Shadows of Kilforth is a standalone sequel to Hall or Nothing's popular 2017 hit game Gloom of Kilforth. Like the earlier game, Shadows of Kilforth is designed by Tristan Hall, with more evocative art by Ania Kryczkowska. Shadows has been designed so that it can be played on its own but if you already have Gloom of Kilforth, the two games can be combined.
Essentially, Shadows of Kilforth is more of the same. You'll be creating a character by combining a race and class card, you'll be taking on a 'saga': following a narrative that drives your character's adventuring through this dark fantasy realm as you build towards the crescendo of an end-game clash with a boss monster. Your character will grow in terms of abilities, health and action points over the course of the game so that you are better equipped for the end-game confrontation but - be warned - the longer you take to get to the end, the tougher the boss monster will be when you come up against them, so you won't want to drag our feet over the task.
To say that the Kilforth games are card driven would be an understatement. There are a LOT of cards. Aside from those to create your character and decks for spells, items, titles and allies, you'll have separate decks for each type of terrain where your encounters might take place. There are even cards to make up your modular 'board': a 5x5 grid on which your character will be moving. There's a Night deck from which a card is drawn at the end of every round. Each Night card you draw may have a different effect (mostly bad) and each causes a location card in your 5x5 grid to flip to its gloom side. The flipped cards then to add 'plot cards' to the end-game boss, making them tougher... A word of warning: this is a game where you really will benefit from setting the grid of cards up on a neoprene mat rather than on straight onto a table. If you set it up on a bare table as we have here in the photo on Board's Eye View, you'll find it unduly fiddly picking up cards to flip them each round. Hall or Nothing have produced a dedicated neoprene mat but any matted surface will do.
To complete chapters of your saga you'll be searching for cards that give you the requisite keywords. This might sound bookishly clunky but it works remarkably well - especially as the game forces you to make some finely balanced judgement calls as to how you cash in the keywords you collect. The saga too works very well: a good substitute for a DM (dungeon master) that never feels like you are playing against an automata, even tho' you are. The great strength of the Kilforth games is that once you get over the hurdle of the fiddly set up (all that sorting, shuffling and careful card layout) you'll soon be totally engrossed in your character's quest. There's a sense of achievement as your character grows in strength and power, just as you'd hope to find in a longer-running RPG (role playing game) campaign. The difference is that the experience is compacted here into a self-contained game that takes maybe 90 minutes to play; less if you're playing as a solitaire, which is where the Kilforth games particularly shine. You can also play Shadows of Kilforth as a 2-4 person cooperative game, or players can compete by racing against each other, but we'd mainly recommend this as a solo or at most two-player cooperative game. The game also incorporates several optional variant rules: a bonus for its replayability and giving options for scaling the difficulty.
There's dice rolling to determine the result of encounters, so luck plays its part, but tests can be treated as cumulative so that if you don't have enough successes to pass a test you can retain those successes you do roll to use them on a subsequent attempt. You will play the odds too over your choice of route through the 5x5 grid so that you choose terrain where there's a better chance of an encounter scoring you the specific keywords you need. You can't afford to dilly dally tho' - you're up against the timer of a Night deck that's going to make the end-game tougher as each round passes...
If you already have Gloom of Kilforth do you need Shadows of Kilforth? We've already said it's more of the same in terms of the mechanics and feel. In that sense you don't need it but if you like Gloom of Kilforth you'll most certainly want Shadows of Kilforth to give you more experiences in this dark gothic realm. And the fact that the games can be combined is a very welcome bonus that will especially delight the Kilforth's many devotees.