GTM #161 - Shadowrun: Crossfire
by Mike Elliott

Deck-building games have come a long way since Dominion was released in 2008. There have been dozens of variants and themes and even a few versions with dice and poker chips. Shadowrun: Crossfire, however, takes the play experience in a new direction by combining elements of roleplaying with the classic elements of deck-building games to create a unique cooperative game experience that we think players will enjoy. Whether you are a deck-building fan or a fan of the Shadowrun universe, Shadowrun: Crossfire is a game you will want to play again and again.

To play the game, each player plays a runner with a specific role, such as the Hacker or the Street Samurai, but each player is also part of a team. Players must work together to defeat the continuous stream of obstacles attempting to prevent them from reaching their goal. Each player has their own deck, but players must work together and figure out how to combine attacks to keep from being overwhelmed. If one runner goes critical, the team has to abort the mission and attempt to get out if they can. Make too many mistakes and the whole team will be wiped out.

Each player brings their own runner to the game and can choose from metatypes such as Human, Orc, or Elf. Like in roleplaying games, the runner you’re playing gains new abilities the more you play. You accumulate Karma when you go on missions and you can spend that Karma to purchase Upgrade stickers that give your runner new abilities to use in future games. Many of the scenarios are designed for experienced players, and as runners get better, new scenario options become available, which keeps the game evolving in step with the runners. With many different obstacles, black market cards, and events — combined with an exciting scenario system — you can play Shadowrun: Crossfire repeatedly and feel like every game is unique.

Like many deck-building games, you must make decisions during your turn on what cards to purchase, but since your nuyen carries over from turn to turn, you also have a decision on whether to try to save up for a better card or spend now to get a cheaper card that can help you right away. Since any cards you buy go directly into your hand rather than your discard, you get the benefit of your new purchases right away and can plan future turns based on your purchases.

The game also features an innovative damage tracking system for the obstacles you face. Each obstacle has a series of damage requirements that must be applied in a particular order for the runners to defeat it. As each small amount of damage is done, it’s marked off on the obstacle’s damage track. When all of the requirements have been met, the team defeats the obstacle and collects a reward. Since some runners might be better at doing different types of damage than others, it’s important for players to cooperate; often one runner will partially damage an obstacle and then another runner will finish it off on a later turn.

The game features many ways to play. In the standard game, you flip up obstacles in waves and attempt to defeat them, but there are also other scenarios you can play. In the basic game, two other play options are provided. In the "Escort" game, you are responsible for keeping an NPC (the Client) alive as you fight, and in the "Dragon" scenario, you fight a very strong boss in addition to the usual threats.

The game also features an event deck called the Crossfire deck, which generates events every round that the players also have to deal with. Some of these events can potentially be helpful, but most of the time the players have to figure out how to survive with extra challenges thrown on top of the existing threats. And as the game goes on, these events increase in difficulty, so not only do you need to defeat all the threats, you have to do it as quickly and efficiently as you can.

Shadowrun: Crossfire does a great job of capturing the feel and flavor of a Shadowrun team working to complete an objective. If you are a Shadowrun fan, the flavor of the universe is captured and the game has the feel of a roleplaying game. If you are a deck-building fan, the game has lots of strategy and choices and you will almost always walk away from a game feeling like you could have made a better choice at some point, even after you become an experienced player. Either way, you are likely to get a lot of play value out of Shadowrun: Crossfire, and that’s before we do any expansions.