Shadows: Amsterdam is a new tabletop game from Libeled and Asmodee North America and it plays 2-8 players. I enjoyed this game the most with 6 or more players. In Shadows you are tasked with conducting a criminal investigation. The trail has gone cold and the clues dried up for the police and an anonymous client has called your detective agency to investigate the crime. Unfortunately for you, your rivals are on the case as well so you’re going to have to guide your detectives through the city in a race to the solution.
This real-time simultaneous deduction game seems simple at first at least until you’re walking away from the table holding in your screams and trying to not throw your Meepillows™ at the people across the table who are supposed to be helping you.
Players are divided into two teams, and on each team, there is an intelligence officer. They are given a map of the city and they know precisely where the clues their detectives need are located,
however, the only way for you to communicate with them is to hand them a number of clue cards. You and the other team’s intelligence officer will have 10 cards face up in front of you. You’ll each give either one or two clue cards to your team and based on that clue card, they’ll move the number of cards given to them. If they land on evidence, you’ll give them one of 3 evidence they need to crawl toward the finish line. Unfortunately, if they land in an are where the police are, they will be given one of three X’s. If you end up with all three, you’ll land yourself in a stint in the local slammer serving a stoney lonesome.
Once your team has gathered all 3 pieces of evidence you must instruct them to go to one of the meetup areas with all of that Intel and the first team to gather all of the evidence wins the game.
Shadows: Amsterdam isn’t a complete Codenames killer for me to be honest, however, it does feel like a game that’s substantially easier to play with strangers than a game of Codenames. In Codenames, you’re tasked with giving one-word clues to the other team which is fine, unless two players on the same team know each other in a way that gives them an unfair advantage. Shadows fixed this problem by making the entire puzzle such a challenge that it doesn’t matter how well you know each other, you’re still going to want to jump up and down and scream while your teammates discuss your awkward clues that sent them in the opposite direction were you intending.
I believe this game is great for adults who want a party game where it doesn’t feel like your relationships with the other players will create a metagame that skews the results. While it’s recommended for ages 10+ and up, I do believe that my almost-9-year-old is capable of playing it but might have an overall better time playing a game like Codenames, simply because it lacks the pressure of being a real-time game. That said, Shadows: Amsterdam is a game that I will absolutely be keeping in my collection for years to come and I can’t wait to bust it out at my next party.