Secret HQ

art (c) Mike Trap

The Rules Revolt
Old News
Revenge of the Seven Masters

Shadowfist Secret HQ

Welcome to the Secret War!  The Shadowfist Secret HQ is the home to the San Francisco Shadowfist players.  It's also home to the imaginary 10th Anniversary of Shadowfist release Revenge of the 7Masters

What's New?

Well, it's been a few years since my last update -- my copy of Front Page bit the dust, and that makes it hard to work on this site.  I wasn't very involved in Empire of Evil, but have had a chance to play some of the cards and mull them over, and the Secret HQ is going to continue its tradition by presenting the Empire of Evil review.

I got some great feedback from Wei Chen and Matt Wooley -- you can find it in the Critical Shift section.

Some Syndicate updates -- First off I broke theSyndicate into their own review section (all 27 cards of them) for easy perusal.  To that we add a first draft ofSyndicate Strategy.

I integrated the SSG reviews into the master lists.  I also received my first batch of comments on Critical Shift from Simon Johnston.  I am also working on an article about the latest faction to enter the Secret War -- The Syndicate:  Do the Suck or do the Blow? that should be done in a week or two.

My unabashed review of Critical Shift is posted -- it's rough around the edges, and is not for the faint of heart.  Read at your own risk!  Comments, corrections, Flames and A-men's are welcome via email.  Speaking of user feedback, Expendable Unit wrote in with some ideas on making Dog Soldiers work -- you can find it in theSixguns review in the Monarch's section.  I'll also be working on integrating the reviews on Two-Fisted Tales and Sixguns into the full listings.

Critical Shift has been printed, and should be shipping next week.  I've already started on my unabashed card reviews -- you wont get to see them for a little while, but the first batch has been sent out for editing -- my goal is by the end of the month.  Also, I've fallen  behind a little in updates and correspondence -- be patient grasshopper, the willow bends but it does not break.

Yeah, it's been a while.  Critical Shift is due out sometime this summer, after many delays (it was originally scheduled for release in May at KublaCon).  There are some preview cards floating around, that are worth checking out.  Boxes are available for pre-order through Shadowfist Games and Potomac Distribution.

SSG has shipped to both individuals and distributors -- if you pre-ordered, you should have yours now.  I cracked 3 boxes with okay distribution, but it's clear that just 1 box isn't really enough of even commons (you can get as few as 1-2 of any single common to really make a deck around a card).  Speaking of making decks, I'm really struggling with this set -- I really want to like it, but the mediocrity of the art and cards (especially the Syndicate which are as bland as bland can be) is interfering.

I added a couple of promos to the Siguns Review section.  Also, Siguns is supposed to be shipping today, so expect to start seeing it around in a few weeks!

Check out The Seven (from Six-Guns and Shurikens)-- is this the coolest Shadowfist art ever?

The Seven are (left-to-right):
Eric Lui, Eric Berg, Joe Ganis, Jan Malina, Steve Valladolid, John Castellucci, Max Hufnagel

The SSG FAQ is available.  It's got a couple of entries for promo cards we haven't seen yet.

Hey!  Thanks for all the great feedback and discussion of Sixguns and Shuriken.  You can find excerpts in the review section under the individual card entries.

RANTSacred Wigwam
This is perhaps my least liked card in the set -- this shows how the design team can be off-base with the Shadowfist playing public. I am a huge fan of foundation sites -- I was a big advocate for Bomb Factory and Paradox Garden reprinted in Red Wedding.  Foundation sites are just generally good when played right, and I think they are a necessary component of the game.  So, why don't I like this card?  First, the name is, frankly, retarded.  On such an important card as this, why go over the top with theme?  Second, I think it's a big mistake to have the Thunder designator on this card -- why make a card that all the designator fans can't play?  Are we going to have to wait another 3 years to see each sub-faction get one?  Thirdly, where's the?  The Four Monarchs are a magic using faction, and Thunder is especially weak?  Yes, providing a talent has been hit or miss on the foundation sites, but why not make this a really good card?  Finally, Sacred Wigwam has an important ability.  For the last two years at least, Shadowfist has been dominated by recursion (playing or retrieving cards from the smoked pile).  Sacred Wigwam gives a new (almost) faction-defining ability -- why is this disparately needed ability relegated to the weakest Monarch?  So many bad choices went in to this card, and I find it a great disappointment.

Sixguns is shaping up to be a decent set.  I don't think it's at the top, but Red Wedding set a high mark for Shadowfist.  I don't
think it'll be as good as Seven Masters vs. The Underworld either -- as a new faction, the Seven Masters will never be equaled again.  It's sort of feeling like a cross between Throne War and Dark Future -- that's not a bad place to be, but some of us were hoping for better.  Sixguns does have its share of over-the-top cards, though.

I have made a progressive spoiler for Sixguns and Shuriken that is hopefully a bit easier to read than the mailing list.

The SG Architect spoiler has been released to the Yahoo Shadowfist group.  After you've familiarized yourself with the cards, check out myunabashed review if you dare!

The first preview is up on eBay -- it's mediocre, but it's a start.

Sixguns and Shurikens is getting close.  The new marketing team is trying to generate some hype by previewing/selling cards directly on eBay.  I have mixed feelings about this -- it's sort of artificial hype.  Also, there is a new promo policy -- for every box in a case you order, you get a progressive promo card, with a total of 6 promos.  This means you gotta drop $415 for 6 exclusive cards...  sounding kinda bogus to me.

KublaCon Report:  KublaCon seems to be continuing its downward trend -- The Shadowfist turnout was decent, but not as big as in past years (but the attendance for the entire Con seemed down).  I spent about 1/3rd of my time playing Shadowfist, and the other 2/3rds playing a mix of board games, card games and MTG.

Pickup friendly games of Shadowfist were also kind of scarce (especially compared to 2-3 years ago when there were 1-2 pickup games going at any given time for the entire con).  CCGs were moved from the main room off into a side room, and that's never good for visibility.  I did get in a lot of pickup games with the usual Shadowfist players, but we mainly played games other than Shadowfist, including MTG, For Sale, No Thanks, Lost Cities, Villa Palazzo, Fairy Tale and perhaps the high-point of the con, a crazy seven-man BANG! game that the con staff had to tell us to be quiet because we were laughing so hard.  The game ended with our Sherriff Eric L. playing Lucky Dick (the guy who draws twice for things like Barrels and Dynamite) blowing himself up with his own Dynamite!

Friday afternoon was pretty dead, so I played in the MTG grab bag -- this is a strictly fun format where you reach into a box of commons/uncommons and pull out as many cards as you can with one-hand and build your deck from that.  My deck was un-stellar, but Tim had 7 Holy Strengths for beat down, and Quyen had 6 Rays of Command for ultimate trix.  Of course, non of us did so well when we ran into the guy who pulled out a fistful of Disintegrates...

Friday night was the Shadowfist dueling tournament, but I passed on it.  I think they only had 4-6 players.  Instead I got is a game of Caylus with Eric L. and a few others.  This game I got to be a playa h8r on Eric, and my mean and spiteful move of denying him the Joust (even though I could not use it) let me squeak in second place over him by only 2 points (the winner p'wnd us with his l337 skillz and expert timing of play order and going to the castle).  Caylus is definitely a game to try out if you like hardcore Euro-style games.

Saturday was the old rules Shadowfist event, but I'm not sure if it went off.  Instead I tried to get into the Caylus tourney (but it was limited to 25 and they had way over that) so instead I did the Elasund and Power Grid events.  This was the first time I played on the Italy map and it's harsh.  Limited resources and tight groupings make for lots of pain.

Saturday night was the Shadowfist draft, and we got 15 players in it.  I drafted a reasonably strong deck, given what I opened (mostly junk) and crafted a decent deck that was mainly Ascended with a Dragon splash for Back for Seconds, Golden Comeback and Final Brawl.  The Ascended part had an Op Killdeer, Cutting Lose Ends (a-mazing) and a Cry of the Forgotten Ancestor, and the rest characters.  I had 2 Proving Grounds and a fair amount of 3 cost foundations, with my beef being Serena Chase, 2 Fists of the Bear, a Blue Cardinals Guards and Raven Li.  I went 2-2, but was penalized by the tournament and missed the finals.  The current rules award 4 points for a win, and 1 point for a loss, unless the game timed out, in which case the leading player gets 3 points and everyone else gets 0.  My two losses were in timeout.  This was still a very fun event, especially since people don't take it as seriously as constructed. 

Sunday was the big 4-person constructed event, which drew 16 players, which I didn't play in.  I played a few friendly games of Shadowfist with the rest of us not in the tourney, and as people dropped out, we played a bunch of other random card/board games.  The finals were especially grueling -- I think all players had at least 3 BfV at one point, with at least having 4 BfV.  The eventual winner, Robert S. was the player at 4 BfV, and was able to get out of it thanks to a Book of Wrath and many many turns of tight play.

Sunday night was the Comrades in Arms tournament, but after three days, I was beat, so I headed home.

So, in summary, KublaCon 2006 was "just okay."  I think it was characterized most by a couple of conspicuous non-attendees -- in addition to a few of the locals, Jan, Paul, Zev and Steverino all didn't make it, and they have become pillars of KublaCon.  Also not having a new expansion in a year and a half also meant there wasn't a lot of fresh decks.  The Old West expansion is scheduled to come out later this summer, but there wasn't much enthusiasm about it -- if one set a year is going to come out, it should probably come out at the start of the Con season instead of the end.

Janky play of Con Award:  Eric L. revealing his face-down Proving Ground to use a Discerning Fire to zap my Proving Ground to deny a win... IN DRAFT!!!   And the next card I drew was Cry of the Forgotten Ancestor -- oh, sweet irony!  Honorable Mention:  Sung Hi turning to smoke a Brain Tap Rifle being toted by Void -- how's that for jank?

Thanks to Earl, Pete and Eric L. for running events.

Here's looking forward to next year!

The pricing info for Six Guns and Shrunken has been announced.  A single box will be $75 shipped, and a case (6 boxes) will be $420.  No set size has been released, but if it's the same size as 2FT, you won't quite get a playset of the rares (4.3 each), about 9.6 of each uncommon, and around 17 of each common in a case.  Six Guns will be available through a new entity, Shadowfist Games -- more info to follow.

Rumor Mill
:   GenCon is the target date for Sixguns and Shurikens.  I've also had to debunk the previous rumor.

Rumor Mill
:   There is a new promo for high-ranking members of the SWS -- alternate art Blade Palm.  That's not the rumor -- but, to have a new card, that means a new sheet was printed.  It's possible that this is left-over from 2FT from way back in 2004, but it's also possible that a new sheet was printed.  Zev was talking about moving printing to China as a cost-saver, and it's possible that this is from a new test sheet.  And if there's a new sheet, there may be other new/alternate cards.  Update:  Thanks to Stefan for the following correction:

The truth behind the rumor mill on your site (3/20/2006) is that the alt. art Blade Palm was published on the promo sheet for Red Wedding. Zev mentioned it in late 2004 in the Forum.  Doesn't mean that a super-secret test sheet hasn't been printed, just not with that card :)

The deadline for pre-registering for KublaCon is over -- we got our tickets, and a room to boot.  While we'll be playing other games this year, you should still see us around.

is here.  Well, it's really close and in a final draft form.  Click on the logo to see the full set, or just take a sneak peak below.

Name:  Brain Eater vNew
Subtitle:  Abomination
Cost:  3
Fight: 3
Text:  Ambush.  Join.  Any Character Joined with Brain Eater and at the same location gains Ambush.
Flavor:  Brainssss...

Name:  Dirk McGirk
Subtitle:  Rebel General
Cost:  3
Fight: 4
Text:  Unique.  Tactics.  While Dirk McGirk is attacking, all other attacking characters gain Tactics.  When Dirk McGirk uses Tactics, all other attacking characters gain Stealth until the end of the attack.
Flavor:  Trust me, I got a plan.

Name:  Silent Meditation
Subtitle:  Event
Cost:  0
Text:  Limited.  May not be played during an attack.  Return a random card from your smoked pile to your hand.
Flavor:  Quiet contemplation before battle ensures victory.

Name:  Mirror Monster
Subtitle:  Netherworld Horror
Cost:  1
Fight: 1
Text:  Sacrifice to change the target of an Event played by the player to your right to a target controlled by the player to your left.
Flavor:  Seven year bad luck coming our way!

Name:   So You Think You're Tough?
Subtitle:   State
Cost: 1
Text:   Shtick.  Not Cumulative.  Subject Character gains Toughness: 1 and +1 Fighting.  Once per turn, you may discard a card at random to give subject an additional Toughness: 1.
Flavor:  That?  That was nothing.  Now the fight in Portal Square.  That was a fight.

Name:   The Vortex
Subtitle:  Talent Edge
Cost:  0
Text:   Unique.  You may only play this card if you have 4 Talent resources in your pool (any combination of, or).  Discard X cards :: Cancel target character, state or edge until end of turn.  X = target�s cost, with a minimum of 1.  If you ever have 0 cards in your hand, the player to your left gains control of The Vortex.
Flavor:   Not even Lo Chang could fully control it � at best he could temporarily bend it to his will.

Name:  The Demon Horde
Subtitle:   Big Trouble
Cost:  5
Fight:  6
Text:  Unique.  Whenever Demon Horde would take damage, it takes 1 damage instead.  Cannot be healed.
Flavor:  Rawr!

Name:  Caboom's Commandos
Subtitle:   Netherworld Mercenaries
Cost:  3
Provides: (none)
Fight:  4
Text:  Whenever Caboom's Commandoes deal damage to a character, draw a number of cards equal to that damage.  Whenever Caboom's Commandoes deal damage to a site, that site�s controller must discard 1 card at random.
Flavor:  As crazy as their commander, they
planted the explosives around Wudang Mountain

Name:  Reversion
Subtitle:  Temporary Alliance State
Cost:  1
Text:  Subject Character gains Stealth, Assassinate and +2 Fighting.
Too... much... magic...

Name:  Sky Dragon vNew
Subtitle:  Transformed Master

Fight:  X
Text:  Unique.  Toughness: 2  Choose a face up Feng Shui site when Sky Dragon enters play.  X = the chosen site�s body at the time Sky Dragon entered play.  Sky Dragon may not be cancelled.
Instead of killing him, being buried under Wudang Mountain transformed him.

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Well, if you've been following the news, you will know that Shadowfist is once again in transition. Basically, the new base set Critical Shift has been postponed, and while Z-Man games will still continue to publish Shadowfist, a new group will be taking over development.  You can read Zev's full letter here.

I put up a short strategy article on something I like to refer to asramp-up characters.

I got a little feedback on my review of a certainBuro Scientist -- As always, I enjoy feedback!

Bonus feature --  Thanks to Alan Hege for suggesting aRing of Gates list -- keep your tech up to date and stop all the listed cards from returning to hand!

I have my reviews updated and integrated.  As a bonus feature, I've added an icon to indicate the cards that I think are the best of the best.  If you disagree with anything you find here at the Secret HQ, let me know!  I've also updated the strategy article Beat the Ascended to take into account cards from the most recent expansions, as well as adding an entire new article Beat the Dragons.

I'm working on integrating my reviews for the last three sets (RW, 7MvU and 2FT) into my master card review list.  I'm revising my comments to take in the seasoning of the sets.  I've already completed the Architects, and expect it to take a week or two for me to finish.

This is a pretty cool list of designators by frequency from  I also updated the Hacker andUnderworld Tracker lists.

5/1/05 Kublacon Report
We had a great turnout (maybe the best ever) for the Shadowfist events this year.  I think we had 21 for the Final Brawl and 27 for the Whirlpool of Blood.  Zev and Paul were out from Z-Man and it was great to see them again.  Steve V and Eric L. (thanks for the pizza pies) and Erik B. were up from SoCal.  And the Long-distance award goes to Allan Hege and friends for coming all the way out from Chi-town.  I played in 3 tournaments, as well as a plenty of KublaCon's signature friendly play pickup games.

Array of Stunts:  For those of you who don't know this format, it's pretty wacky -- you start with 8 FSS in play, and the win condition is 16 FSS.  I think almost everyone had mixed feelings about the Event, and generally, the format still needs a lot of work.  First off, Sunless Sea Ruins needs to be banned (as a starting site) -- it's just so good that you cripple yourself by not starting it.  Also, the format is very slow -- with so many cards in play, it takes extra time to figure out your plays.  And, after 90 minutes, you tended to find that everyone was no closer to victory than they were at the start of the game.  Erik B. had a pretty good suggestion of moving down to 6 starting sites and 12 for victory.  I did okay, winning one game on a time-out with 15 sites.  I was playing a mostly mono-faction Ascended deck, with a few extra goodies (some Buddhist Monks and Confucians).  Just in case you're keeping score, Jan crushed all on-comers with his Da Boys/Tranquil Persuader deck.

Final Brawl:  The big event was 3-player games this year, instead of the normal 4.  That makes a fair amount of difference as in 3-player, you don't have as much time to develop -- it favors tighter decks, and it also favors mono-faction as you are less likely to lose a fast game to a resource hose.  I just grabbed a moderate sized deck (which wound up being my Netherworld Ally deck built for the Comrades in Arms format) and tried my luck.  This deck is as much bad than good, trying for crazy Ice Falcon damage (with Stand Together and Armies of the Monarchs!)  The good part of the deck was Big Bruisers and Is That All You Gots?!? (more on this later)

First round I was up against Mono-Dragon and Dragon/Jammer Netherflitter (Pete).  The Dragon deck stalled, and I was able to get out an early Big Bruiser, which was hard for them to deal with.  I got lucky on my bid for the win, in that I was able to avoid a Golden Comeback on a Righteous One.

Round two saw my facing a fast Architect deck (Erik B) and a Bloody Horde/Evil Twin deck (Quyen).  Quyen and I both stalled, and Erik got a near perfect start, dropping a Test Subject, followed by CHAR for a very early win (and some timely Architect zaps).

The next round again had be paired with Quyen and another mono-Architect deck but this time played by Robert S.  This Architect deck was very different, and was based more around playing characters out of turn that pure beats and zaps.  Robert started out strong, with an early Secret HQ  and was really able to work the out of turn characters.  Quyen and I had to team up to beat the Architects down, and we had a pretty good drawn-out game, with the lead changing several times.  After various beats, I was able to get in a win when both players were out of juice with a Big Bruiser (although I had a Ring of Gates, Whirlpool of Blood and a Brain Fire in hand, so I was in a good position to beat denial).

Round four had me up against Jan's Evil Queen deck (Evil Twins and Queens) and a mono-Monarch Legacy deck played by Michael L.  This was the only game that really ended in a Kingmaker situation.. Jan was pretty much steamrolling, so the game was mostly a 2 on 1.  My Stand Together naming Netherworld helped the Monarch player more than me.  We were getting very close to the time limit, so Jan decided to go for the win -- I used up my stoppage, denying the win, but allowing the Monarch player to cruise in for the win next turn.  Since he had ripped the winning site off of Jan, I was able to squeak into the finals on my tiebreak (all three of us had scrambled to get three sites burned-for-victory late game because of the possibility of a time-out).

The final table had me, the Michael's Monarch deck from the last game and Allen Hege playing a Dragon/Seven Masters "Is Red Bat All You Got?!?" deck (I almost played mine for this tournament).  This was an excellent game, with lots of lead changes, and lots of table politics.  Allen tried some early bullying, but his strong board belied his talk, and we would have non of that =)   This game was all about teaming up to take down the leader, and I think all of us got beat down a couple times.  But, Alan had the late game juice with the double  free Red Bat action, and was able to power his way to victory.  I would say the Big Bruiser/ITAYG combo was the MVP of the event (both Alan and I got lots of mileage out of it).

Whirlpool of Blood:  The draft was a little unusual this year, as we drafted a ton of cards -- I think it was 7 packs added to a Standard starter.  With this many cards, you could get a pretty trim deck.  I played mostly hand, with only 5 Ascended cards (for Bite of the Jellyfish) and 3 unaligned characters (Ninja Six, Big Daddy Voodoo and Reverend Payne).  The first game I got in some good beats with Shaolin Master and Kwan Lung-Wei, but Miguel's deck had both the King and Queen, and that was too much beats for anyone.  In round two, I came out strong again, and was able to use a Bite to my advantage to get out just too many characters to be stopped for the win.  At that point, it was getting late, and I dropped and said my goodbyes.

News and Rumor Central:  This is the part you've all been waiting for.  Remember, these are just rumors, and their level of veracity is uncertain.
    1.  Zev has dabbled into the book publishing venue with Babies First Mythos -- I can personally vouch for this excellent book, and my son will be learning his Mythos ABCs.
    2.  Z-Man games has struck a deal to publish English-language versions of some German board games.  Primordial Soup is already out (I didn't get a chance to play, but a lot of people really liked the game).
    3.  The next Shadowfist publication will be Critical Shift -- a 400+ card starter/booster set, and it's targeted for November release for GenCon SoCal (but may slip).
    4.  Critical Shift will be mostly reprints, but they are shooting for about 20% new cards
    5.  Critical Shift will be balanced for sealed/draft play, although players/tournament organizes will have to provide extra foundation characters (think of it is land in MTG draft).
    5.  Critical Shift may have a new faction, although it's not set in stone -- I think it comes down to how playable the set is in limited (the new faction will probably be near unplayable in limited because of so few cards) vs. using the new faction as a selling point.
    6.  Speaking of reprints, Critical Shift will contain some of the most sought after Promo cards (such as Open a Can of Whupass and White Ninja) as regular cards
    7.  The Standard edition Queen of the Ice Pagoda is marked for death.  Expect Critical Shift to contain the Z-Man Ice Queen with the addition of an Errata symbol, allowing you to play your old Queens, but as MRP (most recent printing).
    8.  There is going to be a new constructed Critical Shift format.  Look for both Old School events and Critical Shift events at next year's GenCon.

KublaCon is coming at the end of the month -- this is the premiere Northern California Shadowfist event -- be there!  Also, towards the end of summer, look for Critical Shift, a Shadowfist starter/booster set designed to be compatible with limited (draft and sealed) game play.

View Old News...

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