A Haunting by the Shadow Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 8 and up (publisher suggests 12+)
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • Approximately 60 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Cooperative & Team Play
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Venture into a haunted house and attempt to defeat the spirits that dwell within


  • Gamer Geek rejected!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!


American writer, publisher, artist, and philosopher, Elbert Hubbard, said, “The supernatural is the natural not yet understood.” We like to pretend we have it all figured out. We do this so it’s easier for us to discount the door closing by itself as nothing more than the wind, our keys not being where they should be because we are absent-minded, and the shadows that move on the wall are nothing but tricks of light. Easily explainable events or something more? The line between the natural and the supernatural is one of understanding. If that is the case, when you face the ghosts in this house, you’ll understand the true nature of fear.

A Haunting by the Shadow, designed by Drew Grant and published by The Game Crafter, is comprised of one game board, seven Character cards, seven Character standees, four Player Reference cards, 48 Search cards, one standard four-sided die, one standard six-sided die, one Fright marker, 40 Spirit cards, four Spirit Reference cards, four Spirit standees, 48 Search tokens, 20 Room cards, one Shadow Reference card, and one Shadow standee. The cards are all as thick and durable as your standard playing card. The standees are made of thick and durable cardboard, as is the game board.

Building a Haunted House

To set up the game for four players, complete the following steps:

First, place the game board in the middle of the playing area and within easy reach of all the players. Place the dice next to the game board, and the Fright marker on the “1” space of the “Fright Level” track found to the side of the game board.

Second, place one Search Token in each Room space on the game board. When completed, place the Shadow Standee on the “2” space of the “Great Room” on the game board.

Third, shuffle the Room cards and draw one per Spirit standee. When the room is revealed, take the dice that match the total number of spaces in that room found on the game board. Roll that die and place one Spirit standee on that corresponding space. For example, if I drew the “Dining Room” Room card, I would roll the six-sided die since there are six spaces found in that room. If I rolled a “2”, I would place any of the four Spirit standees not yet on the board to the “2” space of the “Dining Room.” Continue this step until all Spirit standees are placed on the game board. Then shuffle the Room cards and place the deck face-down next to the game board.

Fourth, shuffle the Spirit deck and place it face-down next to the Room deck.

Fifth, have each player select a Character card and the corresponding Character standee. Hand to each player a Player Reference card at this time. Each Character card describes that Character’s unique action. Since this is a cooperative game, players are encouraged to discuss which Character cards they should select to form their party. Of course, you can randomize it, as well, dealing one Character card to each player. Selected Character standees are placed on the “Front Porch” of the game board. Any Character cards, Character standees, and Player Reference cards not used are placed back in the game box.

Sixth, shuffle the Spirit Reference cards and deal one to each player face-down. All players now reveal their Spirit Reference card. The Spirit Reference card will identify which of the four Spirits the player must exercise, in what room, and what unique items are necessary for the ritual. Place the “Shadow” Spirit Reference card at this time, as well, and off to the side of the game board. No one can battle this dark apparition, but all must be cautious!

Seventh, look through the Search deck and set aside the four unique items. These are easy to spot as they have a black border on the card’s face. Shuffle the remaining Search cards and divide them into four face-down even piles. Shuffle one unique item into each pile, then combine all four piles to create a single deck of Search cards. Place the Search deck face-down next to the Room cards.


That’s it for game setup. Determine who will go first and begin the haunt!

Busting Ghosts

A Haunting by the Shadow is played in turns with no set number of turns per game. A player’s turn is comprised of sequential steps, which are summarized here. Since this is a cooperative game, players are encouraged to talk about their turns, discuss their strategies, and help each other. However, players are responsible for their own actions and have the final say regarding what they want to do during their turn.

Step One: Take Your Actions

Each player can take four actions during this step of their turn. The player may select any combination of the actions to be taken, including their Character’s unique action, and do so in any order. A player is never forced to take all four of their actions during their turn, but any actions not taken cannot be saved for later. However, a player will lose one action by default (leaving only three) if they start their turn with their Character standee adjacent to the Shadow standee.

Each of the basic moves is summarized here. Each of the Character’s special actions is outlined on their Character card.

  • Move: For one action, the player may move their Character standee to an adjacent space on the game board. All movement is orthogonal, and players cannot move their Character standee from one room to another through walls. Character standees may share the same space and pass through each other without penalty. Players may never move into or through a space that contains the Shadow standee. A player may, if they like, move through a space with a Spirit standee, but that will trigger a Fright Attempt that might result in the player losing their remaining actions. However, a player will want to move into the same space as a Spirit if they are attempting to defeat it. Moving from the “Front Porch” into the house counts as one action.
  • Search: For one action, a player may remove the Search token on the space occupied by their Character standee. Picked-up Search tokens are returned to the game box. The player then draws one Search card, placing the card face-up in front of them. Each player may only carry a maximum of five Search cards at any time. If they have more than the maximum, they must immediately discard down to no more than five, placing the discarded Search cards in the Search discard pile. Some cards in the Search deck will open secret passageways and give the player a moment of peace from the haunting. It’s also possible that the player will draw a card and find nothing of value (cue sad trumpet sound).
  • Give or Take: For one action, the player may give or take one Search card if their Character standee is occupying the same space as another Character standee. Cards issued are up to the discretion of the active player but must be agreed to by the other player.
  • Vanquish: For one action, the player may vanquish the Spirit that matches their dealt Spirit Reference card. To do so, they must complete all the necessary tasks and prerequisites noted on the Spirit Reference card. If they can do so, they successfully defeat the Spirit by placing the Spirit standee and the corresponding Spirit Reference card in the game box.

The Character’s special actions are noted on each of the Character cards.

Step Two: The Spirits Take Action

After the player has taken their actions with their Character, the Spirits stir. The player draws a Spirit card, reveals it to all, and resolves it. Spirit cards will move spirits, the Shadow, and reshuffle cards.

If a Spirt card requires a Spirit or the Shadow to move, their corresponding standee moves with the same restrictions as the Character standees (which means the spirits cannot move through walls – I know it’s weird). A Fright Attempt must be made if a Spirit (not the Shadow) standee ends its movement in the same space as a Character standee. A Spirit may only frighten one Character standee if two or more occupy the same space. The players may choose which Character is the target of the Spirit’s Fright Attempt.

To avoid being frightened, the player the Spirit is attempting to spook may discard any non-unique item they currently have in their possession. If they do so, the player draws a Room card, rolls the die that matches the number of spaces in that room, and unceremoniously banishes the Spirit standee to that location.

If, however, the player cannot discard a non-unique item, the Fright marker is moved to the following highest number on the Fright Track, and the Character flees the house screaming. The player’s Characters standee is placed on the “Front Porch” space and may enter the house again on the player’s next turn.

As the game progresses, and if the players are successfully taking out the ghosts, a drawn Spirit card may reveal a Spirit that is no longer on the board. If this is the case, the card is discarded, and no supernatural activity occurs on the player’s turn.

Note that if a player needs to draw a Spirit card and none are available, the players have lost the game!

Step Three: The Shadow Moves

The Shadow is an ominous shade that all the ghost hunters fear. During this step of the player’s turn, a Room card is drawn, and the Shadow standee is moved to the space corresponding to the die value.

Since the Shadow is a darker and more powerful spirit, it will trigger a Fright Attempt on all the Character standees that occupy the same space as the Shadow standee. This includes movement during this step of the player’s turn or when resolving Spirit cards that move the Shadow. Resolve the Fright Attempt in the same manner as a Fright Attempt from a lesser spirit.

This completes the player’s turn. The next player in the turn order sequence now takes their turn, starting with step one.

Victory or Doom?

The players either win together or lose together.

The players win if all four Spirits are vanquished. The Shadow, having no lesser Spirits to feed it or do its bidding, dematerializes into nothingness, leaving the house and ending the haunting for now.

The players lose if the Fright Track level ever reaches “10” or a player cannot draw a Spirit card when they need to. The Shadow has a solid hold on this side of the veil, and the characters all leave the house screaming, forever to be haunted by their foolish attempt to tackle the supernatural.

Game Variant

If playing A Haunting by the Shadow with fewer than four players, the number of Spirits in the house remains the same, but players will not be responsible for all of them. In a three-player game, each player is dealt one Spirit Reference card each that is their personal Spirit to tackle. The remaining Spirit is available to any player who wants to chase it down. In a two-player game, two Spirit Reference cards are given to each player.

To learn more about A Haunting by the Shadow, visit the game’s web page.

Final Word

The Child Geeks enjoyed the game, finding it easy to learn and fun to play. None of our Child Geeks found the game too difficult or too easy, and all agreed that busting those ghosts was a good time. According to one Child Geek, “I liked that we all work together. I don’t like the games where people gang up on me, but I do like ganging up on the ghosts!” Another Child Geek said, “You cannot avoid the ghosts very easily at first, and you need to split up and find everything you need. I liked that we explored the house by ourselves, but we’re always a team.” Of important note is how well the Child Geeks quickly established a means to cooperate without attempting to play for their piers. At all times, the Child Geeks demonstrated a clear understanding of the objective and voted to approve the game entirely.

The Parent Geeks also found the game entertaining but not overly challenging. According to one Parent Geek, “The game is easy to pick up and play, no problems understanding the rules or chasing the ghosts out of the house. While I found the game easy and fun, it also felt a bit too easy and wasn’t much of a challenge to me. Fun with the family for sure!” Another Parent Geek said, “Easy to learn, easy to play, and easy to love. I had a great time exploring the house with friends and family, taking out the ghosts, and running like hell when they frightened my poor characters. I thought it was a great game to introduce others to different types of games, especially those with a spooky narrative!” When the last ghost was defeated and the house cleared, the Parent Geeks all agreed that A Haunting by the Shadow could return to haunt their gaming table anytime it liked.

The Gamer Geeks found A Haunting by the Shadow lacking a level of complexity and sophistication, leaving them feeling uninterested and disconnected. They had no issue with the gameplay or the rules, finding both to be to the point. What they didn’t like was the lack of a challenge or surprise. According to one Gamer Geek, “The only really difficult part of this game is the start where you need to find as much as you can as quickly as you can while avoiding ghosts or towards the end where you are moving around the ghosts so you can jump in for a kill. Everything else just felt like a pickup-and-deliver type of game that also just happened to have a few ghosts floating around. I would have enjoyed a game like this when I first started playing, but nowadays, I want my cooperative games to feel more exciting and difficult.” Another Gamer Geek said, “A great game for new and young players. Not a great game for those who know their way around a game board and enjoy a game that will bite them hard if they mess around. Full points to the game for families. No points for us elitists.” The final vote showed that the Gamer Geeks weren’t afraid of ghosts or felt poorly about never seeing this game again.

A Haunting by the Shadow is a beautiful game to put in front of players who are not familiar with cooperative games or with a group interested in playing a light cooperative game with friends. The rules are light, and the gameplay is fast. The publisher suggests that players be around the age of 12-year-old or older, but due to the game’s cooperative nature and light gameplay, we successfully played the game with much younger players. I should also mention that despite the game’s attempt to create a dark and mysterious thematic experience, none of our Child Geeks ever felt afraid or uncomfortable. On the contrary, they felt just the opposite: curious and excited!

The Gamer Geeks’ are correct in stating that the rules are simple, and the gameplay is not overly challenging. However, players do have to work together, and cooperation is a must if the players are to succeed. You cannot play this game half-awake, but the demand on the player’s mind and attention aren’t very taxing. It’s a casual haunting that exudes a continuous air of freedom to explore and room to do it. Just not endless space. The Fright Level needs to be watched, and the players only have so many turns to complete their tasks. This is to say, players need to engage in the game, but not at a level of intensity that was being looked for and wanted by the gaming elitists.

This is all fine and good, suggesting that A Haunting by the Shadow is a game designed to let you have fun with a challenge that will keep you hooked but not hurt you in the process. We did lose a game or two, but that was more out of sloppy playing than game difficulty. Most of the time, victory was obtainable and always in reach. There are no rules to make the game more complex which means any game you play will be as tricky as the last. The only difference is the players, and in a cooperative game, that makes all the difference.

Try this spirited game full of haunts and exploration when your family gaming table becomes free. I doubt it’ll scare you off.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

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About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner. Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....

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