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Magic: The Gathering creator’s most underrated game - in his own opinion - is getting a re-release

SpyNet returns as Shadow Blades.

Image credit: Korea Boardgames

One of the most overlooked games in Magic: The Gathering, Android: Netrunner and King of Tokyo creator Richard Garfield’s ludography - at least, according to the legendary designer himself - will see a re-release later this year.

SpyNet was originally released back in 2017. Like much of Garfield’s best-known work, the game centres around a clever and strategic use of cards. Two players (or two teams, allowing for up to four players) draft cards from a row of facedown piles, before adding the cards from their hand to four stacks of colour-coded cards in front of them to increase their agents’ strength and complete missions by overpowering their opponent(s).

The trick is that in order to see the facedown piles in the middle of the table, you must add a card from your hand to each pile you pass over, gradually building up fuller and more tempting stacks for your rival to pick up. The cards include a mixture of agents, missions and funding, which can be combined to activate unique effects and maximise each colour’s strength.

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Despite SpyNet’s connection to the legendary card game designer, inventive drafting gameplay and short half-hour playtime, it largely flew under the radar when it first released - leading Garfield himself to tell Dicebreaker in 2020 that he considered it one of his most overlooked games.

“I was surprised that game [SpyNet] didn't get more of a following,” he acknowledged. “It is a team card game, like Tichu. There are not many of those and I thought that those that love that category would be happy to see it. Also, it plays quite well with two players.

“I think part of the problem might have been that it was presented primarily as a team game - a strategy I supported - because the team play in many games seems like an afterthought. Unfortunately this had the unexpected effect that players didn't take the two-player version seriously - which is ironic because it was designed for two and that is where the majority of my play has been.”

Garfield repeated the sentiment in a recent BoardGameGeek forum post, saying that the game’s focus on team play “while well intentioned was misguided” and admitting that the cards’ many abilities required repeat playthroughs to avoid feeling too “swingy” or random.

“I was really expecting more traction with this game; It might be the game of my design that I play the most,” he said.

SpyNet may get a second shot at success thanks to Korean publisher Korea Boardgames, which plans to re-release the card game under the new title of Shadow Blades later this year. The first artwork for the game shows a retheming from the original’s espionage and futuristic hacking to characters equipped with bows, blades and fans. (Thanks, BoardGameGeek.)

According to Garfield, Shadow Blades will stick close to SpyNet’s gameplay. “We talked about varying the mechanics but it is mostly hewing close to the original,” he confirmed, adding: “It looks terrific.” The artwork also confirmed that the game will maintain its two-to-four player count and half-hour length.

Korea Boardgames will release Shadow Blades at this year’s Essen Spiel convention in Germany, which takes place from October 5th to 8th.

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Matt Jarvis avatar

Matt Jarvis

Editor-in-chief

After starting his career writing about music, films and video games for various places, Matt spent many years as a technology, PC and video game journalist before writing about tabletop games as the editor of Tabletop Gaming magazine. He joined Dicebreaker as editor-in-chief in 2019, and has been trying to convince the rest of the team to play Diplomacy since.
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