Publisher: Dice Made Me Do It
Game Designer: Michael McCoy
Artwork: Ian Rosenthaler, Benjamin Shulman
Ages: 12 and up
Playing Time: 15-30 minutes
Suggested Retail Price: $25
The Cold War
Shadow Wars is a new game from Dice Made Me Do It that is part of an upcoming gaming bundle that is launching on Kickstarter today. A $35 pledge lands you two games but with enough backers, four games in total will unlock with Shadow Wars being the last.
Set during the Cold War, you are the Director of Intelligence for one of the major world players of the time; the US, USSR, UK or PRC, gambling assets in a race against the others to be the first to gain three critical pieces of intelligence. It will take some posturing, daring and a healthy dose of luck to gather the information before your enemies do. Are you ready to win the Shadow Wars ?
Shadow Wars is a very accessible game for everyone, playing in about 15-30 minutes and sometimes even shorter if the dice are on your side. It’s a neat little beer and pretzels game when all you want to do is to sit back, chuck some dice and talk some trash with your gaming buddies without thinking too hard about strategies or rules. Just roll and go!
The goal of Shadow Wars is to be the first country to gather three intelligence tokens, generally done by stealing them from other countries but in some cases, you’ll gain extra’s for incredibly powerful rolls.
Each player takes a random home card for one of the nations and four target cards for all countries, including their own. Yes, you can target yourself and it’s a pretty cool way to set a trap and boost your defense but more on that later.
The heart of the game is press your luck dice rolling, trying to get as many matching symbols as you can for different effects and levels of success. Each player gets three custom d6; an asset, attack and a ghost die. These dice are identical save for the color to signify their type and an extra of their assigned symbol; it’s a double symbol making it possible to roll four of a kind with just those three dice, if you’re lucky.
The remaining two symbols on the dice are blown covers and those are bad, roll those and you get bupkis, forcing you to reveal your intended target or fail when defending.
On your turn, you choose and place a target card face down in front of you and commit assets, placing 1-3 dice on it. It’s generally recommended to place at most two dice because you’ll need at least one die back on your home card to defend when you are targeted, and you will be targeted. No one is safe in Shadow Wars!
After the dice are set it’s time to roll them bones and this is where a little gambling comes in. While your three assets are your best agents you can also add from 0-5 world die to your dice pool, depending on how much you want to really test your luck.
The five world die are temporary agents, not as good as your personal dice and they help you have a greater chance of success on your mission. Beware though, those extra dice come at a greater risk since each has three blown cover icons on them. Using them gives you a 50% chance of failure, but with great risks can come great rewards.
You need to roll three matching non-blown cover symbols to succeed before revealing your target, with no Yahtzee mechanic here all rolls are final. The targeted player rolls whatever defense dice they have and must roll a pair of any symbol to foil your attack. Remember how I said it was important to keep dice on your home card?
There is one exception here, rolling three ghost icons bypasses your targets defense completely, they get no chance to defend as this simulates you hacking directly in and taking the good before they could react which is nicely thematic.
What makes the attack and defense part of Shadow Wars a little more dynamic is that each successful attack or defense awards different things. As we saw, ghost bypasses the defense, but asset and attack successes must still penetrate defenses to gain intelligence. Once through, you can steal one die from the target card or remove one target players die to the box respectively. Losing a die can really put the hurt on a player because now they’ll be forced to use more world dice, taking greater risks until they win or steal more dice back.
Likewise, successful defense provides similar rewards. Double assets moves a die from the attacker’s pool to the defender’s, a double attack roll removes a die from the attacker to the box and ghost gets you an intel token from the attacker’s card. Of course, if they don’t have any intelligence then you’re out of luck.
Four or five successes on an attack are pretty hard to come by but when you do get them they’re awesome! Regardless of the outcome of your opponents defense roll, you gain your choice of a die or intel token from the box or a die and an intel token automatically, greater rewards for greater success!
Once a player gains three intel tokens, the game is over so think and act quick if you want to be the top intelligence director and save the day for your country!
As I said earlier, this is not a thinky game but a fairly quick press your luck dice roller. The setting is pretty cool and the art while limited is very nice. I love the stylized frosted nation flags used on the cards and the backs continue the Cold War ambiance, cleverly showing the reaches of the two main superpowers across the globe on top of a cold granite backdrop.
The strategies are pretty simple but limited, in the early game everyone tends to attack with two dice while leaving one at home to defend before switching to two or even three dice on the defense in the late game to protect gathered tokens. You can of course bluff everyone by targeting your own card which allows you to pull back those dice back and boost your defense while giving the appearance of actively attacking others, one of my favorite traps to spring!
Some games will end quickly due to luck but the good thing is you can start another one right back up in that case. On the other hand, if luck just isn’t at the table it can drag the game on a little bit but that is the nature of dice games from time to time.
Overall, Shadow Wars is on target with what it is intended for, a fast little dice chucking filler that’s perfect for a stint on the table at a café with friends or as a quick filler on game night. It’s not meant to be a deep game and can be swingy as it’s heavily luck dependent, but it’s still a fun little game.
If you like dice game and are in the market for another and like the Cold War theme, give Dice Made Me Do It’s project a look. Shadow Wars is part of a four game package that will unlock if the project reaches $75k, a lofty goal, but if the games suit your fancy then give them a back and help unlock all four games for one low price!
Company Website: www.dicemademedoit.com
Company Twitter: https://twitter.com/DiceMadeMeDoIt
Note: A preview copy of this game was provided to me.