GTM #206 - Strife: Shadows & Steam
Reviewed by Jane Trudeau-Smith & Philip Smith

We supported the original game Strife – Legacy of the Eternals through Kickstarter a while ago, and demoed a prototype on our show “Table for Two Show – You be the Judge.” Feel free to look at our You Tube channel to view that. So, to be fair, we already liked Strife a lot. But, now there’s a newer version called Strife – Shadows & Steam with more of a steampunk theme. It’s also a 2-player game, which is great for us, too! The good news is that both versions of Strife can be combined and played together. So much fun! For this review, we played Shadows & Steam on its own.

Was this Game Easy to Learn?

Within minutes of reading the rules you can be up and playing. We literally played the first hand while perusing the rules and just kept playing from there. However, the rules suggest skipping the battle abilities if it’s your first time playing.

How’s it Played?

The premise of Strife – Shadows & Steam is to battle your opponents in different locations. If you win you claim victory points, and the player with the most at the end of the game wins. It’s recommended to play three rounds, but you may add or remove rounds to adjust playing time.

Each player is given a deck of ten champion cards (same champions in each deck). Each champion has different battle and legacy abilities, as well as power levels. Location cards are shuffled and the draw pile is situated on the table, then three are placed in a tableau next to the draw pile. The location furthest away is challenged for first. On the very first turn only, each player selects one of their champions and places it in front of them to start their “Legacy” pile. Whoever has the highest legacy power level also receives a “fate” stone (which is just a d12), and it’s set face up showing #1.  This is used for any ties. If two players tie during a battle, the player with the fate stone can choose to win that battle by giving the other player the fate stone. However, it then goes up one number each time this happens. At the end of the game, the fate stone grants whoever is holding it the number of points shown. So, sometimes you may wish to keep it.

So far, what we described is similar to the original game. However, in this version there are also “Event” Cards. This deck is shuffled and three cards are chosen (one per round). At the start of each round, a new event is revealed which applies to that round. For example, an event card may say, “All champions with a base power of 6 or greater gain two additional power” – so they can be helpful!

Another different aspect of play is “Artifact” Cards, which are shuffled into the location deck. If an artifact card is drawn, it’s placed under the location in front of it. If a champion wins the battle on that location, they also earn the artifact card. They could gain more points, or it could aid them with an action during the game.

Last, there’s three types of tokens you can use on location cards to have someone lose or gain power, or decrease the victory points at that location.

Once it’s set up, you start to battle! Turn order consists of:

  1. Each player chooses a champion from their hand and places it face down by the first location. Both players reveal at the same time. Each location also has a special situation, for example, “If you play the Royal Agent here you gain two additional power added.” Always read the location card first before you decide which champion to play.
  2. Battle – the champion with the highest power goes first and uses the “battle” ability shown on their card. Then, the other player does the same. For example, the “Gambler” champion can decide to just end the battle right away, but whomever has the most power in their hand still wins an automatic two victory points. Other champions allow you to gain power, lose power, etc.
  3. Legacy – each player looks at their Legacy Card and the player with the highest power activates that champion’s legacy ability. If the legacy card was the “Gambler” again, and you win the current combat, you would gain double the VP – but, if you lose, you lose 1 VP.
  4. Last is the combat – check each player’s power and whoever has the most wins that turn and gains the victory points. (Each player is also supplied with a VP counter card)
  5. The location is discarded, the other two are moved up, and a new location is picked from the draw pile. The champion you used in that turn now becomes the top one in your legacy pile.

The round continues until each player has only one champion left in their hand OR there are no more locations to play. In the next round, the card in your hand becomes the top of your legacy pile, and the rest are again in your hand.

This game is different every time you play as the champions all have unique abilities, locations and events appear in a different sequence each round, and each player can play their champions in any order.

Timing of the Game

The box suggests it takes about 60-minutes. But, once you learn it, it’s less. We played our three rounds in around 45-minutes. Philip won this game by a score of 28 to Jane’s 18!

We highly recommend this game, and check out our You Tube channel for other great two-player games!

Fast Facts:

  • MSRP: $20
  • # of Players – two  
  • Age Range – 14+
  • Time to play – 60-minutes
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