Shadowfist Two-Fisted Tales of the Secret War Expansion

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Home > Sets > Two-Fisted Tales of the Secret War
[posted 27 Nov 2004; updated 25 Feb 2009; links checked 24 Feb 2009]

What's in the set? - rarity, distribution by faction, and obligatory statistics
Nitpicker's Guide - errors big, small, and ludicrously small
Storyline summary - the story behind this set, summarized in a couple of paragraphs
Card list - opens in new window
Etc - whatever's left, random thoughts and comments, sometimes my opinions on this set or cards in it, and/or the State of Shadowfist at the time of this expansion

What's in Two-Fisted Tales of the Secret War?

Shadowfist Two-Fisted Tales of the Secret War booster display boxTwo-Fisted Tales is a booster-only expansion set released by Z-Man Games in November 2004. It's a 128-card set that contains 116 new cards, with rarities divided into Common, Uncommon, and Rare. 5 cards are errata of Daedalus cards (Booby Trap, Deathtrap, Difficulty at the Beginning, Necromantic Conspiracy, Probability Manipulator); the other 7 cards are reprints of Daedalus-edition cards. All cards are black-bordered with a 10 cents price tag symbol Two-Fisted Tales in the upper right corner, presumably in homage to the pulp paperbacks. The set symbols are color-coded to indicate rarity: white for rare, grey for uncommon, and black for common. Still not foil.

The set adds yet another alternate victory condition, Mount Erebus, as a sort of hot potato of Feng Shui Sites.

Shadowfist Two-Fisted Tales Booster PackBooster packs contain 10 randomly assorted cards; each display box contains 24 boosters. The wrappers use the same waxy paper as the recent sets, and are in full color like the previous two sets, using the illustration from Tom Donovan. The box uses Michael Komarck's excellent illustration from The Nemesis, but has been "distressed" to look like the cover of an old magazine (added creases, one corner dog-eared, etc.) and even includes a "Vol.2, No.10" in the upper left corner. Presumably that's a reference to Z-Man's 10th expansion (Daedalus being vol.1). I'm not partial to the fonts chosen for the text, but I'm not familiar with Pulp-era paperbacks so maybe it's true to source. Card distribution seems to be similar to the previous 128 card sets: two boxes will get you 3-4 of each uncommon and 5-6 of each common, and you'll be short 3 or 4 rares but have enough extra to trade for the missing ones.

Seven Masters


















The secret box message is on the outside bottom in the middle. It says " The '30s! No air conditioning or penicillin, rampant poverty and homelessness, polio, the world on the brink of a global war. Ahhh, it was a magical time."

The secret booster message (under the flap on the back of the booster) says ' "Did I just see a MONKEY driving a Packard?" "No, he was driving a Dusenberg." '

Here's the breakdown by faction and by card type. The table on the left shows the overall breakdown (for new players), the table on the right shows the breakdown of the new cards only (for not new players). Apologies for the formatting of the table, but it's much smaller to plop an image in than write a table in HTML. Eventually I'll try out the CSS thing and redo all my tables...

Shadowfist Two-Fisted Tales breakdown by faction and type, including errata and reprints   Shadowfist Two-Fisted Tales breakdown by faction and type, excluding errata and reprints

Looking at this graphically may or may not help you, but I like it. Click either graph to see a larger version in a new window. These plots include errata and reprints.

  Shadowfist Two-Fisted Tales breakdown by faction, including errata and reprintsShadowfist Seven Masters breakdown by faction, ecxluding errata and reprints

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The Nitpicker's Guide: Two-Fisted Tales

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Storyline Summary: Two-Fisted Tales - Prelude To Critical Shift

Almost three years after release, it looks like this fiction isn't going to get written. I caught up with David Eber and asked him for some recollections about the story, and he came through with this extensive summary instead. Thanks David! Disclaimer: this summary is unofficial, since David is no longer working on the design team, and they may have had some different ideas since. See below for the official summary provided by Braz King on

As I recall, the Purists used the Legacy and the knowledge they extracted from Dr. Zaius to build their own version of the Discombobulator. The difference was that their version was stable and controllable. They used it to open up a portal to the early 1930s, and began building a power base there. Their eventual goal was to cause a critical shift by enacting a powerful ritual that would instantly attune one of their members to every FSS in the world, while de-attuning all their current owners at the same time. They chose the early 30s because they knew the Ascended's grip on power was weak, having been shaken by the events of WWI, and also because they caculated that the optimal time to conduct the ritual would fall right around then.

What they didn't count on - because no one knew about them - was the Reascended. Julian wrote the piece describing how Reascended interference led to them accidentally opening up portals all over the Netherworld to the early 30s. Naturally, all the factions rushed in to stake their claims in the new juncture, as follows:

Both Bonengel and Boatman sent agents to infiltrate Nazi germany. In Bonengel's case, he saw it as an opportunity to undo one of the greatest wrongs in human history by reshaping the 3rd Reich. In Boatman's case, he simply saw them as the most efficient way to seize power. Both are attempting to gain influence by having their agents introduce new technologies in order to win der Furher's favor. Bonengel's agent, Col. Reiger, is pushing things like the Eisenriese and other advanced weapons, while Boatman's agent, Dr. Herrbruck, is promoting abominations and supersoldiers.

The Lotus have established ties with the Red Scorpion Tong, who were themselves the descendents of the Poison Clan from Seven Masters, and who are essentially the Lotus' agents in that time. The Red Scorpion are a powerful, world-spanning criminal society, with a hand in pretty much every form of organized crime.

The Hand have also connected with their agents in the juncture: a revolutionary secret society known as the Swords of Heaven, and a group of monks known as the Jade Dragon.

The Ascended, of course, already control the juncture, although their control is shaky, and so their influence is in the usual places: government, industry, crime, media, and so on.

The Jammers have hooked up a rag-tag collection of anarchists, communists, and malcontents - essentially the resistance, before there's anyone to resist. However, they've also established a secret base in Africa known as Ape City, where they're busy making new cyber-apes. Their first conversion - who now acts as the leader of Ape City - is a white gorilla whom the natives call K' Tongo.

The Monarchs have infiltrated the juncture through their agents as follows: The Thunder King has taken control of a semi-secret German society known as the Teutonic Knights. The Fire King has control of a ring of Arabic assassins, and the Darkness Queen has taken over an ancient Indian death cult hidden deep within the Amazon. The Ice Queen's agents are essentially the Dragons, and so any influence she has is through them.

As for the Reascended, Saleem has sent John Fenris back to the 1850's, where he's been put into stasis until some time before the juncture actually opens. Once he awakens, he creates a solid, well-established powerbase for the Reascended, so that they'll be able to act effectively when the juncture opens. There are other Reascended in the juncture as well, including Athena, but I can't remember if she was supposed to be there before the juncture opened, or if she came in afterwards. We may have never decided.

As for the Purists, they already have a head start on everyone else, and they've managed to infiltrate themselves into the uppermost echelons of society. They've created a phony, Cthulu-esque mythos around "The Nameless One" and have built a cult around it made up of bored, jaded, and gullible socialites. As I mentioned, the Purist's goal is to enact a powerful ritual that will give them control over the world's FSS. To power this ritual, they need five, extremely potent magical artifacts that are scattered all over the world. That's where the Dragons come in. Sir Arthur Broome approaches the Prof., gives them a run-down on the situation in the juncture (it's 1934 at this point, to be precise), and convinces them that they need to get a hold of these five artifacts. To be honest, I can't remember what he told them to get them to go along with this, but at any rate, he pairs up five of the "classic" Dragons - The Golden Gunman, Tricia Kwok, Silver Jet, Dr. John Haynes, and Zheng Yi Quan, with five "exceptional individuals" from 1934: The Nemesis, Jake Molloy, Amanda Snow, Tom Donovan, and John Fenris. He convinces each of these individuals to go after these artifacts by playing on their weaknesses: greed for Tom, glory for Amanda, ego for Jake, and vengeance for The Nemesis.

The one mistake they make is with John Fenris. They don't know he's one of the Reascended, and that he isn't truly native to the juncture. He's suspicious, and by using the resources of the Reascended, he figures out that the Purists are behind this. He agrees to go along, however, because he wants to find out what it is they're up to, and figures he can best keep tabs on them "from the inside."

Anyway, at this point the overall story breaks down into five different stories based around each one of the pairings. Zheng and David Maxwell travel to Shanghai, where Madame Yen, acting on the behalf of the Red Scorpion, is auctioning off the Jade Dragon. The Swords of Heaven and the Jade Dragon Monks get involved as well. Dr. Haynes and Amanda Snow go down to South America in search of the Crystal Skull, and end up tangling with the Darkness Queen's followers. Silver Jet and Jake Molloy infiltrate Rabenfels Castle, where Dr. Herrbruck is holding the Spear of Destiny. They're alternately helped and hindered by the Teutonic Knights, who also want the spear. Tom and Tricia infiltrate a party being held by the mob boss Vincent Benilli, who's showing off his prize acquisition, the Ruby Eye. They're assisted by Athena, who has been ordered to help them out by John Fenris. Finally, John Fenris and the Golden Gunman travel to Cairo, pursuing rumors of the location of the Ivory Goddess. They eventually end up heading down to Ape City, hidden in the heart of Africa, with both Khalid al-Haddad and Col. Reiger in pursuit.

Eventually, the Dragons get all five artifacts and they regroup and turn them over to Arthur Broome. However, Broome has lured them into a trap, and he leaves the cult to deal with them. However, Fenris, expecting a double-cross, has prepared for this contingency, and the long and the short of it is that the Dragons prevail, and then everyone goes down to Antarctica, where the Purists plan to work their mojo, in pursuit. The final confrontation takes place in Mt. Erebus, the Purists' secret base. The Dragons battle the cult and various constructs and The Nameless One. Broome performs the ritual and sacrifices the artifacts, charging up a... well, a thing that will allow him to attune himself to every FSS in the world. Also, Fenris finally reveals his true colors and tries to go for the power himself. However, in the end it's Zheng who foils the Purists' plans by finishing the ritual and attuning to every FSS in the world. At any rate, I think the volcano erupts, and in the end, only a very few of the Dragons, both old and new, end up getting away. The fate of the rest is left unknown.

Here's the official summary as posted at [24 Feb 2009]:

(This is a brief overview of the primary Two-Fisted Tales set.)

The Purists manipulate the Dragons into retrieving 5 powerful, magical artifacts which the Purists plan to use to cast a spell allowing them to attune to all of the Feng Shui Sites in the world at the same time.

Tom Donovan and Tricia Kwok team up to retrieve the Ruby Eye, which is currently in the possession of a prominent New York mobster.

Zheng Yi Quan and the Nemesis travel to China to obtain the legendary Jade Dragon, but many others would stop at nothing to obtain it for themselves.

The enigmatic John Fenris and the equally mysterious Golden Gunman track the Ivory Goddess through the bazaars of Egypt, and from there into the jungles of darkest Africa.

The Spear of Destiny is being kept at Rabenfels Castle, and only Silver Jet and Captain Jake Molloy have the skill and daring to recover it.

Dr. Amanda Snow and Dr. John Haynes meet up in the dark jungles of South America to wrest the mystifying Crystal Skull from the undead forces of Darkness.

The Dragon heroes are successful in retrieving all of the artifacts and the Purists take the artifacts to Mt. Erebus to cast the spell. The Dragons pursue them, and in the chaos of the battle, Zheng Yi Quan becomes the focus of the ritual, and attunes to all the Feng Shui sites in the world.

Mt. Erebus erupts and only Zheng Yi Quan, Athena, Tom Donovan, and Dr. John Haynes survive the conflagration.

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Etc: Two-Fisted Tales

Two-Fisted Tales had big shoes to fill, releasing less than a year after the iconic Seven Masters and a little more than one year after the amazing Red Wedding. I think it's a fine set, but doesn't meet the standard established by the two previous sets. The power level is more on par with Shaolin Showdown - the set has some interesting cards that open up new decks and a fair number of playable but not stunning cards, but also a lot of don't-quite-work-well-enough-to-find-permanent-homes-in-decks type of cards. Thematically, the Pulp dressing just doesn't work as well for me as Seven Masters. (it's not bad, and it's certainly more appealing to me than the 70's theme from Boom Chaka Laka)

There seem to be a lot more cards in this set that require counting ("+X damage for each blah blah blah" kind of thing). I didn't do a rigorous study, that's just a feeling. The pumper idea is a reasonable way to try to balance cost for effect, but when it gets out of hand, games slow down, or worse, you get a situation where someone miscounts and it costs them the game (or they win the game but shouldn't have).

Mt. Erebus brings in yet another alternate victory condition. It's tough to build a deck that intentionally gives away this site, then seizes it back and holds it to win - not just the cards you need in the deck, but you have to rely on your opponents to cooperate. Its best use seems to be 1-cost FSS that a Purist player can drop and go for the win without spending as much power as you'd need for a normal FSS (especially good as the 4th site in a duel).

Spear of Destiny gets the nod for being more powerful than intended - it was printed without an "until end of turn" disclaimer on the cancel effect, so the cancel lasts until the canceled card leaves play. But even with that, it still doesn't get a lot of play...

Spirit of the Gun introduces a new card border style for two-faction cards - the border is a blend of both Purist and Dragon borders, split along the diagonal. It does not thrill me, and even less so that this gimmick wasn't done on the earlier two-faction cards (like "Bring It!"), although Shadowfist Games did update the border style in the reprinted Red Wedding set.

As usual, reprints drew flak, although not nearly as vociferously as in previous sets. Did we really need to see Deathtrap again? Especially a Deathtrap that hasn't been improved in any way? Yes, I understand the argument that Hidden Tomb makes Deathtrap worth playing, but now it's a trick deck, and in the future all Site-based States will have to be costed knowing that Hidden Tomb is in the pool now, ready to reduce their cost. Sigh. On the other hand, it was nice to see Probability Manipulator recosted to 2. It's still a trick card, but now it might actually be played. A little, anyway.

Art in this set is a bit more polarized than the past couple of sets—when it's good, it's really good, but when it's not, ewww. Roberto Campus' stuff is great as usual, although he did have the first gratuitous zoom-and-crop that I'm aware of in Shadowfist: Obsidian Knife is a close-up taken from Priestess of Itchy. Not sure if that was Roberto's idea, or a desperation move on Z-Man's part to fill in for a missing piece of art. Patrick McEvoy and Glenn Osterberger did the best job in capturing the feel of the Pulp Era, but Michael Komarck's work was again excellent too. I was most disappointed in Kevin Wasden's art; after the fantastic Che Gorilla promo, his pieces in this set look rushed.

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