"Got to keep that killin' pace." -Alice in Chains, "Dam That River"

Shadowlord Cards

Back when we were kids, my buddy Jeff had all the best board games: Crossbows and Catapults, Dark Tower, and this game from Parker Brothers, Shadowlord.

From what I can remember, Shadowlord was a bit like Monopoly set in space. Players moved around planets, built spaceships, and fought one other. The ultimate goal was to beat the Shadowlord, whose name is Starlord (no relation to Peter Quill). If you want to know more than that, here’s a link to the Cliff Notes version of the manual and here is the full manual. I’m not saying the game was complicated, but the last page of the manual says that due to the challenging nature of this complex game, players are free to call their 1-800 number for clarification of the rules.

While I don’t remember all the details of the game, what I strongly remember were the character cards that came with the game. There are four classes — masters, warriors, merchants, and diplomats — and each one has an associated number (8, 6, 3, and 0). Each player picks one master card. The other cards are drawn and acquired randomly throughout the game.

Each character class serves a different purpose. Warriors are important in battles, merchants allow you to draw more cards, and diplomats prevent your planets from being attacked. That being said, there’s no difference between cards with the same value. All fighters are the same, all merchants are the same, and all diplomats are the same. Their unique names and appearance make no difference in the game.

And yet to us, the different characters were everything! Who wanted to draw old man Kaare when you could get Viggo, a fierce lizard man! Again, within the confines of the game, there’s absolutely no difference between the two cards. They just as easily could have been plain white cards with numbers printed on them, but that would have been nowhere near as cool as these guys.

I have no idea who created the artwork for this game. The manual doesn’t mention anyone’s name, and the cards have a copyright of Parker Brothers printed on them. Best I can tell, none of the cards are signed; neither is the artwork on the box’s lid.

A few years after playing Jeff’s, I got my own copy of Shadowlord from a local discount store. The box had been opened, and when I got it home I discovered it was unplayable due to missing pieces. My mom took me back to the store and the teenage cashier let me combine two boxes into one, thus giving me roughly 1 3/4 copies of the game.

I have no interest in revisiting the game (nor do I have the time or patience to relearn all those rules!), but I recently had a strong desire to see those cards again. The scans I found online were small and incomplete. so I did what any (in)sane person would do — I bought a set of the cards off of eBay, and scanned them in.

The cards are roughly the size of playing cards, but printed on what feels like cardboard. Each picture was as great as I had remembered them, and as I thumbed through them I remembered recalled the dumb backstories we had created for some of them. Folke and Elayne were fraternal twins, the illegitimate offspring of the Air and Fire Masters. Or was it Selwyn? It’s been a long time.

If you want to download the complete set of cards, here you go: shadowlord_cards.zip

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