Review: The Shadow over Westminster – abbey on its way to hell

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Yesterday evening, when I fell asleep, everything seemed alright. However, I woke in the morning and no sun was poking me through the arches, as I was used to. I blamed bad weather only until moments, when I opened the door. The neighborhood around the abbey was nearly dark as night. But it had to be the day and the sun was not peeping from behind the horizon. It is time to convene the best detectives and figure out, what happened here, at Westminster.

And we will become inquisitorial team member as well in the board game Shadow over Westminster. It is a horror adventure created by . With the help of illustrator Phillip Jenne, game was published under auspices of Counter Clockwork Games in .

Dark atmosphere can be already experienced from the cover, where we see tip of the abbey and everything shrouded in gloom of despair. And entering into it, we are the ones, who let in the light of our world into this box. That does not change threat, that still exists. So we take a quick look on the board, which represents city and its location. There are positions for miniatures and cards. Under it,  we found bag of plastic figures and black wooden cubes.

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Main and essential tool remain cards. Most of them are wearing some text, some have also numbers corresponding to research value. This is the main currency of the game, but there are also cards with determined purchase value. And then, of course, we find character, artifacts or darkness cards.

At the beginning of the game, players will equip various locations with card – museum with shuffled artifacts, warehouses and underground with cards of disruption. Then there is also a place for disaster card, which is selected from the deck and nobody knows its identity yet. On a scale of universities are players together starting with their experience at the bottom on the lowest platform. The initial equipment of each player is the same – a set of starting cards.

But even heroes themselves must have an identity. Each participant can choose his character, receives corresponding hero card and pawn (which is placed on agency location). Agents themselves are also base for which cards will be in play. Above all, we mean investigation cards, that are specific to every hero. Besides the board, there will also be special investigative techniques, drawing pile of artifacts, and two packages of unrest – darkness and disruption.

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In the game players try to work together to uncover and destroy the evil before it is too late. For this, they will be using classic deckbuilding mechanism, but linked to the map. Beside this, players in the first phase of each round reveal a new card of darkness and follow its instructions. These usually include darkening some locations by marking it with black cube.

Before players will be able to use their cards in hand, they may first move to any position on the map. Each building offers other actions to do. They can improve knowledge at the university (using completed riot cards), but also get new cards to their own deck. Players do not fight only with monsters of darkness, but also with secrecy. If their entire mission gets public, the whole neighborhood will be consumed in panic. Therefore, they are trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, but from time to time, they get some exposure card. Those take up space in the package, and have no other function. And one of the actions at the headquarters of the agency is ability to get rid of them. But only those, player is holding in his hand.

All these steps are players taking only to conduct the investigation. To do this, they need to visit the warehouse or underground. These places are hiding real challenges, that can move them forward in knowledge. Player must remain here until he is able to collect a set of investigation cards. Only discarding the required number can finish the challenge and get riot card.

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Game is a classic deckbuilding, so players have a specified limit cards in hand (which increases with advancing knowledge), that are used for actions according to their positions. They are all then set aside on the discard pile, where they wait, until the player runs out of the drawing pile reserve. Only then can these cards be shuffled and used as a new supply.

Following the game, players can get even powerful artifacts, that can be used across the rounds. But, as their awareness of the threat increases, they will soon also reveal identity of the disaster. Thus, disaster card is turned around and from that moment, player have to follow its instructions. The game still goes on with joint endeavors to the point, where all players are able to together fulfill the victory condition. Or until moment, when some location is completely absorbed by the darkness (placing third cube).

delivers on our tables something, that was not there before. Classic deckbuilding created as a game with a common goal of victory. Players still draw, play and shuffle cards in an effort to optimize their decks. It also fills with useless cards, which they can get rid of later. However, only the accumulation of investigation cards, with ability to use artifacts and advanced cards of investigation, they may fight to a common victory.

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First and foremost it should be noted, that while the game uses the now classic mechanism, it is not easy to learn. Rulebook contains a lot of strange sentences and jumps between themes, without mentioning the important information in places, where you would expect them. The result is, that learning the game takes much longer, than you would like. Eventually, though, everything you need can be found in the manual.

All the efforts of the players will eventually boil down to obtaining a sufficiently large set of cards. That is the only way to defeat for example The Singularity. And yet game is really really difficult and in trying to win, you will sweat every time. The game can also be challenged alone, but its best with two or three. This is the moment, when you even will not get near the maximum playing time of ninety minutes. Its a pity, that first phase of a game is always very similar and only when disaster is exposed , everything gets the right speed.

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Deckbuilding is moved nicely into the background. You have to constantly think about manipulating cards and weigh every decision about them, but in reality it’s much more. Moving your pieces around the abbey, throwing accumulated cards away again. There are elements of collective improvement and in addition, special abilities of the individual agents. It probably still does not change the fact, that opponents of deckbuilding will dislike this game.However, if you’ve ever liked it at least a little, this game is different enough to give it a chance.

The Shadow over Westminster definitely attracts with its atmosphere. The world is close to Lovecraftian horrors and this feeling is supported by a given individual disasters, which players will encounter. All this together creates a really good collective experience. Players will also still work together, so everyone knows their cards. It may result in a situation, where one of the participants in the game will take the lead, as customary in these cooperative games.

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But that’s not all. In this game, you’ll get something you probably never expected out of deckbuilding. A traitor! He comes into the game with disaster cards and can work for the whole time against a team of investigators. This option, which is a standard part of the experience, brings into play even more uncertainty and stress and makes The Shadow over Westminster truly unique.

DesignerRobert Huss
ArtistPhillip Jenné
PublisherCounterClockwork Games
Year Published2015
# of Players1 - 4
User Suggested # of Players Best with 4 players
Recommended with 1, 4 players
(4 voters)
Playing Time60
Mfg Suggested Ages14 and up
User Suggested Ages10 and up
(3 voters)
Language DependenceModerate in-game text - needs crib sheet or paste ups
(2 voters)
CategoryCard Game, Horror, Science Fiction
MechanicCooperative Game, Deck, Bag, and Pool Building, Point to Point Movement
FamilyCrowdfunding: Kickstarter
Primary NameThe Shadow Over Westminster

Infos courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Infos.

Review: The Shadow over Westminster – abbey on its way to hell
Final word
Deckbuilding finally makes sense with the game The Shadow over Westminster! This time is only used as a basis for the fun, that revolves around other things. The game is largely cooperative, where players try to work together and reveal originator of evil. Only then can they confront it directly. In the process, they can improve skills and decks and at the same time be careful not to raise too much interest among the public. The game is full of dark horror atmosphere and great fun, especially in the second half of the game. The Shadow over Westminster is a new and original concept of cooperative deckbuilding.
Reader Rating0 Votes
Pros
atmosphere
traitor
thrilling game
deckbuilding only as supporting element
horror theme
Cons
weaker first half
opponents of deckbuilding will not give this game a chance
weaker manual
4
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