I seem to have an abiding fascination with deck building games. They allow me to get my Magic: The Gathering fix without the massive investment in money and time. The newest one that I’ve been lucky to play is Shadowrun: Crossfire.
Shadowrun: Crossfire is a cooperative deck building game built upon the setting of Shadowrun. Players take on the roles of Mages, Faces, Street Samurai, or Deckers. The game is for 2-4 players and according to the box should take 30 minutes to play.
Each player chooses a metatype which determines starting hand size, starting nuyen, and maximum health. The choices are human, troll, elf, orc, and dwarf. Players then choose a role which determines which starter deck they receive. There are four types of cards necessary to overcome obstacles; skills, decking, magic, and equipment. Each role gets more of the type of card that matches the role. Samurai receive more weapons, and so on. Any given role can accomplish a given challenge but it will take time without help.
The objective of the game is to complete a scenario and receive karma which can be spent on character upgrades. Scenarios are completed by overcoming a set number of obstacles. These are cards which are placed in front of players and represent something in the Shadowrun universe like gangs or security. The top of each obstacle lists what cards and in what order they must be played to overcome the obstacle. The obstacle card also lists the amount of nuyen available upon the completing the card as well as the damage it deals if left for a full round. On a players turn they can play the cards in their hand. They able to play them on any obstacle in play thus working a more difficult obstacle out of play to earn more nuyen or protect a weak player. After playing their cards, a player can buy cards from the center with the nuyen that they have. This builds the deck so that they can overcome obstacles quicker.
There are a few things that make this standout from other deck building games. First, there is the crossfire deck. This is a set of cards that serve as a timing mechanic. For each full round of play that passes with their still being an obstacle on the board, you pull a card from the crossfire deck. These are cards that increase the difficulty of the game in some fashion. there are a few positive cards but they are rare. They also have triggers for how many crossfire cards are in the discard pile which can make a card even more difficult. This serves to simulate the pressure of needing to get a job done quickly. Second, you earn karma which is experience which can be spent on upgrades. As a fan of the table top role playing game Shadowrun, I like seeing karma being incorporated. It provides a nice way to customize the game for each player thus keeping the game fresh. Finally, the metatype cards are designed to be kept by the player. They have slots on them where stickers go to keep track of upgrades.
I only have two issues with the game. One is that I am collector at heart. I love the idea of the players getting to keep their metatype card but the thought of putting a sticker on it makes me cringe. I thought it would be easier to keep a sheet with a list of upgrades on it rather than mar the neat card included in the game. I know, I’m crazy, but it bugs me.The other is that it was several games before we ever won. This is standard for cooperative games but it makes me wonder if I would ever use the hard level rules which are included in the game.
Overall, Shadowrun: Crossfire is an excellent deck building game. It captures the feel of the table top role playing game and has excellent replayability. It has a retail price of $59.99 which is a bit steep but can be found on-line for about $39.99. It is well worth the investment.