A group of astronauts lands on a hostile piece of rock, seeking a long lost scientific expedition. Its lone survivor tells a story of family murders and insanity, strange phenomena, and decades spent in cryogenic stasis. Something is clearly amiss. A mysterious, green fog brings with it revelations about bizarre alien entities and the past of… the Shadow Planet.

This is just the beginning of the story you are about to participate in, when you play The Shadow Planet: The Board Game – a semi-cooperative title based on an Italian graphic novel created by Blasteroid Bros. Designed by Sir Chester Cobblepot, a veteran studio famous for Letters from Whitechapel, and developed and published by Galakta, the game was successfully funded on Kickstarter in May 2021 and its English retail edition will be soon available in the best game stores, distributed by Ares Games in North America and other non-European countries.

The Shadow Planet: retro sci-fi board game, based in an Italian graphic novel.

The Shadow Planet: The Board Game is a mixture of retro sci-fi and horror. It offers a unique blend of game mechanics, encouraging players to seek new strategies whenever they sit at the table. If you liked Alien, The Thing or Forbidden Planet and enjoy the engaging gameplay, you will love what The Shadow Planet: The Board Game has to offer.

The game features a masterfully illustrated board depicting the “Shadow Planet” - Gliese 667 - with its many locations, as well as three rotating counters enabling you to track the vital gameplay statistics. Almost 150 cards are used to resolve various effects, while over 100 tokens and player sheets facilitate the gameplay. Additional game components include two 3D cardboard models of planetary vehicles and 6 beautifully sculpted busts representing the characters in the game.

The Shadow Planet: The Board Game has a rich background story, which directly translates to its beautiful artwork and unique player roles. In this game of hidden goals each player gets a chance to control one of six different characters – starting from the astronaut crew of the rescue ship Melita, through members of the long-lost expedition from the E-Rico schooner, to the servitor Robot. The goal of the game depends on the hidden identity of a particular player – the Astronauts (1-3) wish to leave the planet, the Alien wants the same, but plans to eliminate the Astronauts in space, and the Guardian hopes to keep everyone on the desolate rock to save the cosmos from a dark fate.

The six characters featured in the game: each round players choose one to control.

Each round players choose one character to control, to use their special ability, but – more importantly – their deck of Operation cards. Each deck starts with 6 cards connected with a given character, but when a player takes over, they use the cards to perform different actions and add or remove cards from the character’s deck, thus shaping future turns. This clever use of hand-building mechanism is a double-edged sword. Why? Because next round the control of the characters will most likely change and your well-groomed deck will end up in the hands of your potential enemy.

Another characteristic feature of The Shadow Planet: The Board Game is that at the end of the game each player is matched with one of 6 characters and their final hand of cards. The trick is – you get to take the deck of the character you have chosen the least, which means the more you control the same character, and the better cards you put into their deck, the less likely you are to end up with their cards in the game finale. Effectively, the whole strategy is based on guessing true agendas of other players and smartly building different decks to facilitate your own victory.

Shadow Planet's game mechanics are based on an innovative deck-building system.

Finally, there are the rotating indicators: Countdown, Repair, and Threat. The Countdown informs how much time is left to the end of the game, the Repair tells in what condition the rescue ship is, while the Threat shows how powerful the Alien monster is. Players get to manipulate the status of the indicators, thus advancing their agendas. However, they do it by discarding certain cards from the character decks. A careful analysis of discarded cards gives hints as to the hidden goals and possible alliances of the player.

As you can see, there are tons of strategic options and paths to victory, enabling you to play The Shadow Planet: The Board Game time and time again, always discovering something new. If you like a unique blend of original rules and story, artwork and theme, you will surely want to have this title on your shelf.

* This article was originally published by Meeple Monthly magazine, in the July 2022 issue.

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