Waldschattenspiel – or Shadows in the Woods – is a unique game built around the mechanic of shadows.
The board represents a forest and at the start of the game you populate it with 3D wooden trees that can go anywhere as long as they don’t block the paths. Placed on the path is a candle – turn off the lights, you will be playing in the dark!
Note – the game is aimed at young children but with the candle it obviously means you need an adult present. But adults may enjoy it anyway as it’s so different to any other game.
Two to seven players play together – they place their pieces (Elves, or possibly dwarves or gnomes) in the shadows behind the trees, hidden from the candlelight. One player works alone and is trying to ‘freeze’ all the Elves by catching them in the light. Once frozen, the Elves cannot move until and unfrozen Elf reaches them behind the same tree and frees them from the spell. The game progresses through the player (an adult) in charge of the candle moving it along the path as dictated by the roll of a die – as the other players try to unite all the Elves behind the same tree by moving through the shadows. If they all get caught by the light, the candle player wins. If they manage to all meet up, the Elves win!
There is also a slightly more complicated set of rules that can be played by older players.
It’s – fire hazards aside – such a sweet and unique idea, it almost feels a shame to conclude that it doesn’t bear repeated plays on a regular basis in the way some kids games do. But as an experience for special occasions – Christmas, or Halloween perhaps – it would take a hard heart not to be seduced by it. I have this game at home and although it rarely gets played I haven’t been able to part with it!
There’s such a palpable atmosphere to this game – seeing your elves (are they elves, or gnomes?) huddling in the gloom of a tree, their bright hats flickering in the candlelight, is utterly charming. It calls to mind the short animations of The Grickle, the video game Year Walk, and a host of other faintly disturbing rustic creations. As a game, it’s probably too fragile and imperfect to be taken seriously – but just like Sam says, it’s too unique to part with.
You can be frozen, but it would take a very narcissistic Elf to take it personally.
Very low - the game is brief, and the only time you (or a child) might get fidgety is if they get frozen. Hopefully, they can be rescued though.
Almost non-existent. It's a reactive experience: keep to the shadows!
There is very little variation in Waldschattenspiel so we wouldn't argue you can play it over and over gathering new experiences from it. But it doesn't outstay its welcome.