Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun Preview

Back in 2016 Daedalic Entertainment released Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun developed by Mimimi Productions. It quickly took off and became a hit real-time strategy game on Steam, Playstation 4, and Xbox One. Three years later and Antler Games is about to launch a Kickstarter campaign for Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun in cardboard form.

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun launches on Kickstarter this Tuesday, January 15th. Antler Games has been hard at work to translate the real-time stealth game into a tabletop experience that would honor to original concept. After playing several games with our press copy, I can say that Antler Games did a remarkable job. Even moreso, Panda Games will be manufacturing, ensuring wonderful component quality.

The game is set in Japan during the era of the Tokugawa Shogunate which existed between 1600 and 1868. During their reign, they brought peace to Japan, but were ultimately threatened by warlords. You and your ninja companions have been selected by the Shogunate’s leader, the very Shogun himself, to push back against the offending warlords and maintain the era of peace over Japan.

You and your allies are equipped with shinobi training and are experts in your field. Together you will use the environment against the warlords and strike from the shadows, eliminating your enemies before they even know you’re there. But beware, because one of your friends will be acting as the Daimyo and controlling the enemy forces and they will not allow you to to stand in their way.

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is played over the course of two campaigns, each one containing five different missions. Each new mission has a unique map and set of objectives. Even the difficulty of the mission will vary based on the shinobi’s success or failure of the previous mission.

Controlling familiar characters like Hayato, Yuki, Mugen, Aiko, and Takuma, the shinobi will conspire together to eliminate the Daimyo’s from just outside their site. Keeping to the bushes, the shinobi can distract, stun, kill, and dispose of the guard’s bodies. Each ninja has their own unique deck of cards and a special Jutsu power that will aid them in their assault.

But should a Daimyo’s guards see a ninja take eliminate another fellow soldier, they’ll become alerted and could attack the ninja, taking away one of their very limited health points.

While the game is generally cooperative, it’s quite possible that ninja allies will find themselves at odds. During each round, players program their attacks in advance, planning them out on a bamboo playmat, with each ninja permitted to take a single action. Should they change their mind after the action cards have been placed, the owner of each action has to agree to change the plan. Otherwise, actions are locked into place. If the team does not act in unison, it makes the game feel like a semi-cooperative one versus all.

The Daimyo will also prepare three guard orders in advance, but can play them at any time in the action sequence, interrupting the ninja’s action sequence. The ninjas will be forced to continue through their existing plan, only able to make adjustments during a second round of programmed actions.

After two phases of actions take place, ninjas can reclaim their action cards and program a single round of movement. Guards that were alerted will search the bushes in an attempt to locate and injure the ninjas. Once movement is complete, cards are refreshed, the round timer decreases, and a new round begins.

One of the more standout designs of the game are the health point cards. Each character has a maximum number of health points, dictated by the character stats. Each health point is represented by a single card that when taken away from a character, is flipped over to reveal the penalties on the reverse side. But both sides of the health cards form a well designed mural. Antler Games is hoping to receive enough backing that they are able to design a different mural for each ninja character.

Additionally, Antler Games is designing snap on bases to indicate when a guard is alerted, a far more eloquent design than the color coded paper clips in the prototype copy.

Antler Games has prepared some excellent looking components for the final copy. The Daimyo’s spearmen, officers, samurai, and even the Daimyo himself will have their own miniatures designed with and a base that indicates their alert status. Similarly, each of the heroes will be getting their own miniatures.

We had a great time planning our sneaky moves and executing the warlord’s guards in clever ways, but we are a loud and expressive group that would sometimes bump the table, shifting the orientation of the guards. The positioning of the guards and whether or not they are looking inward our outward from the yard spaces they are placed in is crucial to the game and is my one concern about the final product. However, Antler Games already has a solution. With enough funding, they will be able to create layered board tiles with indents for each of the yard spaces where the guards can fit against the corner wall, better indicating their position and facing direction.

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun will not be for everyone. It’s designed for the strategists and the thinkers. There is more than a large enough audience out there to make this a successful campaign, but it won’t be a great gateway game. The greatest value of Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun will be in found in the game’s careful strategy. The prototype came with only the first of many chapters, but we replayed it as many times as we could manage over the course last week and I’m aching to get another session in.

Check back on Tuesday when we have updated this article with the Kickstarter link after it’s launch!