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Tabletop Game / Shadows over Camelot

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Shadows over Camelot is a 2005 cooperative Adventure Board Game where the players take on the roles of the Knights of the Round Table going on heroic quests and defending Camelot from the encroaching forces of evil... except one of them is secretly a traitor plotting the kingdom's downfall.

The game won the prestigious Spiel des Jahres award in 2006 and received an expansion, Merlin's Company, in 2008. The rules of the game are available here.

The game provides examples of following tropes:

  • Action Initiative: Kinda. Whoever plays King Arthur (if he is in play) always gets the first turn.
  • Adaptational Villainy: When they weren't busy having an affair, Lancelot and Gwynevere were completely benevolent to Camelot. Here they are nothing but trouble: Lancelot is a Duel Boss and Gwynevere a very dangerous Black Card that might force you to abandon a quest.
  • Bonus Boss: You can only take on the Dragon after you defeat Lancelot (itself no small feat), and it is by far the toughest fight in the game, often requiring multiple knights' input. It does bring in a lot of swords, however (but no relic). The main attraction of the Dragon is that you get two life points for beating it, rather than one, like with every other quest. The downside of this is that if you lose, you lose two life points rather than one.
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  • Challenge Run: The game gives the players the option to start off as squires with no Special Abilities, only earning their knighthood upon succeeding in a quest.
  • Chromosome Casting: Owing to the source material, all playable characters in the game are male, which can make following the rulebook's advice of addressing other players in-character a bit awkward if they are female. Female characters do appear, but only as black (Morgan, Vivien, Guinevere) or white (Lady of the Lake) cards.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: All three relics (Excalibur, Holy Grail, and Lancelot's Armor) remain in the possession of the knight on whose turn they were earned and are lost forever if he dies or turns out to be the traitor (except the Armor).
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Each knight is represented by a unique miniature whose base is colored to match the color of his coat of arms, which remains in his player's possession. The six-sided hit point dice and the seats at the Round Table also come in corresponding colors, though Sir Bedivere messes this up a bit: he was a promotional extra, so he doesn't actually have his own seat.
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  • Combat Clairvoyance: Sir Owain's special power is that, when fighting a siege engine, he rolls the d8 to determine its strength before selecting his cards rather than after.
  • Combination Attack: The battles against the Picts, Saxons, and the Dragon allow several knights to pool their fight cards for an equivalent of this trope.
  • Cool Old Guy: Merlin gets his own figure in Merlin's Company (though he isn't playable) and can travel randomly with the knights to assist them by either letting them draw an extra white card per turn as long as he is on the same quest as them, or block the negative effects of black cards if he stands on a quest that has already been completed or failed.
  • Door to Before: Upon completing (or failing) a quest, all knights currently on it are instantly moved back to Camelot for free.
  • Duel Boss: Both the Black Knight and Lancelot must be defeated in single combat—and if the knight currently tackling the corresponding quest abandons it for whatever reason, all of his progress (i.e. all fight cards he played) is instantly lost.
  • Everyone Has a Special Move: Each knight has a special power that he can use once per turn, usually as a free action:
    • King Arthur can give one card from his hand to another knight in exchange for one of the knight's own cards. This is the only way the players can exchange cards with one another (except for the special white card "Messenger"). Also, being their king, he can actually force them to trade with him.
    • Sir Galahad can play any special white card on his turn as a free action (though he cannot play another one as a normal action in the same turn).
    • Sir Gawain, while in Camelot, can draw three white cards instead of just two as a heroic action.
    • Sir Kay can play an additional fight card after a siege engine dice roll is made or the Black Knight/Lancelot/Dragon cards are revealed.
    • Sir Percival can look at the top card of the black deck (without telling others what it is) before deciding whether to take it as his progression of evil.
    • Sir Palamedes regains an extra hit point upon completing any quest.
    • Sir Tristan can travel from Camelot to any quest location as a free action rather than as a heroic action.
    • Sir Bedivere (promotional item only) can Discard and Draw one white card per turn.
    • And from the Merlin's Company expansion:
      • Sir Gaheris may discard three white cards to take a used Merlin card from the discard pile.
      • Sir Bors may take part in sharing out cards after a quest, even if he wasn't present when it was completed.
      • Sir Owain, when fighting a siege engine, rolls the D8 to determine its strength before selecting his cards.
      • Sir Geraint has the extra option of discarding two white cards to skip the progression of evil.
      • Sir Lamorak may discard two white cards whenever he loses a life point to protect himself.
      • Sir Gareth takes a white card upon arriving at a quest.
      • Sir Caradoc may discard a life point to draw two white cards.
  • Expansion Pack: Merlin's Company (2008) added new knights, cards and mechanics to the basic game.
  • Experience Booster: Kinda. The special white card "Heroism" can be placed on any active quest to boost the swords reward (whether white or black) for it by one.
  • Extra Turn: Players can choose to lose a hit point on their turn to get another heroic action (as long as it's not the same as they've already taken).
  • Extrinsic Go-First Rule: If King Arthur is not among the knights, the youngest player gets to open the game.
  • Fallen Hero:
    • None of the playable knights are known for treachery in the Arthurian canon, but every one of them (including King Arthur himself) can turn out to be the traitor in the game.
    • Lancelot is among the evil forces in the game.
  • Gladiator Subquest: The tournament against the Black Knight is a fight that must be completed by a single knight but can be repeated indefinitely.
  • Healing Potion:
    • The special white card "Piety" can either restore multiple hit points to the knight who plays it or one hit point to each living knight in the game.
    • The Grail, technically, with the caveat that it can only be used on a knight whose hit points have just dropped to zero and is lost forever afterwards, moving it closer to a Single-Use Shield against death.
  • Heal Thyself: A player can restore one hit point as a heroic action by discarding three identical white cards.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Most knight miniatures are shown wielding swords, one of them can get the Excalibur, and the game's objective is to obtain even more swords. Gawain and Tristan avert this, however, using a club and a spear respectively.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Practically expected from the (loyal) players, as they can lose their hit points to take an Extra Turn or to stave off the advancing evil.
  • Hit Points: Each knight starts off with 4 HP and can be healed up to 6, at most. Falling to zero leads to his death (unless saved by the Holy Grail) and his player cannot actively participate in the game anymore.
  • Hub City: Camelot. While the knights can travel directly from quest to quest, Camelot is the main source of white cards and they always return there upon completing or failing a quest to bring back the swords they earned.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: Excalibur, unsurprisingly. Granted, it's the only notable weapon in the game, but it is also the only item that actually gives you a (+1) bonus in any combat.
  • Informed Equipment: You can't actually equip your miniature with the Excalibur or have it wear Lancelot's Armor.
  • Kaizo Trap: If a traitor remains undetected for the entire game, two white swords are flipped to black, possibly turning an apparent victory (more white swords than black) into defeat.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: All players tackling the same quest at once is largely impractical or even impossible in some cases, so expect to be doing this a lot. This being said, some quests like the Grail are very difficult to complete alone.
  • Level-Up Fill-Up: Downplayed. Completing any quest successfully restores one hit point to every knight who's on it at the time.
  • Loads and Loads of Rules: This game has a ton of rules. So many, in fact, that the basic rules and the quest-specific rules come in two separate rule books.
  • Luck Manipulation Mechanic:
    • The special white card "Clairvoyance" lets the player pick top five cards from the black deck and put them back in any order (without telling the other players which they were).
    • Furthermore, the knight wearing Lancelot's Armor can draw two black cards during his progression of evil phase and play one of them while placing the other to the bottom of the deck—regardless of whether he is a loyalist or the traitor.
  • The Mole: Each player is dealt a loyalty card at the start of the game, one of which reads "Traitor", meaning that this player must hinder the others and actually wins if evil overwhelms Camelot. With the Merlin's Company expansion, it is possible to have two traitors in seven or eight player games.
  • Paranoia Fuel: Invoked by the rules. There are eight loyalty cards, only one of which says "Traitor", and the basic game is designed for three to seven players, which means that the smaller the table, the less likely it is to have a traitor, and even with seven players, there is a one-in-eight chance that all knights are loyal. Still, the mere possibility of a traitor in their ranks is designed to inflate the players' paranoia.
  • Permanently Missable Content:
    • Failing the quests for the Excalibur, the Holy Grail, or Lancelot's Armor leads to these relics being permanently removed from the game. Ditto if the knight wielding them perishes or turns out to be a traitor (except Lancelot's Armor). Additionally, Excalibur and Holy Grail can be used up (see Single-Use Shield).
    • All quests except the wars against the Saxons and the Picts and the Black Knight tournament cannot be repeated once they are completed or failed.
  • Pre-Character Customization Gameplay: In an optional hard mode, the players begin as identical "squires" and only unlock their Knights' special powers when they complete their first quest.
  • The Quest: As befits a game based on Arthurian legends (which coined the term "quest" in the first place), almost every activity in SoC that does not take place in Camelot is a quest. The straightest example is probably the Grail Quest, which basically requires spending seven player-turns to place specific cards that represent traveling towards the Grail's location.
  • Random Encounters: Merlin's Company introduced the Travel Cards, which the players have to draw each time they travel between Camelot and the quests. Some of them simply read "Nothing happens", but most add a random encounter of some sort, ranging from hostile (like an ambush or imprisonment for the knight) to helpful (Merlin accompanying the knight to his destination).
  • Repeatable Quest: The Black Knight, Pict, and Saxon quests can all be undertaken any number of times to score white swords. Inversely, they can also be repeatedly failed as cards are drawn from the Progression of Evil deck, scoring black swords.
  • RPG Elements: Specifically, tabletop RPG elements. The players are encouraged to communicate with each other in-character, including addressing themselves by the name of the knight they are playing. There are also more mechanical things like Hit Points and the relics, which are basically gear items.
  • Scoring Points: Completing quests and revealing the traitor earns the loyal knights white swords to be placed on the Round Table, while failing quests or accusing a loyal knight of treachery gives them black swords. Bringing twelve swords to the table lets the loyal knights win if most of them are white, while seven black swords mean instant defeat. Furthermore, if the traitor is not found by the end of the game, he automatically flips two white swords over to black, potentially resulting in a surprise defeat...
  • Seer: Sir Percival can look into the future, which, in mechanical terms, means he can take a look at the next black card before deciding to play it or put it back without showing it to anyone.
  • Single-Use Shield: Excalibur can be used to negate a single black card's effects while the Grail can heal a dying knight back to 4 hit points, but both items are lost for good afterwards.
  • Social Deduction Game: The game is primarily cooperative, but there's a chance (proportionate to the number of players) that one player is a traitor trying to destroy Camelot. The loyal knights don't need to expose the traitor to win, but their final score is reduced by two white swords if they fail to, which can mean a last-minute defeat.
  • So Long, and Thanks for All the Gear: If a knight in possession of a relic dies or is revealed as the traitor, it is lost forever to the loyal knights (though the traitor gets to keep Lancelot's Armor for his nefarious deeds once unmasked).
  • Symmetric Effect: One special white card affects the next quest to be completed, win or lose, increasing the reward for victory and the penalty for defeat by one sword.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: Several quests (specifically, the fights against the Black Knight and Lancelot) must be completed by a single knight and all progress in them is lost if the knight leaves before finishing them for any reason. Especially true to the spirit of this trope is fighting Lancelot as Sir Galahad—his own son.
  • Total Party Kill: One way the (loyal) knights can lose is if all of them die before enough white swords are delivered to Camelot.
  • Variable Player Goals: The loyal knights win by bringing white swords to Camelot, while the Traitor wins by bringing in black ones.