For fans of strategy, cooperation, and fantasy board games, Shadows Over Camelot is an undeniable classic. The original game takes you and your friends on an adventure out of legend, attempting to complete quests to strengthen the Round Table, or to subvert it (if you’re secretly a traitor). But Shadows Over Camelot is pricey, and can be somewhat hard to come by.
Luckily, for those who remember the game fondly, but want a cheaper and quicker option to play instead, there exists Shadows Over Camelot: The Card Game!
The story of SoC, like the original, is that you as the Knights of the Round Table must work together to protect the land of Camelot from the various dangers that besiege it. To do so, you’ll need to track the various quests, spells, and curses that you and your companions are facing at any given time. Of course, as in the classic version of the game, there’s also the chance of a traitor in your midst.
It’s not too complicated. In theory.
In actual play, SoC is a memory and deduction game. Most of the cards (excepting characters and loyalty cards, which are rectangular instead of the square-shaped play deck) are shuffled together. Going in a circle, each player reveals a new card. Most will be quest cards, which have a quest type (Picts, Saxons, Dragons, Swords, or Chalices) and a number. As you go around, you’ll want to keep track of the number of each that have been turned over so far in the game, and try to announce that “It’s time” when the total of any type reaches 11, 12, or 13. If the players are right, they earn a few white swords. If they’re wrong, they earn black ones.
3 white swords and Camelot reigns! 3 black swords, though, and it falls – unless you and your valiant comrades can sniff out the traitor in your midst, if there even is one.
But there are complications. Within the play deck, there are also Morgana, Vivien, Merlin, and Mordred, who have various affects. If they pop up, the numbers of various types might be retroactively affected, you might be forced to count in silence (or be allowed to discuss again), or other complicating effects. Plus, each player can start with a special ability given to them by their character card, or secretly be trying to throw off the count if they’re the traitor.
What starts off as a simple memory game quickly becomes a mental challenge for everyone around the table!
Luck vs. Strategy
This definitely isn’t a luck game. However, unless you’re the traitor, I wouldn’t necessarily call it one of strategy either. It’s all about memorization and quick mental calculation, rather than selecting and playing certain cards or abilities.
Number of Players
You’ll need at least 3-4 players for this game, although you can include up to 7. There is a set of rules for solo play, but it’s a lot more engaging with more people. Most card games are like this, though.
While the original SoC does give you a fun, fantasy adventure feeling, the card game doesn’t really immerse you in the story in the same way. It’s great for a fantasy or an Arthurian-themed night, of course, but it’s not likely to inspire much atmosphere among your guests.
If you think you’ve got a sufficiently sneaky set of friends, though, the traitor aspect can result in some pretty genuine betrayal. All that mental math, and to find you were all thrown off by a single crafty comment? Brutal.
History and Availability
SoC: The Card Game was released in 2012, 7 years after the release of the original game. It was held in game stores pretty commonly when it first came out, but can be a little bit harder to find nowadays.
Your best bet, if you’re looking to get a new copy, is to keep an eye out through online retailers. Secondhand groups and online shops are always a good idea, too, if you don’t mind a little bit of wear on your pieces. It’s pretty cheap, at around $10-$15 for a used copy, and around $30 for an unopened one.
Luckily, you don’t have to go looking through different languages, though. The box contains minimal wording on the cards, and English, French, and German versions for those that do have text on them.
Our Personal Thoughts
I’m extremely fond of this game, and disappointed that I can’t seem to get my friends to play it with me as often as I’d like! Of course, it does require a certain mindset about what’s “fun.” It’s definitely a mental exercise, and a challenge no matter your age range. If you’re looking for a quick and easy party game, this probably isn’t it.
But if you enjoy brain teasers, this is an excellent game to keep around. Plus, the artwork is gorgeous, and the Arthurian characters and inspiration are used in a quite clever way! It’s doubly great for people like me, who love the Arthurian legends and stories. You don’t even have to be a fan of the original game.
If you like mental challenges and brain teasers, this is an excellent filler game between larger, more time-intensive time slots on your board game night. Or, if you’re looking for something a little bit simpler, but still challenging for your family and friends. Just don’t expect it to be a walk in the park because it looks simple!