In 1987 Icom Simulations released a point-and-click adventure game called Shadowgate for the Macintosh, and in 1998 it was released in its most popular form on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Something about the gargoyle on the box still draws people’s nostalgia out of them. Shadowgate is widely regarded as a fan favorite of those that had played it, (even if they didn’t beat it completely). There was something about it that really gripped people’s imaginations.
Though other sequels would be released, (Beyond Shadowgate (Turbo Duo) and Shadowgate 64 (Nintendo 64)) there was something about the original that couldn’t be rivaled. The original had been ported to nearly a dozen different systems, it was that popular! So, a remake of the original was created in 2014; updating the graphics, music, and game play to make the game unique and familiar at the same time.
As part of the 2014 re-release, Zojoi had created a card game called Quests of Shadowgate, and though it was an interesting idea, it felt like Shadowgate in name only. Chris Gaizat (317 Games) who was an avid Shadowgate collector and fan, developed a great working relationship with Dave Marsh, (one of the co-creators of the original game) and asked if he could take the idea of Shadowgate and turn it into an adventure game, and Dave excitedly said yes!
So, the obvious question was, HOW do you turn a single player, point-and-click adventure game into a multi-player board game? Pulling from all the lore, Chris drew inspiration from the Scholastic novel, “Before Shadowgate” to help answer this question. Quests of Shadowgate DID get one thing correct, and that’s the characters. Over half of the playable characters appeared in the book and it was in the story that it was realized, Jair (the game’s hero) didn’t go to Shadowgate alone! So, a multiplayer board game wasn’t a stretch; it was canon!
The next hurdle was, how do you make the board game FEEL like Shadowgate? What makes this game so special? Shadowgate is a game of puzzles, facing terrible monsters, and questing to gain items to help you along the way! Slaying those monsters and completing those puzzles by using the items you quested for, while racing the torch, felt satisfying and built confidence in the player! If the players met their objectives that would lead them to building the legendary Staff of Ages, and ultimately to the confrontation with the Warlock Lord, that’s what mattered. After several conventions, playtesting with avid fans, they overwhelmingly felt 317 had captured the FEEL of Shadowgate. Mission accomplished. Now what?
In August of 2021, during the weekend of Gen Con, 317 Games was playtesting Shadowgate trying to gain traction when they ran into Trick-or-Treat Studios, who were also at Gencon jumping into the fray of board game production, and during one of the breaks from playtesting, 317 Games came upon Trick-or-Treat’s booth and sparked up a conversation. Trick-or-Treat was looking for horror themed board games, and 317 took their shot to pitch the board game to them…and they LOVED IT!
So, to those interested in taking on the Warlock Lord and the Behemoth once again, just know you have that opportunity to experience it now with your friends! Shadowgate is a 2 to 4 player adventure game, where players can choose from 8 different characters with their own unique classes and abilities and Base Trait scores. With character classes like Warrior, Archer, Cleric, Wizard, Smithy, Shaman, Thief and Paladin, you’re bound to find a character that plays to your favorite style!
General gameplay has the players gaining XP points by taking on quests, doing battle with monsters, solving puzzles, and answering Djinn Riddles, while traversing the three levels of Castle Shadowgate. On their adventure, players will be gaining an inventory of Items, (much like the video game) and equipping Items to gain bonuses to Base Traits and additional abilities. For example, equipped Weapon Items can enhance a Player’s strength score, Magical Items can enhance a Player’s Mental Trait score, and other Items can earn the Player a new ability, like taking an extra turn, or rolling 3 dice instead of 2 when trying to complete a Quest.
Attempting a Quest is one thing, but failing it is another, in which you’ll have one of two outcomes; either the torch burns out faster or you’ll gain a Death Card. One thing Shadowgate is known for, is its creative deaths. It’s easy to see yourself in the video game, dying several times over, and in the board game this is no different, and just like the video game, you get to continue playing, but for each Death Card you gain, you lose -5 XP points at the end of the game. So, the more you die, the less XP points you’ll have.
If you’re lucky enough to acquire a piece of the Staff of Ages (Staff Item), you’ll not only gain +1 to a Base Trait, and an additional 25 XP points (per piece) at the end of the game, but you’ll also gain an advantage in fighting the Final Quest boss by adding a bonus die to your attacks against them, which could be either the Warlock Lord, the Behemoth or even the Grim Reaper himself!
After building the Staff of Ages and ultimately foiling the Warlock Lord’s plans, whichever Player that accumulates the most XP points at the end of the game will be crowned ‘High Lord of the Westland!’ Subsequent plays with different characters and final bosses, you’re guaranteed to never play the same game twice!
Each game runs between 60 and 90 minutes, depending on your group’s play style; either rushing to the end or taking your time.
Shadowgate, The Living Castle is one of several new projects to come to light, but not the last! Keep your eyes open and your ears attentive; it’s a great time to be a Shadowgate fan!
Chris Gaizat is the Executive Producer at 317 Games, and the Project Lead for Shadowgate, The Living Castle. Residing and based out of Indianapolis, Indiana, Chris has been working in creative media professionally since 2006.