Review: Shadows Amsterdam

  • By Mathieu Aubert
  • Art by M81 Studios
  • 2-8 players
  • 20 minutes
  • Review by Jonathan Franklin

A competitive party game with Dixit-style clues and Codenames-style objective correctness, plus the real time/no turns aspect of Word Slam

If you love the sound of this, go for it.  If you prefer German-style games to French-style games, read on.

Imagine a expanded Catan sized board with four hexes per side. Each hex is a separate image in the style of Dixit, but with more concrete detail tied to the city of Amsterdam.  It is clear that Shadows Barcelona would have a distinct look from Shadows Amsterdam and ‘Amsterdam’ is not just a name slapped on the box.

There is one clue giver for each team and as many guessers per team as you want.

The clue giver has a secret map that shows the locations of evidence, police checks, empty spaces, and escape points.  The goal of the game is for the clue giver to get the rest of the team to three spaces where they can collect evidence and then get to an escape point before the other team.  Unfortunately, if the police stop your team three times, you automatically lose and the other team wins. :( The intelligence officer (clue giver) is the only one who can see where the police, evidence, and escape points are.

Each of the two teams starts with their Vespa in the center of the board.

The intelligence officer may choose one or two hex cards from the 10 face up hex cards and give it to their team.  These cards have drawings that are evocative, but not the same as any of the spaces on the board.

If the intelligence officer gives one clue, the detectives must choose a space one away from their current location to move to.  If the intelligence officer gives two card clues, the team must move two away. As usual, the clues might be based on color, subject, both related to the second location, or one related to the first and one related to the second.  Since you do not get stopped by the police unless you stop on their space, sometimes you need two clues to get you past the police to the evidence.

The detectives may bicker about where the intelligence officer is trying to send them, but it wastes precious time and often there are several reasonable guesses.  I suggest rotating the final chooser, rather than letting an alpha player drive all the team’s choices.

The game continues in real-time with both teams getting clues and either getting evidence, stopped by the police, or nothing happening.  Playing with two or three players is co-op with a time limit, but basically the same game.

courtesy of henk rolleman from BGG

So, why did I say the game was French?  Because almost all the cards could direct you to almost all the hexes. Sometimes you guess right and sometimes you guess wrong. Playing with people you know helps a bit.  Because you can see all ten cards they had to choose from, you can eliminate some choices by thinking ‘there is a bicycle card there, and a bicycle next to us. Since the intelligence officer did not choose that card, I don’t think she wants us to go to the bicycle space.  At the same time, there is time pressure, so good luck pulling a Vizzini on a regular basis.

My sense is that the game is fun if played quickly and lightly, but that deeper thought might not be worth it, in the same way that you might read an SAT question, have an instinct, then think yourself out of the correct answer.  If that angers you or the intelligence officer you are playing with, this might not be your kettle of fish.

I have played in with 3, 4, & 6 players so far.  I have tried it at a meditative pace and at a frenetic pace.  If you want a quick fun competitive team game where you can shrug off misunderstandings and have more beer, you will like Shadows Amsterdam.  If your joy in Codenames is taking three minutes to get the perfect clue for four of your words, you might want to look elsewhere

In the end, I know it is not thematic, but I’d love to try it with words, rather than pictures.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Mark Jackson: One play was enough for me – then again, I’m not a fan of Dixit, Mysterium and/or speed games. The game works… and for those who (as Jonathan said) play quickly & lightly, I think it would be fun. For me, it was fun once but I have no desire to return to it.

Joe Huber (2 plays): I tried this twice – once as a clue receiver, once as a clue giver.  And – I found it frustrating, particularly as the clue giver. I wouldn’t have minded having imprecise answers, but often the available choices were simply awful – either unrelated or related to too many possibilities.  In Dixit, there are sometimes no good choices – but there’s no great penalty for this, and one quickly moves onto the next round. Here, with a time element – it just wasn’t fun for me. To be fair, I should note that others at the table enjoyed it more – some much more – than I did.

Dan Blum (2 plays): I rather like Dixit and Mysterium and I like this. Dixit and Mysterium both offer better “matching” experiences but Shadows Amsterdam is much faster and doesn’t require creativity (this turns a lot of people off of Dixit).

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Nathan Beeler, Dan Blum
  • Neutral. Jonathan, Mark Jackson
  • Not for me… Joe H.
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