Shifting Realms – Soaring Rhinos – Review


Publisher: Soaring Rhinos

Game Type: Area Control & Resource Management

Initial Year of Release:2018

Designer: Jeff Van Ness, Craig Van Ness

Artist: JJ Ariosa, Craig Van Ness

Theme and What is it?

You are one of four factions of a secret society called The Keepers. For millennia, The Keepers have maintained the fabric that holds together space and time. Their sacred duty has been to guard a power artifact named the Pranankh. This relic is what keeps all of the realms in their proper order. Various groups within the keepers sought more power for their themselves and eventually lost sight of their duty and the Pranankh shattered. Now four factions are all that stand between utter destruction of the connected realms.

In Shifting Realms, players work to rebuild three random realms which will help stabilize the space time continuum. The faction who succeeds will gain control of The Keepers and finish restoring the other dimensions.

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Gameplay Mechanics

The first thing players do in Shifting Realms is to randomly pick three out of the five realms that will be used for the game. Each realm has its own board, building tiles, and story cards. Once chosen, the boards are placed next to each other with their tiles and cards next to the corresponding realm.

Players select their faction color and place a soldier and a scout on each Town Hall space in each realm. Now the game is all set up and play can start. Each player gets three actions per turn and then resources are collected. There are four different actions that can be taken. Players can take any individual action all three times each turn if they want, with the exception of Draw A Story Card. That action can only be chosen two out of the three actions. Actions players can take include the following:

Recruit – Purchase Soldiers and Scouts

Move – Move any group of units on the same space to another space up to three spaces away. No diagonal movements.

Build – Pay the required resources to build a building.

Draw a Story Card – Draw a single Story Card.

Once all three actions have been performed, the player collects any resources from spaces in which they have a scout available to produce. Scouts must be on one of three spots in a space that can produce resources.

The game continues until one of two things happen. 1. Two out of the three realms have met their end game conditions (varies by realm) or 2. Every building tile has been placed on the board. The game ends immediately on either condition and final scoring takes place.

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Initial Impressions

After reading about Shifting Realms I knew I wanted to give it a try. The whole premise sounded very intriguing. Working through multiple realms with their own goals was something I could get behind. Once the game arrived and I started learning to play it, I knew I had found a winner. The backstory was well written and created a great theme. Getting into the game took a few perusals of the rulebook, but it was not too rough to get the first game up and running. Everyone playing was instantly engaged and trying to figure out strategies for each realm. The game allows for quick action phases. It can slow down during the resource collection phase, so we quickly made the decision to let the next player start their turn while the last player was still collecting resources. That really sped it up and made player flow way better. We played two games, which allowed us to use all five realms. From those plays we already determined our favorite realms and strategies. I am sure those will change as we play more and see new ways to victory. During the first game everyone hoarded their resources while they figured out what they were doing. This made us all realize our first real issue with the game. There are not nearly enough resources. We were playing three player games and running out. But I will talk about the resources more in Game Build Quality. Overall, Shifting Realms was very well received and players enjoyed themselves. For myself, I look forward to getting it back to the table as soon as possible.

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Game Build Quality

The component quality of Shifting Realms is the only thing with which I have had issues. The boards that make up the realms are not thick enough and they bend up. This is a problem because you set the realm boards next to each other and they do not sit flat. The cards are also thinner than I like to see. That is not too much of an issue. You do not use them too much during the game and adding sleeves will protect them. Like I said earlier, there are not enough resource tokens. We ended up having to use sheets of paper to track resources. The game suggested this and said that is what should happen when the tokens run out. If the designers knew that would be an issue they should have added more tokens. Another thing with the resources is that they are just generic wooden blocks. Nowadays manufacturers are doing some amazing things to make games as engaging as possible. Have unique shaped resource tokens shouldn’t have been too much trouble, especially when you see the faction soldier tokens. These tokens are unique meeples for each faction. That made it fun and we noticed that right away. Maybe I am just being picky, but I like attention to little things that make the game come alive. One component that will instantly jump out at you when you open the box is the dragon. This is a great mini and painters should have fun making the dragon look as fierce as possible when playing all over the realms.

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Artistic Direction

Shifting Realms looks great. You can tell that lots of attention was paid to the artistic development of the game. Each faction has its own feel and so does each realm. While each board has a similar look, there are details that make them each individual. The artwork adds to the game and helps players feel like they are really there and want to take an interest in saving the realms. I love when games make it easy to suspend my disbelief and Shifting Realms does a great job at that.

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Fun Factor

Shifting Realms did not fail to live up to the hype I created for it in my own head. So many times it is hard to do that. We build a game up in our heads and then when we play it we aren’t as satisfied as we thought we would be. I did not have that problem with Shifting Realms. I had high expectations based on what I knew about it. It lived up to those expectations and probably surpassed them. It is a game I want to take to game nights. I want to try it with my kids. I will take it to my parents to teach them. I want to play and look forward to finding ways to get it back on the table.

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Age Range & Weight

Shifting Realms has an age recommendation of 10+. I feel like this is the right call. Players younger than 10 may enjoy Shifting Realms if they have been gaming for a while and have learned strategic planning skills. My 10-year-old played it with us and was able to understand the game and work towards end game goals, but she never scored very well. She did have fun and has asked to play it again even though she didn’t do well her first few times.

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Shifting Realms came so close to getting my first ever 5-star review. The gameplay is fantastic. The artwork is brilliant and makes the theme come to life. It is competitive and has lots of replay opportunities. The one thing that holds it back is the component quality. For the most part, they were lacking the quality I expect for big box games. There are some really cool components, but they weren’t all as high quality as I want to see. Don’t let that hold you back. There are so many things in Shifting Realms that make it a really amazing game. Lots of strategy to think about in every game and each game can be different than the last. It appears like it can be a complicated game, but it can be taught to newbies rather quickly. I wouldn’t categorize it as a “gateway” game, but it could be one that gets people into more complex games. Mu suggestion would be to give Shifting Realms a shot. I found it fun to play and I am sure it will be fun for many games to come.

The known dimensions of the universe are in need and only one of the factions of the Keepers will be able to save the realms. Will your faction prevail and become the new secret leaders of the known worlds?


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