May 27, 2015

[Games] Shadowrun: Crossfire

Shadowrun, as a game franchise, has been around for quite some time. Originally a tabletop RPG, we've seen different iterations of the franchise across different media including a few video games released as part of the brand.

Shadowrun: Crossfire is a deck-building game set in the same fantasy cyberpunk universe as the original RPG. Deciding to go with the deck-building route was an interesting choice since it's the sort of card game that's easy to get into without the usual sort of investment we see in collectible card games.

Now I happen to like deck-building games and this one's a little tricky versus others. I guess the main challenge is how the ability to purchase new cards is tied strongly to defeating adversaries and challenges placed in your way, which can be pretty annoying in the early stages.

Shadowrun: Crossfire is a cooperative deck-building game created by Sean McCarthy, Rob Watkins, Mike Elliot, Rob Heinsoo, Jim Lin, Gregory Marques, Sean McCarthy, and Rob Watkins. The game was published by Catalyst Game Labs and supports 2-4 players.

The game has players playing a shadowrun team performing one of the different missions in the deck. Players will portray one of four rules including the Mage and the Face and their role will determine the sort basic cards they'll start with. At the same time, each player will also select their race from the character options including Humans, Orcs, and Elves, each with different health stats, starting hand size and starting Nuyen. When you play with less than two players, one or more players may need to control more than one character in order to fulfill all roles.

The roles favor a particular color / type of action/attack and these correspond to the possible obstacles one will need to face in the game. Each obstacle card will most likely need to be dealt with an appropriate number of cards of matching colors, and thus players will need to work together based on what cards they draw in order to get past the obstacles and proceed to the next scene. Most missions are resolved in three scenes and that means three waves of more obstacles of increasing difficulty.

Now I keep saying obstacles since this ties into the concept that the different cards represent different types of challenges that each member of the team might be able to face. But in the end everything feels like "damage" you need to deal against the card. Thus it just feels like Black weapon damage, Blue magic damage, Green tech damage and Red social...damage? The analogy isn't perfect, but the end result feels the same. You play cards matching the obstacles and see what happens.

Enemies don't do all that much apart from effects that trigger when they're flipped, while they're facing an opponent or when they are killed. They're all one trick ponies with just more damage or more damage requirements to kill and not to much else beyond that. I say this from the perspective of wanting other challenges to trigger mid-way like maybe if you resolve a certain number of levels of conflict, then they become a bit trickier or something? The only thing that makes things feel a little different from round to round involves the Crossfire deck, which adds an additional difficulty condition that affects the players during the round.

The heroes are similarly limited since the cards don't feel all that different from one another apart from color and art, at least not until you really get through the Black Market offerings and start to buy more stuff. One rule unique to the game that I really like is the fact that cards go to your hand when purchased instead of the discard pile, as is the case in most other deck-building games. It changes the strategy a bit, although the structure of the turn order ensures that you still have to wait until your next turn before you can use them in your run.

The other thing about the system which is pretty cool is the Karma system, which essentially is an experience point system for your characters. As you play more missions, you then gain more Karma which can be spent to get new abilities for your characters. These will make future runs easier and thus opening options to try missions with more challenges or higher levels of difficulty. It's a nice addition to the game that makes it feel a bit more like an RPG given the fact that player characters will get better over time.

Shadowrun: Crossfire is a generally fun game overall. I wish there was a bit more creativity applied to the design to make the challenges feel a bit more varied apart from the quirks of the Crossfire deck, but on the whole it's still an okay game. It gets 3.5 runners out of a possible 5.

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