Theme and What is it?
Shadows in Kyoto is a two-player abstract game inside the Hanamikoji universe. If you have not read the review of Hanamikoji that our very own Ally Parker wrote, then you may want to do so! One player plays as the Oniwaban, a group of secret spies protecting the Shogun. The other player plays as the intelligence agency of the Meiji Government.
The goal of the game is to capture both of your opponent’s agents with real intelligence, have your opponent capture 3 of your agents with false intelligence or successfully get one of your agents with real intelligence to the opponents back row.
Each player has 6 geisha meeples. Two “3” agents, two “2” agents, 1 “1” agent and 1 “0” agent. Each player has two agents with real intelligence. These are marked by a red dot and are one of the “3” and “2” agents.
Players setup five of their agents on the back row of their side. And place in front of the center agent on the next row. These are the starting positions. On each players turn, they play either a location or tactic card from their hand. A location card allows them to move one of their agents to the appropriate color. Agents always have to move forward to the next row. They cannot move side to side unless a card allows it. A tactic card is a special ability that allows them to do something outside of normal movement. If an agent moves into a location that is occupied by their opponent, then they resolve conflict. The defender reveals their agent. As long as the attacker’s agent is greater or equal to the defending agent, then they capture the opponent’s agent. To make things interesting in this game, a “0” beats a “3”. If the defenders agent is greater, then they remain in the space and the attacker moves back.
Players take turns back and forth in this way until one of the win conditions is met.
Two player games always intrigue me. They have to hold a certain amount of depth as to not be boring. That being said, they can always be hit or miss. After reading the rules, this one seemed fairly interesting. I like deduction games and this one has a little bit of that in it.
Game Build Quality
The components consist of a game board, 6 wooden geisha meeples for each color, and the cards. The geisha meeples each have clear, numbered stickers that go on them and they supplied plenty extra. The geisha meeples are unique in their shape which is a nice touch to the theme. The cards are high quality card stock.
The artwork is beautiful. The geishas are highly detailed. This immediately engrossed me into the game. The artist is the same as Hanamikoji so it is very similar but not completely the same.
I really enjoyed this one. It did not take very long and was easy to grasp the mechanics. I liked the secret part of the game and then ways to hide your agents again with some of the cards if they had already been revealed but not taken. The game was not really going in my favor but then I managed to have my opponent take my third agent with false intelligence and so he lost.
Age Range & Weight
The box suggests 10+. I always believe that it all boils down to the actual maturity of the person playing. On average, I think 12+ is probably a better age suggestion. I think each player should be on the same maturity level or it would be extremely unbalanced. The game play is mostly movement, but some of the card abilities could confuse younger players.
It is hard to find two player games that hold substance. Most can be fun for a short amount of time and then interest is lost. This one was a little similar to the old classic game, Stratego, but had a little bit more going on with some added deduction. My opponent and I liked the game and this may be played more often when we have the opportunity to play a two player game. We always say we are going to break up our gaming group into pairs and get the two player games to the table more often! This game may get us to actually do that. Overall, this is a great, short length strategy game.