Shadows: Amsterdam Review

Shadows Amsterdam Feature
Shadows Amsterdam Feature
Released 2018
Designer Mathieu Aubert
Publisher Libellud (Website)
Players 2 – 8 (Really want 4 – 6)
Playing Time 15 – 20 minutes
Category Deduction
Exploration
Real Time
Puzzle
Party Game
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

What happens when you mix Codenames with Dixit and make it a real time race?

**This isn’t one of mine – I borrowed Alpal’s copy of Shadows: Amsterdam for this review

Shadows: Amsterdam is one of those games that I wasn’t overly excited about for all the wrong reasons. Firstly, I kept trying to call it Shadows over Amsterdam. Not the games fault – Shadows over Camelot left a considerable impression on me.

Next, it was Codenamesesque. Not a bad thing on its own, but I have a few versions of Codenames that wasn’t hitting the table.

Finally, it’s a four player game at a minimum. Yes, I know the box says 2-8, but the two and three player counts are a variant. This isn’t a bad thing by itself, but it only captures the game mechanics. More on this later.

There was considerable hype building on Shadows: Amsterdam, but I wasn’t going to go out of my way to buy it.

So sitting down at Alpal’s one afternoon, when we had four players and the chance to play, I jumped at the chance. And I am glad I did. One play in, and I was an instant convert.

Shadows Amsterdam Components
A little more involved that the simple party games of late

So what is the game?

Two teams take the part of rival detective agencies, trying to solve a crime before the other side or the police. Yes, you have to avoid the police – they don’t like civilians doing their job better!

The city in Shadows: Amsterdam is a large place, made up of hexagonal tiles that change between games. It is large and colourful, and you will need to be on the ball to search for all the evidence required to solve the case.

There is one Intelligence Master per team. Their job is to help their operatives collect evidence and avoid the police. These players can see all the evidence locations and police the teams have to avoid.

From here, the aim is simple – be the first team to collect three pieces of evidence then head to the objective to win! But if you run into the police three times, you are out of the running and lose, so be careful!

Shadows Amsterdam Intelligence Cards
Unlike Codenames, both teams can't see everything - there is only a limited amount of shared information

Oh, I should also point out that there are no turns – Shadows: Amsterdam is a real-time game. This adds to the tension and flow beautifully, but again more on that later 🙂

Playing the Game

All other players work together to try and interpret the clues given to them. But the Intelligence Master must remain hidden, so they have to understand strange clues! Hints are provided in the form of picture cards intended to direct them to the next step in a path.

This was the first thing I had a little trouble getting my head around. You aren’t being handed the end location immediately, but the next step in a path. The Intelligence Master can only communicate with the cards, so you have to trust you are doing OK.

When you start the game, you receive one or two picture cards that hopefully direct you to the correct tile. If you are given one card, it represents a tile one move around you. Two cards and your location is two steps away. If you think of the ring around your piece, it lets you move one or two rings, so it’s not blind guessing amongst the noise.

Shadows Amsterdam Where To Go
One clue, move one tile - and the blanks are no go zones. Which of the three should orange move to?

This mechanic allows you to focus purely on what is before you, and you will need to. The real-time nature of Shadows: Amsterdam lends itself to an almost push your luck feeling. If you can make a decision quickly, you will travel more than your opponents. But if you rush decisions, you may walk straight into the police!

The feeling of urgency and tension also builds quickly as your opponents start collecting more evidence than you. Conversely, as your opponents find the police more often, this can help boost you as they have to start playing more cautiously. Shadows: Amsterdam is a game that manages to get inside your head.

So it sounds fun. What’s wrong with it?

Very little in my opinion – as long as you are playing with at least four people. At this player count, you have two Intelligence Masters and two team players. Everything I have described is how a game works at this count.

At two or three players, everyone plays one side only and has to race the clock. It’s a straight time limit. Yes, you will have a sense of dread as you watch the time run out, but it’s not the same. Watching a timer count down doesn’t affect you as much as watching a team on a hot streak.

At a lower player count, the mechanics are all there, but not the party game type atmosphere. Beating a clock is an accomplishment, but it is more fun to have a competitive rivalry with other people.

Shadows Amsterdam Tension Rising
Orange is one piece of evidence up, but if black makes one more mistake it's game over! One team just doesn't give you this feeling
JohnHQLD
Shadows: Amsterdam

Final Thoughts

Shadows: Amsterdam is very much in a place to become a Codenames: Pictures replacement for me. It plays faster, has more ‘game’ to it, and has just as much replayability.

It is also a game that I can see myself playing with younger players more than Codenames. While there is more to keep track of, the lack of downtime keeps player interest high. The simple goals are also easy to focus on.

If I am playing two players, Codenames: Duets still wins for me. If someone wants to play Codenames: Pictures, I will be reaching for Shadows: Amsterdam as an improvement on a great formula.

Overall
8.5/10
8.5/10

Pros

  •  Fast to Teach and Play
  •  Great for all ages
  •  Beautiful artwork and components
  •  Easy to get people into a game

Cons

  •  Really a four player game
  •  People may overlook it as being another Codenames
  •  Board pieces could be thicker

Last Week’s Gaming – January 14th, 2019

20190114 Escape the Dark Castle

Escape the Danger of Suprise Bowling in the Shadows. Also, Unusual Animals on the Frontiers, having a Tea Party.

This was a huge week for getting games to the table – so big, there are a couple I had to defer to this week!

Let’s get straight into it.

Planet Surprise

An Alpal special she has been holding onto for a little while, Planet Surprise is incredibly well named!  The premise is simple – each player is exploring a galaxy, and the player that finds the best planets overall wins.

Played over 10 rounds, the mechanics are fairly simple.  In player order, the player decides what action to take, and then a planet on the card is scratched (like a lottery ticket).  A score will be revealed – positive and negative! – and after 10 rounds highest score wins.

An interesting diversion, but not a game easily found.

20190114 Planet Surprise
Never realised how much fun a bunch of scratchy tickets could be!

Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger

Alpal, Rabbit and I started playing this last year, but it fell to the wayside.

As a pre-games night warmup, Alpal and I are doing a turbo run through the game to see how we fare – no looping back to see what we missed!

This will be fun to knock out, and I really want to see how it ends overall.  Expect a full review in a few weeks – we are doing a chapter a week roughly, and I will probably replay it more cautiously before the final write up.

20190114 House of Danger
Playing through the first chapter, we are not doing as well on the psychic scale as the first run

Shadows: Amsterdam

Similar to Istanbul The Dice Game, Shadows: Amsterdam has all the makings of making it instantly into my top games of all time.

It’s a game that suits so many situations, and potentially different kinds of players.  While played in two teams, like Codenames it has that “Oooh that looks interesting, can I join?” that lets you instantly drop new players in.

Games of Shadows: Amsterdam rarely takes more than 15 minutes so far in my experience – if you haven’t had a chance to play it, please do!

20190114 Shadows Amsterdam
Such a fun little game, and easy to teach and play! Get your non-gaming friends in on the action.

Dinosaur Tea Party

Restoration Games continues their hot streak of tweaking old games and making them awesome again.

Technically, Dinosaur Tea Party is a reworking of a game called Whosit?, but that isn’t a game I am familiar with.  So description wise, it’s Guess Who? for up to 5 people.

Randomly assigned a character with specific traits, you are invited to a morning of High Tea – except no one knows who anyone is.  If you can correctly name a player after observing their traits, you are rewarded a sugar cube – first to three cubes wins.  Simple!

A lot of fun, and able to be played with a wide range of people.

20190114 Dinosaur Tea Party
For some reason I took the pic upside down... Oh well! If you want multiplayer Guess Who, here is Dinosaur Tea Party

Unusual Suspects

Keeping up the Guess Who? with a twist theme, Unusual Suspects hit the table this week.

One player is a clue giver sets up 12 pictures randomly selected from a fair sized deck of choices.  They then draw the culprit (random picture from within the layout), and the game begins.

The rest of the group draws 2 question cards and selects one to ask.  These are all fairly random, like “Is a coffee drinker?” or “Takes Public Transport?”, and the group must eliminate pictures based on the response.  If they eliminate the culprit, it’s an instant loss.  But if they eliminate everyone but the culprit, it’s a win!

It’s a game of stereotyping, but overall in a lighthearted way.  Lots of fun and joking was had with Unusual Suspects, and I suspect it will be pulled out a few more times over time.

20190114 Unusual Suspects
Unusual Suspects - or Stereotypes the game! Do you have the same impressions from just a picture?

Concept Kids: Animals

Concept is a great game, but to me, it is one you have to be in a certain mindset to play. Formalising Charades, clues can only be given by placing coloured blocks linking ‘Concepts’ on board.  And the answers can be very detailed – it’s not an easy game for younger players!

Enter Concept Kids – same theory, but simpler execution.  We played Animals, which focuses on guessing different types of animals. The core of the game was the same, but the clues are all slanted to identifying animals.

Yes, it’s aimed at kids game, but it was still a fun game to play with the five of us in a relaxed chatty atmosphere.

20190114 Concept Kids Animals
How many legs? Does it crawl or run? Clues aimed at the theme make this Concept easier for younger players

Bowling Solitaire

Bowling Solitaire is a game I can see myself getting addicted to.  Luckily it’s not only Alpal’s, but it’s a bonus game that comes in Elevenses for One!

The idea is pretty straightforward – set up the 10 pins, and ‘bowl’.  You can clear up to 3 pins at a time, done by adding up the value of the cards and matching the last digit to a number on your ‘ball’.

So in the picture, if one of the piles had a 6 on it, I could take out the two 3 cards on the second row – 3+3=6.  Or if I had a 5, I could take out the outside of the left hand side – 7+3+5=15, so the last digit is 5.

Once you can’t do this, that roll is over and you continue on in the frame.  Scoring is traditional ten pin bowling scoring, so 300 maximum.  But it’s a quick logic puzzle with a goal, and that’s what makes it a lot of fun!

20190114 Bowling Solitaire
20 cards and 15 minutes. Such a simple concept, but so much fun

Alien Frontiers

Alien Frontiers is a game lots of people have told me I would enjoy, but somehow got knocked down my on my ‘to play’ and even my ‘to buy’ lists. That changed this week, with Alpal happy to show me one of her favourite games!

Similar to Roll Player, Alien Frontiers is a simple logic puzzle involving luck in rolling the right dice. It has that ‘itch’ that’s perfect for my brain – a puzzle that can be solved, with all the information in front of you, but against other people.

In some ways, I think I will prefer Alien Frontiers multiplayer and Roll Player solo, but I need to get more games in of both before I can declare that is the final call.

20190114 Alien Frontiers
Another game that people have told me for years I would enjoy, Alien Frontiers has finally been played!

Escape the Dark Castle

I have spoken about Escape the Dark Castle before on the site – both in a review and a whole game with Alpal on Blatherings.

The expanded Kickstarter has been shipping, and Alpal was lucky enough to get her copy first. So naturally, we had to get a couple of games in!

We only played with the initial expanded content – more story openers, some new end bosses, some more items, and cards that end your story.

It was as fun as always, and we had a blast doing this again. Maybe in the near future, we can do another playthrough with 3 players to show off some of the changes!

20190114 Escape the Dark Castle
Once again, Alpal begins getting her pledges before I do! Escape the Dark Castle - always fun

What about you?  What have you been playing?  What are you keen to play?  Let me know!  Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until tomorrow,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming – January 7th, 2019

20190107 Shadows Amsterdam

Shadows of Crime spun by Spinderella start with a Thief!

Oh, the holidays.  There was so much I wanted to do, but the only real thing I got done was wipe 99{dfca638b9dbdbc1caf156b9b6679a983a965572ca56a786c9cf360ad3783820c} of sleep debt.  Still, worth it!

I didn’t replay a lot of games, but I did knock over some video games which was fun.  Even the old favourite Stop Thief! was a new twist, trying out the cooperative mode 🙂

Spinderella

This was an Alpal special, and it was a surprising amount of fun!

Basically a kids game, your goal is to move all three of your bugs from one end of a path to the other.  But there are also some spiders working together to nab your bugs, and bits of log falling on you as well!

Heavy use of magnets makes Spinderella younger child friendly, as it will be hard to break the string because of moving the topmost spiders too far apart.  Roll and move gameplay with a twist – give it a go if you get the chance!

20190107 Spinderella
Don't let the fact it's a 'Kids game stop you from having a great time

Chronicles of Crime

I had been hankering to play this since my Kickstarter copy arrived a few weeks ago, and I finally got the chance!

A higher tech version of games like Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, Chronicles of Crime requires you to use an app to play.  All ‘cards’ have information from a QR code, allowing different scenarios and corrections to be rolled out with app updates.

You can also ‘investigate’ a crime scene – one person has the device/VR kit, and describes the area while actively looking around.  It’s deeper than I expected, and much quicker to play than I expected as well.

Investigating is fun, and the ability to actually question subjects on individual items without prompting is amazing.  For example, if you want to ask the waiter about drinks, you scan the waiter, then the drinks evidence – done!  But you can ask literally anyone about the drinks, and there is no ‘If you have the drinks, go to page xx’ prompts, so it’s also more challenging as you work out what needs to go where.

I can’t wait to provide a formal review soon!

20190107 Chronicles of Crime
You answer like you play - by scanning the cards to give the answer. No spoilers here though!

Stop Thief!

Finally had a chance to kick back and enjoy the first Restoration Games classic in my collection.

Stop Thief! is normally played competitively, with individual players trying to work out where the thief is from the provided sound clues.  This round though I got to play cooperatively with Rabbit, and it was an intriguing round indeed!

Having never played Stop Thief, it was good to lay out my thinking to teach Rabbit how to play without having to step back from ‘winning the game’.  The game is very similar, but instead of the most money being won, everyone has a single stack of money that can run out as robberies happen.

Now to put aside some time for Solo Mode…

20190107 Stop Thief
It looks like a lot is happening, but Stop Thief! is simple and straightforward and a blast to play

Shadows: Amsterdam

Another Alpal special, and one that knocked off an item for ‘most anticipated game to play in 2019’ (You knew the lists were coming, right?)

Imagine Codenames and Dixit had an affair – Shadows: Amsterdam would be the result.

Playing in two teams, one player is in charge of giving their team clues in the form of picture cards.  Players then need to interpret which picture to move to on the board.  There are three ‘clues’ that need to be collected before a final client is to be found.  First team to find the client without getting caught by the police three times wins!

Shadows: Amsterdam is fun, fast, and a heap of fun to play.  Formal review coming soon!

20190107 Shadows Amsterdam
If you enjoy Codenames, Shadows: Amsterdam is a no-brainer selection for you!

Pokemon Let’s Go

And I have finished!  The story at least, but the journey is done 🙂

As very much a Pokemon ‘casual’, and someone that was flat out at the end of the year, Pokemon Let’s Go was a great game for me.  As I had already played Pokemon Yellow (years ago, but yeah) having an idea of the game meant I could pick it up and put it down with ease.

And it was a little too much ease.  Honestly, I skipped two gyms and a secret technique that lets you fast travel to towns you have visited, and I still beat the game (with a lot of walking and backtracking).  And beat I MewTwo.  Yep, I have a MewTwo now 🙂

There is a bunch of extra stuff to do that I may or may not do, but you can hear about all that tomorrow with the Let’s Go review 😀

20190107 MewTwo
Wandering into the cave with 3 mid-level 60 and high level 50 Pokemon made this a tough fight, but I have MewTwo now 🙂

Detective Pikachu

So I started Detective Pikachu AGES ago, and the linear story was/is fun and a new Pokemon take was interesting.

The main problem I had was I put it down as the music was putting me to sleep (I was playing bit by bit at the end of the day), and didn’t pick up the DS to play for weeks.  Even at PAX Aus, where I was grabbing StreetPasses left and right, I didn’t even fire up Detective Pikachu.

I was determined to finish Detective Pikachu this year though, and now, it’s done.  I was about 2 hours from finishing, and that was taking my time.  So close!  But I also wanted to start another game on the DS, but more on that soon.

But you can hear my final thoughts on Detective Pikachu next Tuesday if you would like to know more.

20190107 Detective Pikachu
Detective Pikachu is a whole lot of fun 🙂 Not an overly complicated, but still enjoyable.

Luigi’s Mansion

I remember years ago buying a copy of Luigi’s Mansion and a Game Cube for a friend.  I must have watched many hours of their kids and my nephew play it, but I never got around to it.

Last year, Luigi’s Mansion 3 was announced for the Switch.  Now these days, if you want a game to get my attention, announce it on the Switch.  And memories of the first game came flooding up…

Thanks to the EB Games Boxing Day sales, I now have the first two in the series on DS.  I have only really played the tutorial and the first few rooms, but it’s already proving itself to be a fun diversion that needs just that bit of attention to finish it.

20190107 Luigis Mansion
It may be an old game, but Luigi's Mansion is still a bit of fun on the 2DS.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission

This fun little gem has taken the gaming awards by storm.  According to Metacritic, it’s the #7 PS4 game released in 2018, and #1 if you look at PSVR only!

With the January sales, I had to have a look at it.  It was being universally praised, and I can see why.  It’s adorable, immersive, challenging, and most importantly (for a VR game) completely immersive.

I only played for about 8 hours I think in total, but I have 100{dfca638b9dbdbc1caf156b9b6679a983a965572ca56a786c9cf360ad3783820c} completed 3 of the five worlds and I am on the final world now.

Short version – if you like Mario Bros style games, and are interested in VR, get Astro Bot Rescue Mission.  You will hear much on this game over the coming weeks, so be ready 🙂

20190107 AstroBot Gameplay
Find your bot friends, collect coins for mini-games, and enjoy the most Nintendo platformer on PlayStation

Beat Saber

In my opinion, Beat Saber got robbed by Astro Bot on Metacritic.  As I said, Astro Bot is a great game, and I am enjoying it thoroughly, but Beat Saber I have kept coming back to all year.  No other VR game has been able to do this, and that was before the new content.

A recent update added a couple of very fun new songs, and Rabbit has discovered with me the fun of playing some songs on Faster – it somehow makes them more fun and easier while making you move even more at the same time!

I need to move more, so I am going to try and get back into playing Beat Saber daily.  Let’s see if my score goes up…

Beat Saber Hitting the Cubes
You can watch people playing, but nothing compares to the feel of cutting cubes yourself

Kingdom Hearts

YES.  It has begun.  The Kingdom Hearts run is beginning.

I am a little torn though.  Do I just run through the games?  I can do this, and may even be able to finish Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 if I do this.

But.

I love this series, and I kind of want to platinum them – including the games I missed as I didn’t have a DS at the time.

Thinking, thinking.  Decisions to be made.  I will let you know what I decide, but if you are a fan grab the Final Mixes if you haven’t already.  The worst of the PS2 controls have been smoothed – they aren’t gone, but I am not as frustrated playing.  And it’s as fun as ever 🙂

20190107 Kingdom Hearts
There's a lot of cutscenes, but once you are into the game there isn't much time to laze about.

What about you?  What have you been up to?  Have you been getting more games in?  Let me know!  Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until tomorrow,

JohnHQLD