Teaching Time: 20 mins
Playing Time: 20 mins
Setup Time: 10 mins
Value For Money: Mid
Website: Shadows – Amsterdam – Libellud
As I’ve mentioned in these reviews previously, Libellud is not shy about working the image interpretation game genre as far as they possibly can. Dixit is a game of oppositional image interpretation, Mysterium is co-op, Obscurio is with traitors and social deduction and Shadows: Amsterdam is the team play version. Imagine Codenames crossed with any of the above games and you’ve probably got a pretty good idea of the situation.
Gameplay consists of laying out a hex grid of location images, players are divided into equal teams, within teams there is one guide and a set of detectives. Guides play abstract image cards to guide detectives around the board of location images in the search for evidence hexes. The two teams have secret maps that lay out which hexes contain evidence and which potentially game losing police hexes with some evidence being shared. The team that collects evidence more quickly while avoiding the police hexes wins.
The biggest issue with Shadows: Amsterdam is much the same as that with Libellud’s other title, Obscurio, its advertised player count. It states a player count of 2-8, and it does have an effective co-op mode for 2-3 players. Realistically though the player count should probably be limited to 4 or 6 players to experience the game at close to its best. Since the point of playing the game is to experience a versus team version of something like Mysterium offering a co-op version seems to almost totally miss the point, at that point Mysterium is a considerably simpler option.
That caveat aside, Shadows: Amsterdam is actually very effective. Product wise it comes in a smaller and, frankly, cuter box than its stablemates. Libellud always gives high production values, and this is absolutely no exception. Generally, it continues the system of using abstract clues directly set by Mysterium rather than the more free-form Dixit system that can put some players off balance. The team system helps with the inherent downtime weakness of these games since at four players half of all players have something to do at one time or another rather than a quarter. The shared hex board and the necessity to move to certain locations ahead of opponents allows for some limited but actual tactical play which is a real lift for a system that can sometimes feel like the same thing in a different hat for those who have a range of games in the genre.
Of the various Libellud games that have taken image interpretation as a spring board following the success of Mysterium and Dixit, Shadows: Amsterdam is the most successful by some distance. Its really at its best at higher player counts, but to be fair, it’s a team-based game so that should be an easy guess. If you enjoy Dixit but need it to handle more players at the table or want some opposition to your games of Mysterium then Shadows: Amsterdam is an easy recommendation. If you’ve not played an image interpretation game before, Shadows is actually a good opener to start with if you have higher player counts, since the team system allows players go give each other support. In addition, as an oppositional game it means the challenge is set by other players which can make it easier to grow together as opposed to the potentially steep learning curve necessitated by the co-op play of its bigger sibling Mysterium.
If you think you’ll be dropping four or six players into the game on a regular basis, Shadows: Amsterdam is a great choice. If not, its probably an easy miss, though if you’re a big fan of the genre it still has a lot to recommend it even at lower counts and rarer plays.