Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Retrospective: Shadowlord!

My post last Friday about Dragonmaster elicited some commentary that reminded me of another fantasy-themed game I used to enjoy as a younger man: Shadowlord! Shadowlord! was a Parker Brothers boardgame published in 1983 intended for 2-4 players. It was took place in a weird fantasy/sci-fi amalgam setting once ruled over by the benevolent Starmaster, whose power to move planets and create starships from dust was contained within a mystical Power Stone. The Starmaster hoped, upon his death, that one of his four children, the Masters of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, would take up his mantle and use the Power Stone to continue to rule the universe wisely. Unfortunately, when the Starmaster finally did die, it was not one of his children but the evil Shadowlord who seized the Power Stone, which he used to rule as a nigh-omnipotent tyrant.

It's an interesting set-up for a game, in which each of the players takes the role of one of the four Element Masters and attempts to wrest the Power Stone from the Shadowlord and hold it long enough to win the game. As they attempt to do so, players recruit followers -- warriors, merchants, diplomats -- each of which has not only a special ability based on their class but also a card with a name and illustration. Again, it's easy to see why I had such a fondness for this game: it had a lot of great components, including the first use of non-standard dice outside of an RPG that I can recall. Shadowlord! used d8s for its resolution mechanics.

Ultimately, though, what I remember most about Shadowlord! is the way that it unabashedly mixed wizards and spaceships with reckless abandon. Back in 1983, this was a novel concept to me. Back then, people often used the term "science fantasy" or "space fantasy," but that was usually in reference to something like Star Wars, which was for all intents and purposes science fiction, merely of a very non-rigorous sort. Seeing characters dressed like wizards or elves and flying around in spaceships was something else entirely. Or at least it was to me, but then it was long ago established that I have a limited imagination.

It's been years since I looked at Shadowlord! let alone played it. I played it a lot back when I first got my copy and enjoyed it. It'd be interesting to play it again someday and see if it still holds up after all these years.

11 comments:

  1. I found this at Goodwill a couple of years ago. The background made me think of Chronicles of Amber or World of Tiers - the whole fueding science-fantasy superfamily thing.

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  2. I got a copy this game when it was marked for clearance at our local toy store. I didn't have any gaming friends at the time but managed to convince one of my buddies to play it with me. We tried only one time to give it a shot but he had a short attention span and halfway through he didn't want to play anymore. Then it got stuffed in a closet and I have no idea what happened to it. I wish I still had my copy as it would pretty much be in almost perfect condition.

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  3. Played this a couple weeks ago with my 8yo. Components are decent. Rules are rather uninspiring.

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  4. Coincidentally me, my girlfriend, and BigFella pulled this out and played it about 2 months ago now (hadn't played it in some years, but BF spotted it in my closet). We actually had an enormous blast, and felt the gameplay stood up better than any of us expected. Link.

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  5. "Krull" seems to me the best example of a fantasy movie with undeniable sci-fi elements.

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  6. I HAVE this. Played it since it first came out. I believe that it is among the BEST hobby themed games ever produced! The gameplay is flexible and involves strategic thinking and political intrigue. One of the cases, where a mainsgream Parker Brothers beat the Hobby Game Publishers at its game and used their superior production capabilities to their advantage.

    Unfortunately the game DID NOT SELL WELL. Fortunately, that which makes Parker Brothers superior to Gygaxian TSR, the used the remaining stocks from Shadowlord to make a game called Dune!, a tie in to the movie. Loosely based on the movie, it offered a wide struggle for the Dune planet. You picked one of the four Houses from the story to try and conquer the world, you explored the planet and recruited allies and NPC's. Adventure aspect of the game weas driven by monopoly-like equipment and event cards impacting the politival empire-building scheming of the players.

    Lesser known very good game. Too bad Parket Brothers got out of the adventure boardgame publishing. Main streaming bottom line finally does its damage, I guess.

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  7. My God, I loved this game as a kid and couldn't remember the name of it. Thank you so much!

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  8. My childhood copy of this bought the big one when an older friend flipped the board into the air in a fit of rage, losing little space ships amongst the shag/pile/whatever rug. Alas.

    Replayed it a few months ago, rules didn't do much for me. Maybe more than two players would help...

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  9. And amazing game from that period is Conspiracy, another is Survive! Both of those held up very well.

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  10. One of the few games I could get family members to play with me.

    Plus, it came with d8s!

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  11. I played this growing up. Beautiful art, and pretty cool components for that era with the plastic ships and power stones or whatever they were. Thanks for the memory!

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