Shadows in Kyoto is set in the world of Hanamikoji but is not an expansion but rather a separate game with same fantastic art by Maisherly. Hanamikoji is one of my all time favorite games so I was a little apprehensive to play this game to review as the bar was high. I’m happy to say that Shadows in Kyoto is a fine little game for 2 and stood up well to my expectations.
I’ll say it, this game immediately reminded me of Stratego. Fortunately the nuances of Shadows make it a far superior experience. The basis of the game is that one player represents the Government and the other the Oniwaban, a secret gang. Each player is trying to infiltrate the other’s team. A team consists of 6 agents, 2 of which have special marks indicating they have “real intelligence” and 4 which are decoys. In addition each agent has a value from 0 to 3. Players each have 2 decks. One deck has site cards which you play to move your agents and the other deck has tactics which allow special movement and actions. Players have a hand of 4 site cards and 2 tactics initially. There are 3 ways to win. Capture both the opponent’s agents with real intelligence, allow your opponent to capture 3 of your decoy agents or succeed in getting one of your agents with real intelligence to your opponent’s side of the board. There are also two variants or advanced rule set with special action cards and abilities to add to the game.
My thoughts: Shadows makes a fine addition to the world of Hanamikoji. It’s a fast and tense tactical battle. The three different ending conditions really keep the game interesting. It allows you to change your strategy on the fly. I’d recommend playing with the advanced rules.