Z-man Games: Shadow Hunters – Hints, Tips and Strategies

July 3, 2011

Alright, so at this point I’m going to assume you’ve gotten to play the game a little bit. So, I’m not going to go over the basic mechanics I’m going to dive right into strategy.

Who is Who?

ok, the first thing I’m going to go over is how to figure out who people are. There are some things you can watch for in the game that will clue you in on what character someone has beyond simply passing them hermit cards. This can be remarkably helpful, especially if you’re falling victim to a series of bad rolls and haven’t been able to get very many green cards.

Card Draws

One way you can tell what someone is, is by paying attention to what kinds of cards they’re drawing. By this I mean, when they roll a 7 and/or land on the underworld gate, what kind of cards are they drawing?

First Lets look at Shadows, in the basic game the shadows are

  • Unknown
  • Vampire
  • Werewolf

All of these characters want to win by killing Hunters. Shadows need to know who their enemies are, they also need to be able to kill quickly once they do know who their enemies are. As a result shadows will generally go after green and black cards. Because the magic mirror is in the white deck they will generally avoid going after white cards.

So, in general shadows will go after Green and Black cards. So if you notice someone drawing almost exclusively from these two piles chances are good they are a shadow.

Next Lets look at Hunters, in the basic game the hunters are

  • Emi
  • Franklin
  • George

Like the shadows, these characters win by killing. Unlike the shadows though at least one of the neutrals will join them (Daniel) in many games. As a result they have more allies to worry about hitting. As a result hunters will generally want to avoid accidentally drawing the cursed sword which is a black card. Additionally, the hunter spear is a white card.

So, in general hunters will go after Green and White cards. So if you notice someone drawing almost exclusively from these two piles chances are good they are a hunter.

Last Lets look at the Neutrals, in the Basic game the neutrals are

  • Allie
  • Bob
  • Charles
  • Daniel

Now, unfortunately each of these characters have different objectives in mind. So, each will act a bit differently depending on what’s going on. However, for the most part none of these characters particularly care who is who. As a result they are much less likely to be drawing green cards. Beyond that it depends on what character it is.

Allie will generally only draw white cards and may pass on drawing black cards all together. If you see behavior like this, it’s probably Allie.

Bob will not really distinguish much between black and white cards and so he will go after both. However, it is completely irrelevant who anyone is so if they are not drawing green cards but they are drawing both black and white cards it is probably bob. Bob can easily be mistaken for Allie which can be disastrous.

Daniel will generally only draw black cards and may pass on drawing white cards all together. If you see behavior like this, it’s probably Daniel.

Charles will generally go after black cards, but he may start going after white cards when he’s hurt. It is in his best interest to stay as healthy as possible but also to stock up on as many damage enhancers as possible. If you see someone doing this they might be Charles.

Other Cards

There is one other way you can get an idea who is who in the game, though it feels like cheating to a certain extent.

In the game there are only 2 green cards that will give someone 2 damage. One of those cards says “I think you are a shadow” the other card says “I think you are a high health character”. Since both the vampire and werewolf are high health characters they will be affected if given either of these cards. This means that chances are extremely good that someone is a shadow if you see them take 2 damage from a green card. At the very least you know for sure that the person who just took 2 damage is either the Vampire, the Werewolf, George, Franklin, or Daniel.  Of course, if you’ve already had someone give you a 2 damage card and you see someone take 2 damage you know exactly which card they were just handed.

Additionally, any time someone heals from a green card it means they were just given one of 3 cards. “I think you’re a neutral”, “I think you’re a shadow” or “I think you’re a hunter”. Though this information is rarely useful on it’s own, unless you’ve already seen one of these in which case you can deduce that they are one of the other 2 you didn’t see.


Another way to identify what someone is, is by paying attention to how aggressive they are being.

Hunters and Shadows:  In general both hunters and shadows will be equally aggressive. These characters will be very interested in knowing who is who and will draw lots of green cards at every chance. However, at  some point one of them will figure out who an enemy is. At this point they will stop drawing green cards and will go after black cards which all seem to be directed at a single player. The other player will likely return these attacks after using a few green cards to confirm the identity of their assailant. If you see this sort of intense fighting going on between two characters chances are good that one of them is a shadow and the other is a hunter.

Daniel: This will start off very similar to a Shadow/Hunter fight with one exception. The fight will be very one sided with a single player attacking another and that player not retaliating at all after using 1 or 2 green cards on their attacker. If it seems like one player is attacking everyone chances are good they are Daniel trying to sucker people into killing him.

Allie: This character will generally never attack anyone and despite being at full health will go after white cards even when they are at full health. If you see someone being very passive like this chances are they are Allie.

Bob: This character will play much like Allie but will have a propensity to steal equipment cards from other players as well. If it seems like someone is landing on 10 a lot they are probably Bob.

Charles: Depending on how this character is being played his behavior may look similar to Daniel’s or to a shadow. The most telling sign is if he seems to attack people who have lots of health. Given two targets a shadow/hunter is more likely to go after an enemy with low health than one with high health. Also, Daniel’s attacks will come across as more random since he wants everyone to attack him. So if you see someone doing this they are probably Charles.

Character Strategies

Ok, now I’m going to go over strategies for each of the characters. There may be better approaches out there than what I’m presenting but I’ve had success with the following strategies or have seen people win using these strategies. So I know that at least some of the time they seem to work.


Victory Condition: You’re not dead when the game is over
Strategy: Ok, of all the characters this is probably the easiest character to win as. As a result in some sense they might be the least interesting to play. There are two basic methods of play.

  • Passive: With this strategy you want to keep to yourself. You should never draw any black or green cards. You want to draw only white cards. You want to use the weird woods only to heal and you should only ever steal white cards using the altar. Be sure to point out to people who wish to attack you that you’ve never attacked anyone and have only ever drawn white cards. Sometimes players haven’t noticed this behavior and it will get most players to back off on their attacks if they are a hunter or shadow.
  • Aggressive: With this strategy you are attempting to end the game as soon as possible. This could piss off some of the other players though since you don’t “need” to be aggressive to win. If you’re playing a 6 to 8 player game the quickest way to end the game is to kill daniel. In this case you’ll want to draw green cards and figure out who the other neutral is in the game and start attacking them in earnest. Even if the player you kill turns out to not be daniel you have at least stopped Bob or Charles from winning. In games that do not contain daniel, your other choice is to join one side or the other. To this end you’ll probably want to wait until a shadow or hunter is dead. At that point you’ll want to figure out who their teammate(s) is(are) and finish that character off as well. As an aggressive player you’ll play much like a hunter or shadow. The downside is that you have the lowest health of anyone and so if you’re playing aggressively it’s easy to kill you (and thus make you lose). So playing an aggressive strategy is a far riskier proposition.
Ability Use: Don’t forget that you can heal yourself. it’s best to save this ability until someone hits you with an attack that will kill you. At this point you can reveal yourself, chastise the player for attacking you and then heal. You can’t use this ability when you’re actually dead though so you’ll still take the damage from the attack and it will be your new health level.


Victory Condition: You have 5 or more Equipment cards
Strategy: Because this character is only used in 5 and 6 player games I haven’t seen him in action very much. He is a very challenging character to play though because often there are not even 5 equipment cards on the table. In the game there are

  • 6 White Equipment Cards
  • 6 Black Equipment Card

This means that you actually need to have in your possession just slightly under half of the equipment cards in the game. Location 10 will help you steal equipment that others have acquired. Otherwise you’ll want to go after black and white cards. Probably your best bet is to focus on one or the other just to cycle though that entire deck to guarantee that there are at least 5 in play. If you go after white cards you are more likely to convince players you are allie. However, the holy robes make using your special ability difficult at best. Each color has cards that can help you though. The black cards contain the moody goblin which can let you steal equipment. The white cards have the Silver Rosary which also provides a method to steal cards. So either way you should see a slight boost.

Ability Use: This ability is probably best saved until there is someone in play who has enough equipment cards on them to make you win. At this point it can pay off to try to go for the kill. Keep in mind you do not need to reveal yourself until after the damage has been dealt and you’ve killed them. However, the Silver Rosary (a white card) duplicates your ability making it pointless. On the plus side though having this item means you won’t need to reveal yourself.


Victory Condition: At the time you kill another character the total number of dead characters is 3 or more.
Strategy: This character is a little bit tricky to win with. To start with while you do want to kill people you don’t actually care who dies. While this would make it sound like you don’t care who is who, this isn’t entirely true either. The reason is that both the hunters and shadows can win by only killing 2 players. So waiting until only 2 players are dead could be too late.What this means is that you do want to draw green cards and try to identify at least 1 hunter and 1 shadow. Once you’ve done this pay attention to who they attack. This can clue you in on another hunter and/or shadow. Otherwise you’ll want to draw black cards. These cards will augment your attacks and set you up nicely for when you are ready to move in and kill someone.While no one is dead you want to push everyone as close to death as you can. But at the same time you don’t want to piss people off. This means that when you move you should look at the health track and see if you can attack the person who has the most health. If you can you should attack them. For the most part you shouldn’t face much retaliation since people will hand you green cards and realizing you’re a neutral they will assume that you are daniel and will not attack you or at least will limit their attacks against you.Once a player has been killed, now you need to make your move and try to kill either a player who is the opposite  faction as the player who died or a neutral who is low on health. Then you can finally move in and kill whoever is low on health, which may or may not result in the hunters or shadows winning.
Ability Use: This ability can go a long way to helping you make your final kill. But only if you have a bunch of health to burn. So, you want to minimize the damage you take as much as possible. To this end I would recommend using the weird woods to heal as much as possible. The last thing you want to end up with is the holy robes so this is a safe way to keep your health high without screwing you up later.


Victory Condition: You are the first character to die or all the Shadow Characters are dead and you are not
Strategy: This character wins most often by helping the hunters kill the shadows. It is fairly difficult to get people to kill you before they realize who you are. In general you want to attack someone every round. You also want to attack as many different people as possible. In this way you are more likely to make enemies and get people to attack you.That being said, there are a few things you can do to help conceal what you’re doing.

  • Play a green card on your target before you attack: This can make it look like you gained the information you needed to determine that this player is an enemy. If it looks like you’re targeting specific individuals your attacks will seem less random than they actually are.
  • Play a hunter: What I mean by this is to play Daniel exactly as you would if he was a hunter. Figure out who a shadow is and attack them in earnest. They will probably attack you back, figuring you’re a hunter. If you’re lucky you can find the werewolf to attack. His counter-attacks should drop you pretty quick. On the plus side if you end up accidentally killing the shadow first, you just advanced your secondary goal.
  • Heal yourself: The weird woods doesn’t heal very much and if you’re close to dying using the weird woods to heal might be enough to cause doubt that you are Daniel. This could prove to be enough doubt to get someone to finish you off particularly if you’ve driven someone else close to death as well.
Ability Use: You don’t have one. Once this is triggered you’re a hunter and so you just want to track down the shadows and kill them. Just be sure to remind any shadows that want to attack you back that they won’t win by killing you, that they should be focusing their attacks on the hunters. Afterall, you only win if the shadows are dead and you’re still alive.


Victory Condition: All the Shadow Characters are dead
Strategy: This character is the weakest of the hunters and as such is often the 1st hunter to get killed. So, keeping this in mind you probably will want to heal yourself and draw white cards more than the other hunters. There are also two white cards that can give you a full heal. Otherwise just identify the shadows and kill them. Just remember that the unknown may be in the game masquerading as a hunter. Even if you see though this disguise your ally may not and so don’t be afraid to reveal yourself to stop an ally from killing you.
Ability Use: This is ability is most useful for being able to chase down and kill shadows. Either by being able to go directly to their area or by moving directly to the weird woods to attack. Unless you have a solid target to attack it probably isn’t worth revealing to use this ability.


Victory Condition: All the Shadow Characters are dead
Strategy: These two characters basically play the same. Unlike emi they are fairly tough and can over extend themselves a bit more. This means you will probably want some black cards once you know who to attack. For the most part though you’ll want to focus on green cards until you identify a shadow. Once you do manage to identify a shadow you will want to go all out against that character. The faster  you can bring them down the safer you will be.
Ability Use: These abilities are basically the same. You can directly damage someone for a bunch of damage. You want to use this ability as early as possible. Once you know for sure that someone is a shadow you want to nail them with this ability and attack them if you can. Just be careful not to use this on someone you’ve identified as a shadow by process of elimination. You may have been lied to by the unknown and are just about to blast an ally with your once per game ability.


Victory Condition: All the Hunter Characters are dead or 3 Neutral characters are dead
Strategy: This character is a lot of fun to play but does require some planning. As soon as you see that you are the unknown you’ll need to make a decision. Are you going to pretend to be a hunter or a neutral? The reason you want to make this choice right away is so that you won’t hesitate when you’re given a green card. If someone hands you a card that says “I think you’re a hunter, if so take 1 damage” it’s going to be very suspicious if you have to think about your response for any length of time. Also, if someone hands you the card that says “show me your card”, I’m sorry but you have to just show them your card. If you stop and try to debate it you have just told everyone you are the unknown. Yes, they get to look at your card it sucks but if you’re lucky they’re your ally.Speaking of which, you want to try and identify who your ally is asap, Once you do this then  you can safely lie to everyone else about being a hunter. Until you know who your ally is though it may be safer to lie and say you’re a neutral. The last thing you want to do is lie to your ally and tell them you’re a hunter, because they will attack you and they will never hand you another green card once they decide you’re a hunter. At which point you will either be forced to expose yourself to stop their attacks (thereby exposing them as well) or just accept that you’re probably going to get killed by your own ally.Keep in mind that in the end at most you’ll only convince one hunter that you are an ally. Once you’ve done this you’ll need to attack the other hunter in earnest, hopefully your hunter ally will help you out.
Ability Use: Pretty much everything above is about using this ability. The hard part is remembering what you’ve told people. So to this end it can be helpful to pretend to be a specific person. This way all of your lies are consistent with each other. The best options IMO are George and Daniel. If people think you are daniel they are likely to leave you alone even when you attack. George and Franklin will give similar responses to cards so it will be easy to convince one that you are the other. However, Emi will not be convinced that you are a low health hunter since she’s the only one.


Victory Condition: All the Hunter Characters are dead or 3 Neutral characters are dead
Strategy: This character is basically the weakest of the shadow characters. I say this because if played right the unknown won’t get attacked before the werewolf or vampire are attacked. The strategy is fairly straight forward though. Find your enemies and attack them. Because you have an ally that can lie it may not be a bad idea to confirm the hunter after you’ve attacked them a few times with a green card. This gives the unknown a chance to let you know that you should stop attacking them.Otherwise you’re going to want to draw black cards and avoid drawing white cards. If you land on white and the other players are distracted by something else going on you can pass on drawing a white card without anyone noticing. Otherwise if you land on white you’ll just have to hope you don’t draw the magic mirror.
Ability Use: This ability is obviously somewhat health dependent. That being said it probably isn’t a bad idea to reveal once you’re down by about 4 health or more. Provided that you know who one of the hunters is. Once you’re revealed you should attack every round unless you’re at full health or if the only person you can attack is your ally. Taking a bite out of a neutral to heal yourself is well worth it if there are no hunters around.


Victory Condition: All the Hunter Characters are dead or 3 Neutral characters are dead
Strategy: This character is the toughest of the shadow characters. Like the vampire the strategy is fairly straight forward. Find your enemies and attack them. Because you have an ally that can lie it may not be a bad idea to confirm the hunter after you’ve attacked them a few times with a green card. This gives the unknown a chance to let you know that you should stop attacking them.Otherwise you’re going to want to draw black cards and avoid drawing white cards. If you land on white and the other players are distracted by something else going on you can pass on drawing a white card without anyone noticing. Otherwise if you land on white you’ll just have to hope you don’t draw the magic mirror.
Ability Use: This ability is pretty nice and is best used right after a hunter has  attacked you. It’s great watching a player’s face deflate when they realize you’re going to get a free attack back at them. This is bad for them since on your turn you’ll get to attack them again. Also, you are one of the highest health characters in the game so revealing doesn’t really hurt you. You want to get your hands on the Fortune Brooch which will protect against the weird woods. Since you can’t counter attack black cards, special abilities or the weird woods once you’re revealed you can expect to receive most of your damage this way.

Part 1: Z-Man Games: Shadow Hunters – Review
Part 2: Z-Man Games: Shadow Hunters – Hints, Tips and strategies
 Part 3: Z-Man Games: Shadow Hunters (Expansion) – Strategy

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