Saturday, May 18, 2024

Shadows of Kilforth Provides Hours of Gorgeous and Immersive Play

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Sometimes you play a game that’s so immersive and strikingly beautiful that you don’t want to pack it up again. That game is Shadows of Kilforth from Hall or Nothing Productions, one which also has the honor of being a Kickstarter that funded in less than an hour!

Set along the Eastern Frontiers of Kilforth, heroes must gather their arms and wits to meet new threats. Playable solo, Shadows of Kilforth is intensely entertaining and is nearly endless in its playability set in a dark gothic fantasy land with a myriad of characters.

The sequel to Gloom of Kilforth, this game (and the upcoming third) are playable separate from each other making it a perfect entry into the Kilforth universe! We received a copy of the game in return for a fair review which continues below the video.
What’s In The Box?

When I said Shadows of Kilforth was jam-packed, I wasn’t kidding. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game this full of bits and pieces (to be fair I’m newer to this world of physical RPGs). With over 600 game cards, tokens, and other pieces, you will definitely get the most out of it.

Everything is incredible quality with not a single warped card or print bleed. The standees for the hero pieces and the hero pieces are so simple yet sturdy. It’s the little things that make a game like this so fun.

hero and class cards

Each card has various attributes and nearly always play a part in gameplay. For example in the Seraph hero (first card below), there are four values, HP, keywords referenced by card abilities, a special effect, flavour text, and the hero’s starting gold value.

I have only two critiques (and a comment) of the game materials. The first is that Shadows of Kilforth doesn’t come automatically with a map/playing mat which was available for Kickstarter backers, but is not available for purchase anymore. However for dedicated players who already own a playmat of some kind, that should work fine!

Second, while the art is absolutely gorgeous and incredibly detailed, there is a lot happening in some of these cards which makes it difficult at first glance to know what’s necessary in that moment during play. Simplifying the design just a tad would make the game more accessible to people and easier to play.

The only other quirk is that the “wooden” tokens are brightly colored. While that might be for contrast purposes, it doesn’t feel like they quite fit in the game.

How’s It Play?

So, how does Shadows of Kilforth actually work? Once you’ve unpacked and organized your map with the location cards (Shrine of Moneshoba in the middle, and the rest in any order on a 5×5 grid), you work your way through the game over 25 days (turns).

Suggested game layout.

Players have 25 days to develop their powers and defeat an evil entity called the Ancient. During the day, heroes travel Kilforth on a map, overcome encounters with baddies, and gather rewards whilst building their saga. Each night however, the land falls further into gloom and if time runs out before the Ancient is defeated, Kilforth is engulfed in gloom and the heroes lose the game!  

Each hero chooses a race card from eight options, picks a male or female side, and also chooses a class card. Then they pick the three card saga set as they wish and start with “Chapter 1”. Heroes must work their way through the saga to win which provides structure but allows players to be imaginative in their process through the game.

saga card examples
Capture Lawbreaker Saga

A chapter is completed by earning cards that have keywords that match those on the chapter card. These keywords can be earned by defeating encounters such as enemies, quests, places, and strangers. Finding and defeating these encounters drives the game towards completing your saga, which in turn allows you to battle the Ancient! Once they complete 4 chapters a hero must defeat their Finale – a more powerful encounter – to reveal the Ancient’s location and place it on the map.

Along the way heroes collect items, allies, spells, towards their goal of defeating the Ancient. Players have Action Points to spend on doing the various actions, with Deeds being the only free actions. Turns also require rolling marbled dice based on the cards for encounters and certain battles which can make or break the turn.

If you and other heroes can defeat the Ancients before the 25th day you’ve won in the cooperative and solo games. In the competitive game, the hero that defeats the Ancient before time runs out wins, and if none of them win, the hero with the most Victory Points wins a Pyrrhic victory!

The Verdict?

For the first ever physical RPG that I’ve played, Shadows of Kilforth was a ton of fun. I don’t think that I would necessarily recommend it to a newbie unless they have a lot of patience (unlike me), because I definitely found myself slightly overwhelmed learning all the rules in the first playthrough. Shadows of Kilforth fortunately comes with two cardstock reference sheets for quick help when playing and an in-depth rule book which is also illustrated beautifully.

Luckily, my friend is adept at this genre and was able to help me get through our first game, which by the way doesn’t include the Ancient’s plots which if not resolved make them more difficult.

Having so many hero and race options to mix and match give players a lot of versatility in each playthrough when playing solo, cooperatively, or competitively. Our first game took about two and a half hours from set up, rules reading, and actually playing it all which wasn’t bad!

I loved the saga stories and the amount of options available for encounters, rewards, battling the ancients, and actions when progressing through the days and nights. One of the best parts of the game is that each night another location falls to gloom providing a sense of urgency within the game’s story and helps keep track of how many days are left.

By the way, the Ancients are absolutely, disgustingly ugly which is just a great touch for them being the demons.

Look at these ugly demons!

Honestly I really just wanted to sit and read every single card, but was convinced not to waste time doing so and just play, but they’re all so detailed and engrossing. Finally, though I could spend more time talking about the game, I appreciated that the Gothic Fantasy “Eastern” theme wasn’t over the top or racist. There’s clearly an Eastern Asian influence to the game but not in a way that is uncomfortable.

At approximately $72 USD (not including shipping), this game is priced fairly for the sheer amount of content within and the endless options for playability. I absolutely recommend this to anyone who likes fantasy settings, RPGs, and card based board games.

Images and game courtesy of Hall Or Nothing Productions

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