Puzzle Strike: Shadows Review

Puzzle Strike Shadows game setup to play

Today's review is of the latest game in the Fantasy Strike realm - Puzzle Strike: Shadows.

Puzzle Strike: Shadows is basically the exact same game as Puzzle Strike (3rd Edition).  If there were any rule changes, then I missed them completely.  Essentially, Shadows is what you would get if you loved Puzzle Strike and hated all of the chips - so you threw them out (including characters) and replaced them.  But kept everything else the same.   And, well, I've already reviewed Puzzle Strike.  (If you missed it, here is a link to my Puzzle Strike 3rd Edition Review.)  I also don't really feel like telling you the exact same thing that I've told you before.  And yet, the fine people at Sirlin Games sent me this shiny box and asked me to write something about it.  Where does that leave us?  Well, I suppose it means that I should talk a bit about some of the chips that I thought were interesting.

The first chips I will cover are character chips.  Specifically Gwen's chips.  To me, Gwen is the most unique character that I have seen in the Puzzle Strike chip set.  Why?  Because she punishes you for playing her!  One of Gwen's chips is "Shadow Plague."  Shadow Plague gives you a wound every time that you discard it (such as at the end of your turn - or if someone forces you to discard a chip).  You can only get around this by spending an action.  The other chips that Gwen has are much better.  (And rightfully so!  Otherwise nobody would ever purposely use Gwen.)  One of them gives you an extra action, chip, and attack action (so you net an attack action), and the other gives you an extra brown action, two chips, and lets you force all of your opponents to discard a chip.  Overall, Gwen is interesting, but I think that it takes an experienced player to actually use her well (which I am not - I did not do well when I played with her).

Puzzle Strike Shadows character chips
Gwen and Menelker
The next character that I found interesting was Menelker.  Why?  Because Menelker has a chip that lets you remove a puzzle stack from the game.  And, if there is already a puzzle stack removed from the game, then it re-emerges when you select a new stack.  On the surface, this is neat but limited; once you remove your most hated stack from the game, then there's not really much use for the chip.  But then, once you think about it for a minute, you realize that this is actually really powerful - you can remove the most powerful stack from the game, and then when you can afford to buy it, you can bring it back by sending a different stack out of the game!  Thus, you are able to control access to the best puzzle chips.  His other chips are also interesting.  One of them forces each opponent to reveal his hand and discard his highest gem - fairly generic, but useful.  His other action allows you to trash all 1's from his gem pile.  Then, half of them are sent to an opponent (then the chip is trashed).  This ccan be amazing - especially if you either don't use a lot of Combines, or if you've recently been crashed quite a bit (and thus you have a lot of ones in your gem pile).

The third character I will mention is Quince.  Quince's chips are really fairly unique.  The first one is an ongoing chip, and it gives you an extra action and piggy-bank every turn.  However, you must discard it at the start of your action phase if you have an odd number of chips.  It's really interesting to see how long a player can keep this chip alive.  His next chip allows him to pull two chips from his discard pile and show them to another player - who then gets to pick which one he can keep in his hand.  And, Quince is allowed to play the newly scavenged chip this turn.  So, you can try to force players to select your preferred chip by doing things like showing them a nasty attack and your desired chip - and assume they'll select the one that doesn't hurt them.  Quince's final chip is another ongoing.  If Quince's gem pile totals at least three, then no player is allowed to buy a chip that costs more than the total of their gem pile.  This chip can grow very annoying; unless you're not doing well, in which case it hardly affects you!

new chip stacks from Puzzle Strike Shadows
Some fun puzzle chips
A bank chip that I found interesting was "Bang then Fizzle."  Bang then Fizzle works with your gem pile, like Quince's chip.  Specifically, you can only use it if your gem pile totals four or less.  However, when you do get to use it, you get two extra actions and you get to draw two chips!  This chip is incredibly powerful in the early game, but if you load up on too many of them, then you'll have a hand full of worthless chips later on.

The last two chips that I will mention are both attacks.  One is "Color Panic" and the other is "Just a Scratch."  Color Panic is a fun one - it gives you an extra attack, and it allows you to name a color, and force every other player to discard a chip of that color if they can.  If any of them can't, then you get an extra action.  Nice.  Just a Scratch gives you options.  Either you can give each opponent a wound, or you can trash a wound from your hand or discard pile and play another attack.  The second option is nice, because if your opponents are all jerks and play Just a Scratch, then you'll need to discard wounds.  Of course, you can try to persuade them when you buy the chip that it's just to cleanup your bag, not to attack them; who knows, they might even believe you.

With all that said, I give Puzzle Strike: Shadows an 8.5/10.  Like I said, it's the same as Puzzle Strike.  However, I like the basic Puzzle Strike chip set slightly better than this one (hence the slightly lower score).  If you love Puzzle Strike, then picking up Shadows should be an obvious choice.  If you're interested in Puzzle Strike and aren't sure which set you should buy, I'd encourage you to buy the basic set first - but part of that is because I think that everyone should have to carry around the giant bright pink box that it comes in.

If Puzzle Strike: Shadows sounds interesting, you might also check out Nightfall, Thunderstone, and Pixel Lincoln.

I would like to thank Sirlin Games for providing me with a review copy of Puzzle Strike: Shadows.

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