Shifting Realms from Soaring Rhino Games is a really unique game. We first checked it out at Origins 2018 and got a rundown before getting it on our own table. Players are controlling a team of Keepers who are fighting for control of different realms as they restore order. Does this fantasy themed game set itself apart from the pack or get lost in the noise?
If I’m being honest, I was concerned with the number of mechanics introduced in Shifting Realms. How does worker placement, area control, hand management and resource collection/management work in harmony with one another? Somehow this crock-pot of mechanics feels so fluid. I was really surprised when we got into the meat of the game and everything clicked.
Shifting Realms comes with five different shifting realm boards that all have a slightly different feel. The “Dovre” realm is controlled by a troll king while the “Libertatia” realm is located right off the water and has a distinct pirate feel. Set up the game by randomly pulling three of these shifting realms. These realms will make up the map for this specific game. The five different boards bring a lot of replay-ability to this game.
Players will control an army of scouts and soldiers in one of the 4 colors. Each of these colors connect back to a faction of Keepers in the lore of this game. I honestly wish there was more about these different factions because it seems like this is a world that is really fleshed out in the minds of the game creators, the Van Ness brothers.
On your turn, you can perform up to three actions in any order. Recruiting units will give you a larger army to work with, moving soldiers and scouts will let you explore the different realms, building structures give you victory points and drawing a story card gives you events that are specific for the realms in play. You never feel overwhelmed with these different options, but it does give you enough room to change your strategy as you play the game.
Throughout a game of Shifting Realms, you’ll collect resources, build structures on the board, attack other factions for control, and complete realm specific missions. The game ends when 2 of the 3 realms objectives are met or when all the structures in the realm have been built.
To Fight or Not to Fight?
One very apparent aspect of Shifting Realms is that combat with other players is optional. I don’t think this is present in most games of this genre. If you want to remove a player’s soldiers or scouts from an area, you can attack them on your turn. Soldiers protect two scouts and the rule book does a great job of laying out every possible attack situation. Here’s the thing, you can win without ever taking out another player’s crew. Because fighting doesn’t take an action, this is something you can do over and over on a turn. But, there is the overarching question of “is this necessary”?
I really like the tension in this area of the game. You begin watching the opponents’ actions, but there’s something unsettling because at any time they can move in and cut your army down. It’s tough not to retaliate, and it really changes the game as players begin taking out other factions. There will be some people who play this game and always want to fight, but I really enjoy the fact that this is totally optional. As the player to your right starts building up their soldiers, it’s tough not to get nervous and begin building up your own army.
A Realm Worth Visiting
I could go into every little mechanic but there are videos that do a great job of this. The question I came into this game with is easy to answer after spending a couple hours in Shifting Realms. This menagerie of game mechanics actually work surprisingly well together. Shifting Realms is a world that I want to keep coming back to. The game isn’t too heavy or too light which is a good fit for our family. Medium weight games will always get more play in our home since we’re often introducing new people to the hobby.
The artwork in the game and tiles that overlay on the map are really well done. The soldier meeples are different shapes based on the team and the dragon mini is a nice touch. The resources are just wooden blocks which are a little bit of a bummer considering the other solid components in the game.
Shifting Realms has lots of replay-ability because you’ll only play three of the five realms each time you sit down with the game. You’ll find plenty of ways to score points and trying new strategies can be fun. Playing the way you want is a real strength for this game and it will give you more reason to take an hour to play with friends and family. Shifting Realms is definitely a game we’d recommend for anyone looking for a solid fantasy title that won’t become stale after just a couple plays. I’m excited to see the future of this property as Soaring Rhino continues to pour into the world of Shifting Realms.
Head to your local game store to pick up a copy of Shifting Realms or purchase it on Amazon today.
Soaring Rhino provided us with a retail copy of Shifting Realms for this review. This in no way influenced our opinion of the game.
- Nice artwork and components. Has a unique style
- All the game mechanics work really well together
- Medium weight game that both adults and kids can grasp
- Fighting other players has purpose but isn’t required
- Players sometimes struggle when getting behind on the score track
- Score track and resource components are very basic