Electron Dance

Dabbling with… ShadowHand

The seventh episode of a short series on games I discovered at EGX Rezzed 2016.


The biggest game of a gaming expo is musical chairs; you’re always searching for that elusive empty seat so you can sit down and play something. During the twilight time between the early birds and the Great Visitor Crush, you can make out the shape of the average gamer’s biases by spotting which chairs are free.

On the second day, I’d been through most of the titles in the Leftfield Collection and had begun sniffing around the densely packed greenhouse known as the Indie Room. I saw empty seats in front of something called ShadowHand from Grey Alien Games. The tables were sprinkled with gold coins and a man dressed in a highwayman’s garb stood beside them. The display immediately reminded me of Plundered Hearts (Infocom, 1987) but that probably tells you way too much about how my brain works. Anyway, empty seats; I was wondering about those biases. Gamers could pretend they were playing Sonic: Generation 2016 in Mekazoo one row over.


I was happy to take the hot seat as highwayman/developer hybrid Jake Birkett introduced me to the game. It was not until after playing that I found out that it was the next game from the people who brought you Regency Solitaire which I’d heard very good things about. ShadowHand is a card game, interspersed with short narrative cutscenes. You get to play Lady Cornelia Darkmoor who, in the small section I saw, was looking for her pal who had vanished. The official blurb explains Lady Darkmoor is "a beguiling young aristocrat who masquerades as the notorious highwaywoman, ShadowHand."

I've played Regency Solitaire since visiting Rezzed and I can confirm the core card playing mechanic is very similar. ShadowHand has this collectible card metagame going on, but Regency Solitaire also had you acquiring a sort of powerup inventory as the game progressed. It seems more an iterative change in that regard, as opposed to a radical new direction.

If you've not played Regency Solitaire it's, well, a solitaire game! Pick off as many cards as you can in sequence - you only have to count up or down numerically. ShadowHand simplifies further by dispensing with the traditional deck in favour of numbered suitless cards. The cards are arranged in all sorts of layouts where only the top cards can be taken and that made me think a little of Mahjongg.

Where ShadowHand departs from Regency becomes clear after the tutorial finishes. It is solitaire combat: the card game is the battleground for Lady Darkmoor to face off against a gallery of rogues and villains, a la Puzzle Quest. (My own favourite implementation of puzzle-based combat is the Zuma-like Evy: Magic Spheres, now relabelled as Marble Duel.)


As with Regency, complexity is shuffled in gradually. Locked cards, different weapons and attire can impact how the card game turns out. ShadowHand came across as a considered design and obviously builds upon what worked for Regency Solitaire. (And Regency was based on the original Fairway Solitaire, which Birkett worked on.)

So, yeah: liked.

Critical disclaimer: After dragging Shaun and friend over to ShadowHand, Birkett offered us chocolate coins. This, together with a Steam key for Regency Solitaire, should not be construed as an ethical conflict of interest.

Interested in the other games I dabbled with? Check out the series index!

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  1. Playstation VR was the best thing at Rezzed because I was given a Werther’s Original in the queue. And inside.

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