Collectible card games


Shadowfist logo
Players 2 or more
Age range 13 and up
Playing time variable
Random chance Some
Skill(s) required Card playing

Shadowfist was created by Robin Laws and Jose Garcia. It was released in 1995 as a collectable card game (CCG), but was shifted to a fixed distribution of cards as of 2013. It shares the same background as the Feng Shui role-playing game, also created by Laws and Garcia and released the following year.


Shadowfist is a multi-player asymmetrical strategic game, the design of which is influenced by games such as Cosmic Encounter, Dune by Avalon Hill, Magic: The Gathering and its direct predecessor, On the Edge.

Shadowfist is primarily inspired by Hong Kong action cinema and wuxia films of the late 1980s and 1990s, and by action films in general. In the game, various factions from across time battle for control of the world's Feng Shui sites in a conflict known as the "Secret War." Time travel takes place through an alternate dimension known as the Netherworld which opens to various time junctures. The current open junctures are AD 86, 1867, and 2013. The pulp (1942) and future (2072) junctures were previously open in the game, but were closed with the 2013 (Combat in Kowloon release). Unlike Feng Shui, Shadowfist's time junctures move forward as time actually progresses, permitting new game releases to reflect the present.

The titles of cards and the flavor text in the game are rife with humor and pop culture references, especially the Jammers faction, which contains cards such as "Furious George" and "Entropy is your Friend."

Publication History

Shadowfist was originally published as a CCG by Daedalus Entertainment until they went out of business in 1996. The license was acquired by Zev Shlasinger in 2000; Shlasinger had primarily established his game company, Z-Man Games, to bring Shadowfist back. Z-Man Games released ten new sets over the next five years, before moving on to other projects. The next year a group of fans formed Shadowfist Games to continue publishing sets. This group worked with Shlasinger to publish the next three sets between 2006 and 2009.

Shadowfist remained a CCG, with randomized distribution of cards within decks or packs, from its inception through the last Shadowfist Games set in 2009. No new sets were then published, until 2013.

The game is now being published by Inner Kingdom Games, originally founded by Daniel Griego and Braz King, but currently managed solely by Griego. The card set that would become Combat in Kowloon and Back for Seconds (in January 2013) was originally slated to be a single booster pack release using the long-standing CCG model. It carried the working title "Hong Kong 2010" from its design and development in 2009 through play-testing in 2010 and art design in early 2011.

In 2011, Inner Kingdom Games re-published the award-winning Seven Masters vs. the Underworld expansion. After only moderate success with this release, Inner Kingdom Games switched Shadowfist from the CCG model to the fixed distribution Dynamic Card Game (DCG) model. The DCG model was directly inspired by the Living Card Game (LCG) model in use by several other card games, many of which also transitioned from the CCG model.

To fund new sets, Inner Kingdom Games conducted a Kickstarter campaign in August 2012 that exceeded the required funding targets. Inner Kingdom Games broke up “Hong Kong 2010” into two separate releases ("Combat in Kowloon" and "Back for Seconds"), and published them beginning in January 2013, along with the first fixed-distribution expansion (“Reloaded”).

Basic Story

The world of Shadowfist follows the background of the Feng Shui role playing game, where the art of Chinese geomancy, or Feng Shui, is real. Thus, control of this world does not depend on military might or political pull but on control of major Feng Shui sites. These are in-game locations that channel the greatest amount of Chi, the energy of life. Having more personal Chi than your opposition causes "everything goes your way", statistically speaking. With enough Chi, characters can see and use portals to the Netherworld, an alternate dimension that connects the various junctions in time.

These characters are generally aligned with one of several warring factions, and. each game of Shadowfist represents one battle in this ‘secret war’. Each battle contributes to the story, since controlling enough sites in a past juncture would allow a faction to take control of the planet and dramatically alter all subsequent junctures. Of course, those who already control the past and the future are all trying to do the same.

Game play

Players create a deck of cards (typically 40-80 total) and draw blind from a randomized stack, playing cards when possible and discarding unneeded cards. Card types include: Sites, Characters, Events, Edges and States. Sites are considered locations that stay in play permanently until removed or destroyed. Characters are used to attack and defend locations or other characters or generate effects and stay in play until 'smoked' or 'toasted', Events are played at any time and generate a specific effect and are then discarded. Edges are permanent cards that generate effects. States are played on other card in order to modify them or provide an additional effect.

The goal of Shadowfist is to accumulate five Feng Shui sites (or six in a two-player game). These can be played from a player's hand or taken from other players. However, in order to win the game, a player's final Feng Shui site must be taken from another player. Attacking and attacking to win the game are very different events during the game. The former might only draw a response from the defending player while the latter will certainly draw a response from all the other players in the game.

Players must meet both the power cost and resource requirements of a card to play it. Power represents a player's assets (money, firepower, chutzpah, etc.) and is primarily generated by players’ sites at the beginning of their turn. Resources represent either a faction's increasing involvement in the conflict or additional access to one of three talents (Tech, Magic, and Chi). Resources are typically provided by players’ characters. Spent power is taken from the player's power pool but resources remain available, even after characters are killed off in game.

Shadowfist uses a "last in, first out" or LIFO system for resolving effects. When an effect is generated by the playing of a card or from the rules text of a card in play, a new scene begins and players can generally respond with new effects. After the final new effect in the scene is generated, they begin to resolve beginning with the newest effect and ending with the oldest.

Shadowfist, released in 1995, differs from its CCG contemporaries in that focuses on multi-player gameplay rather than dueling. A key factor in Shadowfist gameplay is that players must team together to stop the player who is poised to win the game. All players can play cards that affect any other player's cards, even if they are not directly involved in attacking or being attacked. One of the most important skills in the game is judging when and how to use resources for defense against other players in lieu of attacking power. One of the other major differences between Shadowfist and other CCGs in multi-player is the fluidity of the game: players are never removed from the game and can often recover quickly from even the most crushing defeat.


There have been up to ten factions involved in the secret war:

Set History

The future

Continuing with the Dynamic Card Game (DCG) model, Inner Kingdom Games released two additional expansions for 2013, Shadowfist: Reinforcements and Shadowfist: Revelations.

These expansions featured 50 new cards as well as 50 cards from the LCG era. The reprints include cards updated and revamped to better fit the game environment.

Starting in 2014 releases will follow a 3 pack story block. Playtesting for these is underway as of December 2013.

The Story so Far...

Each set has some back-story involved, which often is shown via the card names and their flavor text (the italicized non-rules text on the cards). There is often fiction posted which fleshes out the story.


Ken St. Andre comments: "A game of Shadowfist is more than card against card. It's guile against guile. And don't we all want to be the mastermind who controls both Time and Fortune?"