Shadowrun: Crossfire is a cooperative deck-building card game for two to four players set in the gritty, cyberpunk fantasy world of Shadowrun. Play a shadowrunner team and take on tough jobs such as protecting a client who’s marked for death, shooting your way out of downtown when a run goes sour, or even facing down a dragon. In each game you’ll improve your deck with a mix of strategies, all while earning Karma to give your character cyber upgrades, physical augmentations, magical initiations, weapons training and Edge.
Welcome to the World of Shadowrun…..Where Cyberpunk meets Magic!
The Shadowrun Role Playing Game has been a growing series for a long time now. From its inception in 1989 it has branched out into novels, video games and a collectible card game. In other words, Shadowrun is one of the most successful role playing franchises. Now through Catalyst Games it enters the board game market.
The world of Shadowrun began very much like our own, but is now about fifty years into the future and run by mega-corporations. The big change came at the end of the Mayan calendar, when magic and dragons returned to the world. In the ensuing years, some people learnt to use magic, while others became mutated by the magic, to become Orks, Trolls, Elves, Dwarves, and other mythical creatures. The Mega Corporations still run the show, installing a wireless web throughout the world and as in other cyberpunk cultures there are many augmented citizens.
This era in time is known as the Sixth World, based on the Mayan world cycles. By the time we enter into the fray, civilisation has settled down and mutants and magic are widely accepted. The golden rule is that you Never and I mean Never, trust a Dragon.
Most adventures in Shadowrun Crossfire are when a group takes out a contract to make a run on one of the Mega-Corporations. Indeed this is where the name comes from as you are going to make your run in the cyber shadows of the Mega-Corps.
Becoming a Shadowrunner….. And Facing the Obstacle Deck!!
Each player picks a character card, it has a health track for in game play, the starting hit points, starting hand card size, and starting money called Nuyen. There are also slots for extra abilities that are earned through gaining karma by completing missions, even surviving aborted missions gains you a karma point.
The experience system is called karma, and upgrades can be added to characters after playing several games. Karma is gained through successfully navigating through a mission, for example a completely successful mission will gain your character 3 karma, an aborted mission 1 Karma. The higher the Karma level of your character, the more difficult you will have to make the missions to gain the same level of karma. These upgrades come in the form of stickers, ranging in karma cost from 5 to 50. In the base set there are 40 different upgrades included, such as Fragging Tough (used to increase your HP), or Zealot (which lets you damage yourself to draw extra cards).
Don’t worry about playing with a mix of runners that have different kinds of upgrades on them. The game difficulty adjusts to the total upgraded power of the runners. You can easily bring a new runner into a game of veterans.
Shadowrun Crossfire is billed as a deck building game, however it is more of a standard card game with its various decks. On set-up each player has a starting deck dependent on the role they are taking, be it the Street Samurai, Decker, Mage or The Face. Then there is the black market deck, from which at least six cards are displayed for sale, replenished when one item is bought. Hopefully each player will be buying these cards and adding them to their hand, then using them and adding them to their personal deck. To call this deck building has to be lightly regarded, but yes players will be trying to buy cards that match their role and hence magnify some of their cards abilities. Buying cards from the black market is always very circumstantial to what is happening during the state of play, for example, although building a suite of spells for the mage is great, if they have an obstacle that requires a hacker card to get past then it won’t just get frustrating, it could prove fatal…
The obstacle decks, one normal and one hard, is where all your woes are going to come from. These obstacles are what the Cyber Corporations have hired to stop you, hunt you down, and eliminate you from the shadows. Each obstacle will have a Nuyen value (money you get for getting past them), attack strength that will damage you every turn they stick around, and a damage track of what is needed to defeat them. This damage track is a fantastic element to the game; each obstacle has multiple levels that must be cleared before they are defeated. Some of the levels will be damage, but others have a symbol that will match the four roles of the players in the game. Therefore only some obstacles can be effectively combated with a player that is dominant in that role. Thankfully if a few of the team members have bought assist cards, they can add some damage to yours, as all the cards are pooled and the damage can be dealt to several obstacles. Some of these obstacles will have an effect when played to the field, or an affect that can add chaos to an encounter.
What it means to be Cooperative…Not getting Gunned down by the Crossfire Deck???
The last deck is the crossfire deck, with events that usually make life even more difficult. These have continuous effects, but also have time-bomb effects that trigger if there are a certain amount of cards in the crossfire discard pile. If you defeat all the obstacles on your turn, the crossfire card is replaced to the bottom of the crossfire deck, if not then it goes in the discard pile. If you take to long to eliminate obstacles and prolong your mission, the crossfire cards are going to make it almost impossible to complete.
The second part of Shadowrun Crossfires billing is that it is a co-operative game, in this aspect it fills the description admirably, in fact this is one of the most interactive games that I have ever played. If you don’t work as a team, the game will be over before you know it. Each player’s turn is greeted with new dilemmas about when you buy or play a card, as it has to have the most impact for someone in the game. The brain juice can bubble away as you ponder and discuss what the best viable plan is – team discussion is vital and it is always best to let other players decide to sacrifice certain cards to help you out.
Thematically Shadowrun is very appealing, you can image yourself holed up, having bumped into a Troll mage, and trying to dodge a freelance assassin. You’re just waiting to get to the black market to buy something to slow one or both of them down. That is how the game is imagined, it is not played out in minutes, but hours, days even and the tension builds with every passing hour. Playing with two players means games last about 20 minutes, but game time stretches out with more players. With more players there just seems so much more to think about. I would say a good win rate is one out of five games, as most of your games will be aborted, when one or more runners hit critical, and the whole party aborts the wider mission and tries to save them. You still get karma points whether you win or lose, and they all add up to an extra ability, and when you do win, you have that wonderful feeling of achievement.
Upping the Stakes…With High-Caliber Ops!!!
Shadowrun Crossfire was my favourite game of 2014, and now again in 2016. This year we saw an expansion called High-Caliber Ops. When the original game came out there was a lot of negativity about how difficult the game was and that the extra abilities came in the form of stickers and you had to mark your character sheet. Catalyst addressed the character sheet and stickers by quickly releasing a character pack, which contained the same character sheets and stickers in the base game. They went on to post an introductory mission for those starting off with hints on what are some of the powerful spells. You could play the game solo, by playing with two characters, and this is an enjoyable mode, but not as much fun as with a full team.
With High-Caliber Ops five new missions are introduced for all levels of shadowrunners, even your more skilled characters. Two new characters are added along with a dozen new Black Market cards, fifty new obstacles, and a large bundle of new Karma upgrades. They have included a new set of basic cards with new art, but i’m not sure what the reason for this is. The new black market cards introduce vehicles into the game and they manoeuvre obstacles between players, giving the effect that you are driving around town avoiding the gangs, assassins and who knows what.
What has been greeted with surprise is that some of the black market cards have two colours with multipurpose or multi-role abilities. This can be a life-saver if you need one or the other role to get past an obstacle’s level.
Don’t get the impression that Shadowrun Crossfire is any easier with High Caliber-Ops, it is not, it is just as hard, and you wouldn’t want it to be any other way. What the expansion does do, is give you more options, and it makes the game run more seamlessly. The expansion comes in a small box and easily fits into the base box set, which has plenty of room to spare. If you are thinking of playing Shadowrun Crossfire, I would suggest getting both. As for myself, I have heard of a client who wants my team to get him access into a Mega-Corps sub basement terminal, it’s time to lock n load, and there is a destiny with a dragon I have keep.
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Paul Matthews is a Sales Manager for Gamesquest Ltd, as well as a part-time Board game Demonstrator and Blogger. After several years playing Yu-gi-oh at Tournament level, his latest passion is all things board gaming. Besides playing board games, Paul is a part time author and enjoys reading and archery. Paul has a Degree in Humanities Psychology/Counselling and several Life-skill Degrees in Parenting, Horse Management and Ecommerce.