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  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Cute and thematic artwork across all components. The character designs are adorable and enchanting.
  • Fairly good replayability due to the variation of character abilities and hex tile arrangements each game.
  • Friendly competition – it’s fun to cast spells and build up your powers to attack your opponents!

Might Not Like

  • Doesn’t feel as balanced or as fun with 2 or 3 players.
  • Hex abilities are not printed on the tiles so you have to keep flicking through the guide book.
  • Spell cards feel a little bit samey.
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Casting Shadows Second Opinion


Game Overview

Casting Shadows takes place in a world filled with powerful magic and inherent power seeped into the land itself. Taking on the role of a journeyman mage seeking to unlock the true secrets of Shadow Casting and maybe obtain the form of their ultimate potential while doing battle with rivals who seek the same secrets as you. Each Mage comes from a lineage of powerful magical creatures and while they may begin the game as a mere stripling, through collecting and harnessing the power of Shadows the may uncover the secrets to unlock the true form of their race. Through this quest they will encounter powerful foes and allies, delve into the depths of arcane knowledge through the collection of spells and artefacts that will pave the way to even greater magics that you will need to survive as you travel far from your home and encounter strange creatures in a contest where only the strongest can prevail.

While Casting Shadows may seem whimsically simple on the surface, don’t let that fool you into thinking it has appeal only for younger players. True, it is a perfect family game but that doesn’t mean it has no appeal to more seasoned players either as strategy, tactical thinking and shrewd plays are the key to success. I can easily see this as the kind of game that could become addictive to competitive players since given it’s quick setup and reset time, it nicely lends itself to the question that transcends all games. Best of three?

Play Style

Casting Shadows is, at its heart, a competitive turn based strategy game. Players will vie for supremacy by gathering Resources, Collecting new Spells or upgrading those already in your Spellbook. Should you wish you can rule the board through offensive power alone, dealing overwhelming damage until you are the last one standing. Or perhaps you might prefer to win through cunning use of defensive magic, frustrating your opponent’s efforts to defeat you until you can strike the decisive blow. Established players of other games may already have a play style they prefer which can easily be transferred to Casting Shadows. Whereas new players may discover the play style best suited to them which they can carry to other games. Regardless of how you play, gathering of resources is key. One piece of advice I offer is to not rush too quickly into battle. Spend your first few turns collecting spells and resources from the board as a varied collection of both will serve you well in the long run.


The first step in setting up Casting Shadows is to choose your character which comes with a Player Board and corresponding Meeple, a small wooden figure that marks their travels across the map. Regardless of choice, each character begins with 18 Hit Points (referred to as HP from here on in) and 0 Shadow Energy. To start the game each character will begin in their base form which has the HP tracker on the right hand side. Each Player will then place their character on the chosen playing surface, leaving enough space for the five cards that will form your Spellbook along with a Reference Card.

That done, the next step is to set up the Map. The Map will consist of three standard Hex Tiles and one Home Hex Tile for each chosen Character. Since two Characters is the minimum that can be chosen each map will be made of at least 5 Hex Tiles. To start with select the Ancient Ruin Hex Tile as the centre of the Map. Then place the Dusty Dessert Hex Tile on the left hand side of the Ancient Ruin Hex Tile and the Underground Volcano Hex Tile on the right hand side. Then each Player places the Home Hex Tile of their chosen character onto the Map starting from Player 1 who is always the youngest Player. Player 1 will place their Hex Tile at the bottom right of the Map. Player 2 will place their Hex Tile at the bottom left of the Map. Player 3 will place their Hex Tile at the top left of the Map. And finally Player 4 will place their Hex Tile at the top right of the Map.

Once the Map has been created, each Player places their Meeple on their Home Hex Tile. The next step is to shuffle the Counterspell deck and place it face down next to the Dusty Desert Hex Tile. Once that is done shuffle the Main Deck and place 1 card face up from the Main Deck next to each Hex Tile that surrounds the Ancient Ruin Hex Tile apart from the Dusty Desert Hex Tile. Place the remaining Main Deck Cards face down within reach of all Players, leaving room for a Discard Pile.

Next Shuffle the Companion Deck, place it face down in reach of all Players and then flip up the top 3 cards to form the Companion Portal where each Player can summon a Companion. Finally place all Tokens and dice near the play area within reach of all Players and you are good to go.


The objective of Casting Shadows is as uncomplicated as the game itself, simply defeat your rivals by reducing their Hit Points to zero before they do the same to you. Aiding you in this goal will be both offensive, defensive and disruptive Spells that can quickly turn the tide of battle. Which can be simple enough in a two player game, since it can quickly become a duel between both players as the vie for supremacy and victory. Three or more Players adds an extra level of challenge. Do you join the fray early and seek an early victory or do you hold back, gathering power while others do battle hoping for an easy win over the weakened victor? Beware because as you wait and gather your power, so will other Players.


Before we get into the Turn Sequence, its important that we cover Resources first since the Turn Sequence will be more relatable with a general knowledge of what these Resources are. Resources are critical in Casting Shadows as they will help you both Collect and Cast Spells. At the start of the game, you will only be able to gather Resources from the Dice Pool generated at the start of the turn. As things progress you will also have the chance to Collect Resource Cards. But we will come onto those later. Also some Hex Tiles provide Resources to Players that begin their turn on them as well, so keep that in mind as you play.

Resources that can be gained include Gems, Orbs, Shadow Fragments and Cursed Crystals. Gems and Orbs come in two base colours; Red and Blue alongside rare Purple Gems and Orbs which can be used as either colour. Shadow Fragments provide energy for powerful spells or they can be saved to increase your Shadow Tracker. Cursed Crystals are tainted artefacts of dangerous magic that will hurt you if the power they contain if any remain at the end of a Players Turn.

Now, let’s look at both the Dice Pool and have a look at the Dice themselves. The Dice Pool consists of the results rolled from the 5 Resource Dice. Each Dice displays on it’s sides the 4 different Resources we mentioned earlier; Gems, Orbs, Shadow Fragments and Cursed Crystals. Out of the 5 Dice available, all of them have one face that shows a Shadow Fragment and one that shows a Cursed Crystal. The remaining four sides are divided equally between Gems and Orbs. Upon closer inspection you will notice that the Dice are also separated by colour of Gems and Orbs, with two Dice that grant Blue Gems and Orbs, two Dice that grant Red Gems and Orbs and one Dice that grants Purple Gems and Orbs.

Given that Purple Gems and Orbs can be used to pay for Spells of any colour, they can often be the most useful Dice to hold onto when deciding to re-roll. If for example you have rolled a Dice Pool that gives you a Purple Gem, two Blue Gems, a Red Orb and a Shadow Fragment it could benefit you to re-roll the two Blue Gems to see if you can find another Orb.

The other way to Collect Gems and Orbs is through the use of Resource Cards that can be Collected from the Main Deck. Throughout Casting Shadows you will find Resource Cards representing Gems and Orbs both Blue and Red. A Resource Card can be added to your Spell Book much like a Spell Card can, the difference being that you only need to Spend 1 Action Point to acquire it. Each Resource Card can be spent to add the Resource it displays to your Resource Pool by Discarding that Card. Like all other Resources once a Resource Card is added to your Pool it will be lost at the end of the turn, so a wise Player will keep Resource Cards in his or her Spell Book until they are needed.

Player Turn Sequence

Player 1 will always go first and will pass to the next Player around the board in a clockwise direction. Players will continue taking turns until they are eliminated from the game. The last Player standing will win the game.

Each Player Turn is broken down into 3 phases; Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3. Each Phase must be done in sequence and can only be done once per Turn. Actions taken in some Phases can affect the results of the Phase that came before but I’ll go into that later.

Phase 1 is where a Player generates the resources by rolling the 5 Resource Dice to form the Resource Pool. The results of these Dice will be the Resources that can be spent during this turn. Additionally some Hex Tiles grant extra Resources that are added to the Pool at this point

Phase 2 is where a Player can make use of 4 Action Points that may be spent to take an Action including Travel, Cast, Reroll, Protect, Refresh and Collect. Each Action costs 1 Action Point and can be performed more than once if you have enough Action Points to spend. Action Points that are not used do not carry over to a Player’s next Turn. You are not required to use all 4 Action Points in a Turn but those that are not used will be lost.

Travel allows a Player to move his or her Character to a Hex Tile adjacent to the one their Meeple is currently standing on. Characters cannot cross more than 1 Hex Tile with one Action although they can cross multiple tiles in one turn providing they have the Action Points.

Cast allows a Player to use a Spell from his or her Spellbook as long as they have the Resources to pay for that Spell including Gems and Orbs of the corresponding Colour and Spells of the required level. This will be covered in more detail when we get to the section on Spells.

Reroll allows a Player to Reroll any number of Resource Dice. Not all Dice have to be Rerolled, allowing a Player to selectively keep certain Resources. This Action cannot be used to Reroll Cursed Crystals.

Protect allows a Player to remove 1 Cursed Crystal from their Resource Pool to limit or prevent the damage done by any remaining Cursed Crystals at the end of the turn.

Refresh allows a Player to discard the card next to the Hex Tile they are currently on and replace it with the top card from the Main Deck. This Action cannot affect the Cards next to the Ancient Rune or Dusty Desert Hex Tiles.

Collect allows a Player to purchase a Spell, Counterspell or Resource Card next to the Hex Tile they are currently on by spending the Collection Cost from your Resource Pool. The purchased Card is then placed in your Spellbook and replaced with the top Card of the Main Deck. In the case of Counterspells collected from the Dusty Desert Hex Tile, replace it with the top card of the Counterspell Deck instead.

Phase 3 is the final Phase of a Players Turn. First the Player may absorb any remaining Shadow Fragments from their Resource Pool to increase their Shadow Tracker by that amount. They then may, if they posses enough Shadow Energy, Transform into Shadow Form; at which point they flip over their Player Board to the other side.

Regardless of the amount of Shadow Fragments absorbed a Player first reduces their Hit Points by the number of Cursed Crystals remaining in their Resource Pool. Then remove all unspent Resources from the Resource Pool before passing Turn to the next Player.

Home Tiles and Hex Tile Benefits

As mentioned earlier, each Character in Casting Shadows has a Home Hex Tile from which they begin the Game. All Hex Tiles offer a unique Bonus to any Player standing on that Hex Tile. Some effects are granted at the start of a Turn while others last for the duration of said Turn. Choosing which tile to end your Turn on can prove vital. Be aware that depending on which Characters are chosen, not all Hex Tiles may be available.

Shadow Forms and Shadow Casting

I could hardly do a review of Casting Shadows without penning a section on the very aspect that gives this game its name. Personally I’ve always found games with a transformation aspect very appealing, something that I rarely see outside of franchise games so seeing it here was a very pleasant surprise. Also, and I’m willing to accept this is just me, but I always get a little bit of a kick playing as ‘Dark’ characters. Darth Vader from Star Wars. BlackWarGreymon from Digimon. Heck, one of the most fun experiences I had in a video game was from Gundam Battle Assault 2 where after unlocking Psycho Gundam I would just smash through the game in a towering all black OTT Robot. But I’m digressing. As mentioned previously, at the end of a Players turn, any remaining Shadow Fragments from the Resource can be absorbed as Shadow Energy.

Once a Player as absorbed 3 Shadow Fragments, those 3 Points of Shadow Energy can be spent to transform into your Characters Shadow Form. These forms represent the ultimate potential of the character’s race and species.

In the case of Haze Greentongue, my favourite, he transforms from a chameleon like lizard into Haze the Devastator, a Dragon of terrible size and power. One possessed of a magical flame that devastates everything around him.

Or take Kit Gale, a wandering mage with the form of a fox, who transforms into Kit the Turbulent, a Kitsune or nine tailed fox whose innate magical potential allows him to strike his enemies from great distances away.

It’s worth noting here that Shadow Energy is spent to transform so after you do so, your Shadow Energy will be returned to zero. Of course you can still collect more at the end of each turn as you would normally. And you would be wise to collect more, as each Character can spend a set amount of Shadow Energy to trigger their unique ability during Phase 2 of a Players turn. Using this ability doesn’t cost an Action either. This ability can be used as often as a Player likes provided they have the required Shadow Energy.

Another bonus of transforming to your Shadow Form is that it allows you to choose a Companion from the 3 Face Up Companion Cards above the board. One of the details of this game that bugs me is that you can only have one Companion per game, so you will have to make this choice very carefully. And from a very limited choice of options. Something that the House Rules I’ll come onto later will fix.

Another interesting point is that spending all of your absorbed Shadow Energy does not transform you back to your base form as you might expect. Certainly that’s what I expected when I first heard about Casting Shadows. Still, that’s really a bonus when you think about it since that means you can spend Shadow Energy freely without worrying about losing your Transformed State. And likely at that stage of the game you won’t want to draw things out anyway.


Resources of course are only useful if you have something to spend them on. And in the case of Casting Shadows, that something is Spells. Along with Resource Cards, Spell Cards form the other half of the Main Deck. Spell Cards come in 2 different types; Attack Spells and Conversion Spells. Attack Spells are the means by which you will attack your Opponent and come with a variety of Effects, Levels and Ranges. Each Spell will have a Level that dictates its power and it’s Collection Cost. The Level of a Spell is marked by the Level Symbol in the top right corner, that of 3 shooting stars with a number beside it to indicate that Level. In this Core Set 3 is the highest Level of Spell available. Generally the higher the Level of a Spell, the greater the Damage and Range it will possess. And on that point, let’s move onto Range.

In the bottom right hand corner of each Attack Spell Card you will see a diagram of 7 Hexagon Tiles with a Pawn Symbol on the lowest Hexagon. The Pawn Symbol represents the current position of your Character’s Meeple. And Hexagons that are shaded in a deep pink are the number of Hex Tiles that Spell can target. Some may only affect Hex Tiles adjacent to the 1 your Meeple is standing on, while others can affect any Hex Tile up to 2 tiles away from you. Conversely some may only affect the Tile your Meeple is currently on. There can be a lot of variations that you will encounter when you play Casting Shadows.

Spell Cards will also deal their Damage in one of two different ways. They can either target an Enemy in Range of the Spell or a Hex Tile in Range of that Spell. Spells that target an Enemy in Range can only affect one Enemy upon that Hex Tile, no matter how many Enemies might currently stand upon it. Spells that Target a Hex Tile will deal the damage to all Enemies that are currently on that Tile.

Conversion Spells are markedly different from Attack Spells. To start with they do not posses Range as these Spells can only affect Resources you currently have in your Resource Pool. Conversion Spells allow a Player to convert Resources of one Type into another or add extra Resources to the Pool for the duration of the turn only. This can include but is not limited to; turning a Gem of one Colour into an Orb of the same Colour, turning a Orb of one Colour into a Gem of the same Colour or turning 1 Gem in your Pool into two Gems of the same Colour. Some powerful Conversion Spells can even turn detrimental Cursed Crystals into a Gem of your choice.

Of course each Spell Card has a cost, both to Collect it for your Spell Book and to Cast it for its effect. A Spell’s Collection Cost is always shown on the left hand side of the Card as a number of Gems and Orbs, that can either be Red, Blue or Colourless. Colourless Costs are always shown as a Grey Gem or Orb and can be paid for by the matching Resource of any Colour. Some powerful Spells may require a Spell of a certain Level as part of the Collection Cost marked by a Grey Spell Icon with the required Level beside it. In this case along with any Orbs or Gems that must be spent, a Player must discard a Spell from their Spell Book of the required Level. Once a Spell or Resource card has been Collected by a Player, it must then be replaced with the top card of the corresponding Deck next to the Hex Tile the collected card was removed from.

While some Spells can be Cast for free, others will have additional costs required to Cast them which are always listed in the Effect Text at the bottom of the Card. You will also come across Spells that possess effects which allow for scaling of Damage for an increased Cost. Pheonix Flash, as an example, offers increasing Damage for Each Red Gem spent to activate it’s Effect. One Red Gem spent allows it to deal 3 Damage, Two Red Gems for 5 Damage and 3 Red Gems for 6 Damage.

While the only Spell Cards in the Main Deck are the 2 types mentioned above, there is a 3rd type that has its own Deck; Counterspell Cards. Counterspell Cards are powerful Spells that can be used to evade, protect yourself from or retaliate against Spells Cast by your Enemies. A Counterspell may only be Collected from the Dusty Desert Hex Tile. A Counterspell has no cost marked on its Card. Instead a Player may spent 1 Action Point, 1 Gem and 1 Orb regardless of Colour to take one Card from the top of the Counterspell Deck. This Card may be viewed by the Player that owns it at any time but must be kept secret from other Players. Counterspell Cards count towards the maximum Spells a Player can have in their Spellbook. A Counterspell may be played in reaction to any Player’s Attack Spell at the time of Casting.

Health and Victory

The Objective of Casting Shadows is to be the last Mage standing when the dust of battle has cleared. Through the skilful use of Spells, Counterspells, Allies and Shadow Energy, a Player must prevent loss of their HP while doing as much damage as possible to their Enemies. When a Player is reduced to 0 HP they are eliminated from the game. Play will then continue until only one Player is left on the board. At this point that surviving Player becomes the Winner. Sounds simple. Well..what are you waiting for? Pick up a copy and try it for yourself. (Add link here.)

House Rules

As with any game I play, there are always a few rules or aspects of gameplay I find don’t sit right with me; ones that I often adjust with a set of House Rules. For some games those House Rules can be quite extensive. Luckily that isn’t the case with Casting Shadows. Here there is only one Rule that I would change, the limit of 1 Ally Card per Player. It seems a waste to have such a wide Roster of Allies and only have access to 1 of them. So I’m throwing in a House Rule that you are free to add to your game if you wish. Any Player can, during their Turn only, pay 4 Shadow Energy to take a second Ally from the Ally Portal. All other standard Rules for Allies still apply. This Rule can only be used once and no Player can have more than 2 Allies.


Overall Rating - 4/5

Artwork - 5/5

Complexity - 4/5

Replayability - 5/5

Component Quality - 4/5


love the whimsical, charming feel of the whole game. Despite being about gathering evil magic, Casting Shadows has managed to not let that overwhelm the flow of the game and turn it into something dark and scary. It has an endearing innocence about it in a way I can quite put my finger on. On a more tangible note, the whole concept sits with the perfect balance of complexity. Not too simple as to be boring but not over complicated either. I would recommend a leisurely read through of the Rule Book before you first play it but no more so than any other game. Also, I love the design of the Characters. Each one is just adorable yet real at the same time. I know as a writer it’s not hard for me to create a backstory for a character but with these it was even easier. The little details on the character boards really give you a feel for who they are.


On the whole, I dislike nothing about this game. As usual, if I’m pressed to find things I would improve, I would have preferred a different design of character marker than the Meeples. Given the love and attention to detail that has gone into artwork and quality of the Player Boards and Cards, these rather simplistic figures feel a bit of a let down when the same detail could have been applied.

Final Thoughts

I had high hopes for this game when I picked it up, already making a space for it in my collection rather than selling it one when my review had been written. And it certainly didn’t disappoint and most certainly earned that place. I’m sure I’ll be picking up, and reviewing, more content from this game series down the line. And I’d highly recommend it to anyone who asks

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Zatu Score


  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Cute and thematic artwork across all components. The character designs are adorable and enchanting.
  • Fairly good replayability due to the variation of character abilities and hex tile arrangements each game.
  • Friendly competition its fun to cast spells and build up your powers to attack your opponents!

Might not like

  • Doesnt feel as balanced or as fun with 2 or 3 players.
  • Hex abilities are not printed on the tiles so you have to keep flicking through the guide book.
  • Spell cards feel a little bit samey.

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