A question i see asked a lot, especially in online forums, is ‘Why should i play Shadespire?’ and that’s a pretty important question, especially considering how much time and money you can invest into a hobby like this.
I have been playing Shadespire since almost the beginning and am absolutely loving it, my bias is going to be obvious coming into this but i would not call myself a ‘fanboy’ of the game. I am no blindly adoring supplicant, who can see no fault in Games Workshops handling of this product. I am going to try and give a fair assessment of the general strengths and weaknesses of this competitive board game that GW have made, so that anyone reading this can make a more informed choice.
Competitive board game? But i thought Shadespire was a miniatures game?
Well let’s get this out the way first then. Shadespire uses push to fit minis, it has boards with hexes (no tape measures) and the models are explicitly not required to be painted for even GW run major tournaments. It seems almost petty to bring this up, an exercise in semantics, but it’s important to see where the design for this game is coming from. Shadespire is aimed at a highly competitive 1 v 1 experience, everything else is secondary to that. One of the big negatives to this is the lack of customisation of your models, everyone’s Targor (a khorne bloodreaver) is the same Targor. This lends an elegance to the game where experienced players know exactly the stats for every model in the game just by looking at them, conversions are certainly allowed but the model must be identifiable as the original.
Lack of customisation?
I realise that i may have instantly put off a bunch of interested players with that sentence. Certainly i love game systems where i can min/max or ‘brew’ a certain playstyle and then actually play it in a competitive environment. I often stay up at night thinking of different combos or cheekily opening an excel spreadsheet at work and planning a new pathfinder build (yes i am that guy). So why am i still extolling the virtues of this seemingly simplistic board game. That’s because the game actually does have oodles of customisation, just not from the fighters themselves, it comes in the form of 2 decks of cards. One is your objective deck which is your method of scoring the games version of victory points and two is your power deck which is your sneaky bag of tricks to effect gameplay.
Shadespire skims the cream off of card/miniature/board games to create some sort of unholy fusion of the three that works so incredibly well that i have found nothing else to compare.
That’s, roughly, what Shadespire is but why should you play it?
Play Shadespire if:
- You want a competitive game with lots of tournaments you can go to.
- You want to play a well supported physical game but don’t want to take out a loan in order to play.
- You enjoy customising your playstyle.
- Painting a few models sounds enjoyable (note this one is really not needed).
- You want a game that has a tight set of balanced rules that is run by a company who are willing to make balance decisions for the health of the game.
- You like your play sessions short, once you get good at the game a full set of 3 games rarely takes longer than 90 minutes.
So that’s it. Shadespire is great, you should buy it and get playing.
Wait a moment. I was supposed to be giving an impartial answer, that means mixing the bad in with the good. Ah, oh well then, here goes.
Luckily the bad is actually fairly short. There are no ‘gotchas’ that will turn your experience sour, so long as you know what you are getting into. In no particular order these are reasons why perhaps you might not want to play Shadespire:
- If you want a purely casual game to play with some friends this is probably not the game for you. Shadespire can absolutely be played casually but the skill ceiling is very high and it can get unenjoyable if that gap between players occurs in a friendly scenario.
- The core box set is actually pretty badly balanced. Reavers lose to Steelhearts quite nastily, especially with just the base cards. Over all the sets both factions are very well balanced but be careful if you just intend to play with the core set, which leads into…
- To be competitive in Shadespire you have to buy all the expansions. Every set has neutral cards that each faction can use and GW are very good at making sure each set has a high value card within.
- Did i say the game has a high skill ceiling? Good decks take a lot of time to create and you can auto lose a game if you don’t know how to play a certain matchup. When this happens you will feel
- RN-fucking-G. This game has dice. This game has card draw. Luck happens and it can be incredibly frustrating at times. With competitive games being a best of 3 generally luck is not super important but if you tilt easily then this game may not be for you.
There. That’s the gist of it. I could go into more detail about any of these points or even just make a longer and increasingly more pedantic list of mildly bad stuff about the game. Instead i will leave you with the real reason to play Shadespire: