Adding another arrow to her bow, Saggyhead has become a Shaman, in this super social deduction game from STUDIO H
Publisher: STUDIO H, Hachette Board Games UK
Designer: Cédrick Chaboussit
Artist: Maud Chalmal
Summary of Game
Shamans is a trick-taking hidden role game published by Studio H and designed by Cédrick Chaboussit. Two unlikely bedfellows but they really meld together in this game seamlessly. Shamans is played over a number of rounds until a player gains 8 points. So depending on how evenly matched you are, the game length can differ significantly. This does add a bit to the race element of the game which I feel adds perhaps to the stress but not in a bad way. Rounds are played until either all cards have been played (in which case the Shaman players win), or until the token reaches the moon, when the Shadow players win. At the end the players tot up their points and end round points.
Each round you will be randomly dealt a secret role card which will either be a Shadow “baddie” or a Shaman “goodie” card. The Shaman players are trying to prevent the moon token from reaching the moon before they get rid of all of their cards. The moon token moves towards the moon each time a player plays off suit on a trick. Unlike other trick taking games, if you can play off suit deliberately even if you still are able to follow suit. And that adds such a huge amount of depth and strategy to a pretty small box unassuming game.
The game is trick taking. So the first player plays down a card of their choice, and in a traditional trick taking game, the other players must follow suit if they can. The highest value card played wins the trick and they become first player and gain control of the next trick. In Shamans, you do not need to play on suit. You can choose not to play on suit in order to benefit yourself. This might be to later gain yourself a bonus ability, or it might be because you want to play off suit and get the token closer to the moon and closer to a win if you are a Shadow player.
Every trick, the player who plays the highest value on suit card takes control of the next trick and plays the first card. There is also, unlike in other trick taking games, there is also a significant advantage to playing the lowest on suit card. That person gets to select either a face up bonus token or draw blind from the deck. These tiles can offer you the ability to move the moon token or a dagger icon which will allow you to eliminate another player.
Each colour also has its own special ability which is activated by the last card played. This can be as simple as gaining a victory point, or as game-changing as eliminating a player or swapping roles. Playing the last card into a world is a super powerful move that can turn the tide of a game. As cards are played down, they are added to the appropriate slot on the board. Off suit cards are added to the board immediately which may trigger the ability of the world if this is the last card to be played.
The first thing that strikes me upon opening this box is the unerringly beautiful card art. The artwork by Maud Chalmel is simply stunning. I just want to dive right into the world. The box is also visually striking with turquoise shiny inlay for the game name and artwork details. This looks beautiful on the shelf as well as on your table.
First play for me, it felt like no other trick taking game that I had played. It took your traditional trick-taking brain and flipped it inside out. You don’t have to play on suit, in fact you may not want to so you can maximise what you can get each turn. There is aso a significant advantage to throwing a turn as you can get a bonus token which may help you later.
Why I Love It
Looking at it, this game ticks all my box art tart boxes, it is visually appealing. I really enjoy good looking games, and this is a real winner. I really like the depth of this game, there is far more to it than you would first think. There is a lot more think over which card to play than there is usually is for me when playing trick taking games. I’m not convinced that is because I am better at this game than other trick taking games but I really do enjoy it.
Game Group Dependency
This game is really dependent on the group you play with in order to max out your experience. If you are playing a hidden role game like this, it is best to rather than just playing quietly you throw shade at your fellow players. I really enjoy the trash talk around the table. “Oh look there is Marv playing off suit again, like a shadow baddie. Look at his face, he looks so pleased with himself now we are one step closer to the moon and doom.” Cue total uproar from Marv at the absolute cheek of it for me to accuse him of shadowy ways. But the seed has been sowed, everyone is now suspicious of Marv and suddenly the gameplay is turned up to 11. Each card he plays is now scrutinised. This won’t work with every group, but when it does, the game really sings.
I did find that although beautifully laid out, the rulebook didn’t give me all the answers I needed up front. Helpfully there were quite a few examples given which helped me answer most of the questions I had. The first game I played, we did fumble a few of the rules, although this is often something that happens to me, so perhaps that was the operator rather than the rulebook’s issue. After the first game was a touch of a dud because of these rules mess ups though we did get the hang of it for subsequent games.
Do you like trash talking round the table? Do you like beautiful card artwork on your table and good looking boxes on your shelves? Do you like hidden role games? What about trick taking games? If any of these questions come up with a yes answer then I think Shamans would be a good fit for you. This game has a low price point for the game it brings so I would put this as great value for money.
[Please note that a copy of this game was kindly provided by the publishers for review, and I am not paid for my opinions.]
- The artwork is simply divine.
- The trash talking round the table can have you in fits of laughter.
- The game plays pretty quickly and can be played a few times in a row easily.
- Can be quite group dependent, you need to buy in to throwing shade at your fellow players to get the most out of the game.
- Often the randomness of dealing out the roles can make you feel like the same person gets the chance to be the baddie.
- There is player elimination which I tend not to massively enjoy, but it doesn’t happen every game so I am ok with it.