For the complete rules, download the recent Inner Kingdom Games Shadowfist Rulebook PDF file.
If you're new to Shadowfist, or to trading card gaming in general, learning to play may seem a bit overwhelming. It is, actually, but it does get easier as you play more games and become familiar with the cards. If you're having trouble, you might wish to simplify the game elements for a few trial runs, and take on the concepts in smaller chunks. This allows you to learn each element of game play in smaller, more manageable pieces. What we suggest is:
- Remove all the Edges, States, Events, and non-Feng Shui Sites from your demo or constructed deck. Also remove any Character that doesn't have a numeral for its Fighting (found in the upper right corner of the card). You should be left with 32-35 cards (depending on which deck you're using), composed of Feng Shui Sites and Characters only.
Next, re-read the rules found in Chapters 3 and 5 of the Rule Book, on the turn sequence, how to play cards, how to attack and intercept, and how to seize, smoke or burn Feng Shui Sites.
Now play several games with your smaller deck, and ignore all rules text on the cards and all resource symbols. Just play with the basics: pay the card's cost, attack and intercept with Characters, and reduce Feng Shui Sites' Body to 0 to seize/ smoke/ burn them. Because the Events have been removed and you're ignoring the rules text, you won't be able to play cards or generate effects on your opponents' turns, this will make things much easier to understand and follow.
- Your next step is to play using the rules text and the resource conditions and provisions of the cards. Again, keep only the Characters and Feng Shui Sites, but your games will start to become a lot more interesting.
You still won't be playing cards on your opponents' turns, but you might be turning cards to generate effects during their turns. You may find that the game is a little slower because you have to work to get the right resources to play the "big" cards, but don't forget that you can discard each turn-use that ability to keep cards flowing through your hand. You'll find what you need eventually. Don't hold on to a card just because it's huge; you may lose the game before you have the Power or resources to play it.
- Now add back the Edges, States, Characters and non-Feng Shui Sites that you removed from your deck in the beginning, and play a few more games. These cards can also only be played during your turn, so your decisions about timing are still fairly easy. Read the information on the newly-added cards to get familiar with them before you play them. Work on thinking of ways to use them to your best advantage. Remember that you can play States during an attack that you declare during your Main Shot.
- Finally, add back the Events to your deck. Events can be played during any player's Main Shot and often bring up the most questions in Shadowfist.
Remember, you can respond to whatever your opponent does by generating effects of your own, and that these Effects resolve in reverse order (last-in, first-out, which means it's almost always to your advantage to be the one who does the last action).
After you are feeling more comfortable with the basics, you are ready to make your own deck. (This is where things really start to get interesting).
A good place to start is to take the pieces you like best from two different demo decks and combining them. Or you can buy some booster boxes from Z Man Games or Potomac Distribution for additional cards.
Stefan Vincent has an excellent site on deck construction for new players, which can be found here. You should also join the official Shadowfist discussion forum; players there are always willing to help new folks get started!
For that special edge, you can even purchase singles from the Shadowfist online store.
In Shadowfist there are five types of cards: Characters, Sites, States, Events, and Edges. These represent the elements that you might use in your attempt to tilt the Secret War in your favor. You can use these elements provided that you have enough Power to spend and the right resources available. Power is the currency of Shadowfist, gained mainly from Sites you control. Resources reflect your level of influence in the various factions.
- Characters are the heroes, pawns, masterminds, monsters, and villains you can recruit to fight on your side in the Secret War. Your Characters are your offensive and defensive front lines.
- Sites represent physical areas like ancient temples, advanced laboratories, and high-rise office towers. Sites come in two varieties: Feng Shui Sites and everything else (referred to as non-Feng Shui Sites). Feng Shui Sites are special Sites that allow the factions to channel chi energy and rearrange reality more to their liking. If you control enough Feng Shui Sites, you win the game, advancing your faction's cause overall in the greater Secret War. Non-Feng Shui Sites don't help you to win the game directly, but they can help to generate more Power or perform other specialized tasks.
- States are placed on other cards and represent some alteration of that card’s attributes, such as adding a weapon or boosting a Character’s abilities.
- Events represent sudden shifts during the battle, often surprising to your opponents.
- Edges represent longer lasting shifts in the overall conditions of the Secret War, giving you some durable advantage over your opponents.
You can refer to the sample Character and Feng Shui Site in the card anatomy PDF file while you read.
The title is the name of the card, located in the upper left corner. The subtitle is located on the first line of the card’s text box, and indicates the card's type unless the card is a Character. In that case, the subtitle is a short description of that Character. The rules textappears next in the text box and describes the card’s ability—effects and special directions for the card’s use, if any. Any special abilities or restrictions appear in bold in the rules text. The tag appears in italics at the bottom of the text box, and gives a glimpse into the Shadowfist storyline but has no effect on play.
Resource conditions are the resources you must have in your resource pool to bring the card into play and appear as symbols in the lower left corner of the card. Some cards have no resource conditions. The cost of the card is a number in the lower left corner of the card, indicating the amount of Power that you must spend to play that card. Resource provisions appear as symbols in the lower right corner of the card. The resources provided on cards that you control or have in your smoked pile make up your resource pool. Cards anywhere else, whether in your hand, toasted pile or burned-for-victory pile, do not provide resources. Bear with us a minute and we'll explain what these piles are and what they do.
Characters that lack resource conditions but provide at least one faction resource are called foundation Characters, because they provide the resources you need to play other cards of that faction. Characters that have no resource conditions or resource provisions for any faction are called neutral Characters, although these Characters might provide or require any of the talent resources such as magic.
Each Character has a number in the upper right corner to indicate its Fighting. A Character's Fighting represents how much combat damage the Character inflicts on Characters or Sites, and how much damage the Character can sustain before being smoked. A Character's Fighting is reduced by the amount of damage on that Character.
The Power generated
The symbol in the upper right corner of the card indicates the set that the card was printed in. It has no meaning as far as game play is concerned, and isn't a resource symbol.
A few cards have a small number inside a circle printed just to the right of their text box. This indicates that the card has changed from the original edition of Shadowfist, and if you wish to play with old copies of the card, you must play as if the old copies had the new wording. If you don't have any old cards, just ignore it. If you have old cards, check out Chapter 2.1.1(g) of the Rule Book for the full story as well as the Errata List for a complete listing of all updated cards.
Most cards are self-referential, meaning if a card doesn't specify what is doing something, then it refers to itself. Sometimes a card's title also appears in its rules text to clarify how the card works. If a title appearing in the rules text refers to a card other than itself, the title will appear in quotes so you can distinguish between the two usages. In addition, some cards refer to others using designators. Designators are words in the card's title and subtitle. For example, our sample Character has the designators Dr., Celeste, Carter, Purist, and Assassin. When designators are referenced in the rules text, they show up in bold italics. Check out Chapter 7 of the Rule Book for the full description.
You can refer to the sample Board Layout from the downloads section while you read.
You'll need a table or other flat surface to play cards on as the game progresses. We'll call that the board for simplicity's sake. Each player has their own layout like the one shown on the next page. You'll also need counters of some kind to keep track of Power, damage, and a few other things during the game.
There are three regions of the board for each player: in play, out of play, and out of the game. Cards in play are currently involved in the battle. Cards that are out of play are not currently involved in the battle, but have the potential to become involved. Cards that are out of the game cannot affect the current game any further. Effects only affect cards that are in play unless the effect specifically says otherwise.
Characters, Sites, States, and Edges are all played into the in play area. Sites are placed into your site structure, which can have at most two rows, but any number of columns. Each column represents a different location. Character are placed at one of your locations, in front of the front-row Site. Edges are placed to one side of your site structure. States are placed on cards already in play (sometimes your cards and sometimes your opponents' cards, depending on the State). There is no limit to the number of cards other than Sites that may be placed at a particular location.
Events are a little different than other types of cards. You play Events directly into your smoked pile, but in the process, those Events affect the game in some way.
The out of play area consists of your face-down deck of cards, the cards in your hand, a pile of counters representing your Power, your burned-for-victory pile, and your smoked pile. The smoked pile contains cards that have left play but may be brought back into play or somehow affect the game later. All cards in the smoked pile are kept face-up, and any player may look through your smoked pile at any time. When a card is smoked, place it in its owner's smoked pile, regardless of who currently controls it. The burned-for-victory pile contains cards that you have taken out of play, but that still count toward victory for you. We'll cover that in the next Chapter.
The only thing in the out of game area is your toasted pile. These are cards that have been removed entirely from the current game and cannot be brought back. All cards in the toasted pile are kept face-down, and any player may look through your toasted pile at any time. When a card is toasted, place it in its owner's toasted pile, regardless of who currently controls it. Cards you discard also go into your toasted pile, even though discarding a card isn't considered the same as toasting it for game purposes. You should announce the title of cards you discard so your opponents don't feel the need to look through your toasted pile often.
When a card leaves play, it goes to your smoked pile, toasted pile, burned-for-victory pile, or sometimes to your hand or deck. When a card leaves play, any States on that card are smoked.
The phrase “playing a card,” or simply play, means placing a card into its correct place on the board—the in play area for Characters, Sites, States, and Edges, or directly into the smoked pile for Events. You may play a card only if you can meet all conditions for playing that card and pay its cost. A card enters play when it is placed into the in play area, leaves play when it is removed from the in play area, and leaves the game if it is placed into the out of game area.
There will be two or more people playing the game, who are known as players. The current player is the player whose turn it is. Everyone in the game is everyone else’s opponent. Before, during and after the game, each player is the owner of the cards in their deck. When you play a card into the in play area, you control it. During the game it is possible for an opponent to take control of your cards. Whoever is currently in control of a card is referred to as the controller. The term you on a card always refers to the controller of that card. When the game ends, you get back all of the cards you own at the end of the game regardless of who controls them.
Many cards have abilities that say “turn to …” This means that a condition of generating that card's effect is to rotate the card 90°, indicating that the card's ability has been used. Turned cards you control unturn at the start of each of your turns, ready to be used again. You can't turn a card that's already turned. Turning is different than revealing a face-down card.
Most of the actions that you take during the game create effects. This includes playing cards and using the abilities on cards already in play. An effect is created in two parts: it must be generated first (announce what card you are playing, what card(s) it affects, where you are placing a Character, etc.), then resolved (make any changes to the board that result from the effect).
A scene starts when any player generates an effect. Every player, including the one who started the scene, has a chance to generate more effects in this scene. This is called responding to an effect. Players may respond as many times as they wish. When everyone has finished responding, the scene resolves in reverse order, starting with the last effect generated and working to the first generated (last-in, first-out).
Because it's important for all players to know what's happening, you must clearly announce each of your actions and allow your opponents time to respond. If you go too fast, it's perfectly acceptable for an opponent to ask you to back up to allow them to perform an action in response to one of yours.