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Shapeshifters 10th Anniversary Edition - Board Game Box Shot

Shapeshifters 10th Anniversary Edition

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When real wizards fight it out, they toss aside their spell books and get physical! Master the art of transformation, then face your enemies in a battle of brains and brawn. Choose from all the creatures in the animal kingdom, but beware — so do your foes!

Shapeshifters, Fat Messiah's first release which debuted in 1991, is a fast-paced boardgame of magical combat for 2-4 players. Secretly plot your transformations each turn, trying to outguess and outfight your enemies. Do you attack as a tiger, or will your opponent flee into the water as a manta ray? Can you escape as a lizard, or will you be hunted down by an eagle? Your magical energy is limited — do you use it all to become a dragon, or hide as a rat and renew yourself?

Run, fly and swim across the wilderness, flashing between forms, looking for the opening that spells victory. Are you ready for the challenge?

Master the art of transformation all over again with this expanded and updated edition of the classic design! Includes a complete reprint of the original plus extra goodies developed over a decade of convention events:

  • Two new battle maps — the Crystal Palace Vestibule and the Temple of Athena.
  • Three tournament scenarios with accompanying special rules, one of which includes a multi-round elimination system.
  • Full-color expansion counter set, doubling the number of players (up to eight) and adding special counters for use with the expansion scenarios.

These new elements strengthen the game's multiplayer mode, supporting up to sixteen players in a single scenario and creating even more opportunities for magical mayhem.

User Reviews (1)

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Guardian Angel
Baron / Baroness
Miniature Painter
6 of 6 gamers found this helpful
“Jungle! Squid!”

The basic concept behind Shapeshifters is similar to the old Metagame Wizard: two (or more) wizards meet on the field of battle each intent on the death(s) of the other(s). Much like its predecessor, Shapeshifters is quick to learn, fast to play, and highly enjoyable.

The game comes with a 16 page rule booklet, a color hex-grid map with various terrain features, 63 black and white counters, and the Taxonomy Flow Chart. The map, though simple, is easy to use with the different terrain types clearly delineated. Only nine of the booklet’s pages are devoted to rules, which are straightforward with only one or two rough spots. The remaining pages are taken up by scenarios, designers’ notes, and needed charts.

The Taxonomy Flow Chart (I’ll come back to its actual purpose soon enough) is very well laid out. Each of the different “Realms of Form” is clearly separate from the others, and each form within any given realm is easily found. Each form contains its own vital statistics and a silhouette of the form making record keeping simple and helping players to visualize their current form. Other necessary information—such as players’ hit points, initiative scores, and magical battery levels—is also provided on the flow chart.
The rules, for the most part, are fairly standard: movement points, attack and defense ratings, terrain cost, and combat results charts. Anyone who has ever played wargames should be familiar with these terms.

What sets Shapeshifters apart from other games of this format is the players’ ability to alter their formsand hence their combat and movement capabilities from one turn to another.

Each player has two important statistics, determined by how powerful a wizard he is playing: his charge rating and his maximum battery level. A wizard’s charge rating is the number of spell points which he receives at the start of every turn. Unlike movement points, which cannot be saved from turn to turn, unused magic points are not wasted. Magic points which a player does not spend in any given turn may be saved in his magical battery up to his maximum battery rating.

Why is all this important? Because it costs magic points to change from one form to another, or to maintain a form which is not the sorcerer’s natural form; some forms are quite expensive (like Dragon) while others (Rat) cost nothing.

This is where the Taxonomy Flow Chart comes in. The flow chart is laid out into general categories—Realms of Form, as I call them—birds, fish, insects, mammals, plants (sometimes useful), and reptiles. Within each realm there are various creatures to choose from. There are some creatures which are realms unto themselves: Dragon, Hydra, and Griffin. Each form has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, the Rat may not be able to attack most other forms effectively, but it can hide from other creatures more easily than most and it costs no magic points to maintain. On the other hand, the Dragon is probably the most powerful form a wizard can change into, but it costs at least 19 magic points to become one and 12 magic points just to maintain the form on subsequent turns (that’s a lot…).

Each form has lines flowing into or out of it. In order to change from one form to another a wizard must move along the lines, and pay the printed costs to move along them. No matter how many magic points a wizard has available to spend he may only move a number of forms along the chart equal to his wisdom. In order to move from one realm to another a wizard must move from one Node to another. Nodes are the base form of any given realm. Each Node has a cost printed next to it which is the number of magic points a player must spend to jump into that Node.

All of these costs and limitations on shapeshifting (the name of the game, right?) combine to limit the number of possible forms a wizard can change into on any given turn. Players make their shifting choices in secret and reveal them to each other at the same time (hence the name of this review—an actual set of declared changes in a game I played in… I was the squid). This adds an almost chess-like quality to the game as players try of outguess each other and choose the most advantageous form to change into.

Since the various forms have differing types of movement to choose from (flight, land, swim, or dive) it may not always be possible for one wizard to initiate an attack against another. Referring back to my own game – I was in the water and my opponent was on the shore and we each had a large number of magic points to spend. I expected him to plunge into the water after me, and he expected me to come rushing onto the land after him. He chose Jungle (large, immobile, and incapable of attacking, but virtually impossible to damage) while I chose Squid (one of the water-based heavyweights, but unable to attack land-based creatures—or plants in this case). Having revealed, we stared at each other—unable to attack one another—and did nothing, but prep for the next turn.

However, it is always possible for a wizard which is attacked by another to counterattack. If, in the above example we had instead chosen Piranha (me) and Eagle (him) and he had chosen to attack me, then I could have used my Piranha to counterattack his Eagle.

On the whole, I recommend Shapeshifters; it remains one of the few games I have kept and replayed over the years. I’m mostly familiar with the original edition—published in 1991—and this review is based on that edition. But the current 10th Anniversary Edition is much the same (with various errata incorporated and more scenarios to play out).

For those of you who are old enough to remember the wizard’s duel between Merlin and Mim the Merciless in Walt Disney’s film The Sword and The Stone, this game is for you.


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