Kickstarter Tabletop Alert: Shadowrift: Archfiends

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Shadowrift: Archfiends

Shadowrift is one of my favorite games—it’s a fully cooperative deck-building game about protecting Haven Town from the hordes of monsters pouring out of the shadowrifts. It can be brutally difficult, but is always a lot of fun to play. Well, it’s about to get even harder—Shadowrift: Archfiends is the first expansion to the game, and it adds big boss battles. Archfiends is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with just a few days left in the campaign.

At a glance: Shadowrift: Archfiends is for 1 to 6 players, ages 14 and up, and takes about an hour to play. It requires a copy of the original game (which you can also pre-order through the Kickstarter campaign). The pledge level for the expansion is $35 (plus shipping outside of the US), or $70 to include the base game.

Archfiends components

Components

Since the game is still unlocking stretch goals and adding new cards, the final components list is subject to change. However, here’s what I do know is included: 6 boss cards, corresponding to the 6 different monster types in the base game. Each boss also comes with its own unique deck of archfiend cards. The Kickstarter page says “over 150 cards” total, but the exact count is yet to be determined. The latest stretch goal also unlocked a couple of “Heroic Titles” cards, though I haven’t heard if there will be more of these to unlock.

How to Play

If you’re not familiar with Shadowrift, you can read my review of the base game here. The gist, though, is that monsters appear and move through three stages, wreaking various types of havoc during each stage. You use cards in your hand to fight off the monsters and to buy new cards for your deck—attacks, skills, loot, and actions—or to hire new people to come to Haven Town (as monster fodder, really, but don’t tell them).

You can download the rules to Archfiends here. What Archfiends adds is a big bad boss. Each of the monster types included in the base game now has an archfiend. While setting up the game, you’ll set out the archfiend card somewhere to the side, and shuffle the associated deck of cards and place it nearby. The rest of the setup is the same.

The game now has a new objective: before, you could win either by sealing off all the shadowrifts or by building all eight walls for the town. Now, you must first seal off the shadowrifts, and then defeat the archfiend. Building walls can still help you protect villagers, but it no longer results in victory on its own.

Archfiend cards
Sample archfiend cards: A Quick Meal, Earthen Defense, Boon of Shadow. Each card has one of three icons.

During gameplay, an additional step takes place before the Heroes Act: the Archfiend Step. You draw the top archfiend card, and then decide among “three horrible options,” as the rulebook states:

  1. Play it. It goes next to the archfiend card and takes effect.
  2. Avoid it. Place it face-down underneath the archfiend card but then draw a new card.
  3. Block it. Place it, and the next card, face-down underneath the archfiend card.

All the cards have bad effects, so either you’re suffering now or you’re strengthening the archfiend for later. Each card also has one of three icons on the corner—the cards that you avoid or block will have effects later.

There are various types of cards, and each deck is thematically tied to the faction it represents. “Persistent” cards remain in play, as you’d expect. “Onslaught” cards typically take effect once and are then discarded. “Fend Off” allows you to pay some cost in order to prevent a card from activating—sometimes you have to discard things, or make some extra hits, or so on.

If you do manage to seal all the shadowrifts, then the Boss Battle begins. The monster deck is set aside—no more monsters will come out of the rifts. However, the monsters already in play now have nowhere to go, so they will add Rampage to their Step 3 action. That means whenever a monster gets to Step 3, it goes back to Start and comes in again until you kill it (or lose).

All those cards that you put underneath the archfiend either through avoiding or blocking are now revealed, and you count up the total number of cards and the number of each symbol. The boss’ health is 2 times the number of players, plus 1 for each card underneath.

Archfiends boss
The Forgotten King is the archfiend for the Necromancers.

Each archfiend also has various other effects that happen during every Monsters Act phase. Some will heal, or add corpses, or kill off villagers. Depending on the number of each icon that you buried earlier, they get even stronger.

But that’s not all—even during the boss battle, you’ll still be drawing new archfiend cards during each round of play, and if you avoid or block them now, they go directly to the archfiend card, giving it both health and another icon immediately.

You win if you manage to defeat the archfiend before losing one of the other ways (the town has no good villagers or walls, the Corpse deck runs out, a monster has a power that causes you to lose).

The Verdict

Shadowrift has a lot of devoted fans, and many of them have been eagerly anticipating an expansion—so much so that the Kickstarter campaign hit its goal within the first day of launch. Although, let’s face it, that $2,000 goal was really a lowball, and most of the stretch goals were simply a way to add in all the rest of the cards that the designer probably wanted to include in the game to begin with. Still, the game is sitting at nearly $36k as of the time I’m writing this, so it’s guaranteed to get printed. Whether there’s still time to unlock any more goals (or if there will be more goals revealed) before the campaign ends on Friday is anyone’s guess.

I managed to get a demo copy of Archfiends but it just arrived this past weekend, so I’ve only gotten to play through one boss battle so far. (We won, against Chorsolesh the fire dragon, but it was a close call.) However, I have gone through the cards and looked to see what all the different archfiends do. Most (but not all) of them can heal each turn, and heal more if they’ve got enough icons. The other powers often have to do with playing up that faction’s strengths: the Forgotten King adds more corpses, which helps bring in zombies (and kills off your town). The Titan breaks walls, Lord Winter adds freezes to the town, and Mar ‘Zose looks for Cultists to add to the town.

And those are just the archfiend abilities.

The archfiend cards that you draw every round are also themed to fit the faction. For instance, the Forgotten King’s cards can add zombies or corpses, Nevyrros the Sky Dragon has some cards that allow the monsters to draw more Magic cards, and Lord Winter’s cards can make the Freeze cards particularly deadly.

Mostly the feeling you get while playing Archfiends is dread—you flinch in anticipation of every archfiend card you turn over, knowing that it’s going to suck. Of course, if you didn’t like that feeling, you probably wouldn’t be playing Shadowrift to begin with. I know there have been some complaints that this expansion doesn’t boost the heroes enough, and most deck-builder expansions do tend to add a lot more of the sorts of cards that you’d mix into your decks. However, I also know that most expansions to cooperative games (like Pandemic or Flash Point) tend to make the game harder. The working assumption is probably that if you’re playing it a lot and have gotten good at it, you need to crank up the difficulty a few notches.

While I do agree that I’d love to see more cards for the heroes to use, Archfiends does add some variety to the game, and it’s very satisfying to seal up the rifts and then take down the big bad. It feels like beating the game, and then beating it again. I love talking over the difficult choices you make between playing a card and burying it for later—that part reminds me a little of playing Robinson Crusoe, where you’re sometimes forced to pick your poison.

If you’re a fan of Shadowrift, then you’ll probably want to get a copy of Archfiends even if it doesn’t quite scratch the itch you’ve got for more hero cards. If you haven’t given Shadowrift a try yet, now’s your chance to pick up both the base game and expansion all at once—though I would recommend checking out my original review first to see if it’s a game you would enjoy.

Visit the Shadowrift: Archfiends Kickstarter page for more information.

Disclosure: GeekDad received a demo prototype of the expansion for review.

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