows is also available and is a card pack that includes 14 duplicate cards from the core set with more adult artwork.
The Bottom Line:
Shadows of Kilforth is a visually stunning game, slightly marred by the ill-suited tokens, but the artwork and layout throughout are well-designed and thematic. Play is well varied each game, and the race/class combinations give a lot of replayability. Solo, co-op, or competitive all play very well, but tests can be very swingy and players can be set back with poor dice rolls. The saga and character advancement are basic but work seamlessly in keeping the adventure going and give a great sense of story and progression. Shadows of Kilforth is enjoyable and challenging and has a great sense of adventure and growing tension.
Get this game if:
- You want an awesome adventure game.
- You want a game with fantastic artwork.
- You want a game with great solo and cooperative play.
Avoid this game if:
- You don't like extremely swinging tests.
- You don't want a fantasy setting.
Have you played Shadows or Gloom of Kilforth? What did you think? What do you think of the art? Let us know in the comments below.
This copy of Shadows of Kilforth and the expansions were provided by Asmodee UK.