Shadowfist Shaolin Showdown Expansion

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Home > Sets > Shaolin Showdown
[posted 22 Feb 2003; updated 15 Nov 2004; links checked 19 Feb 2008]

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 Shaolin Showdown?

Shadowfist Shaolin Showdown booster display boxShaolin Showdown is a booster-only expansion set released by Z-Man Games in August 2001. It's a 146-card set that contains 117 new cards and two Rules cards, with rarities divided into Common, Uncommon, and Rare. The other 29 cards are reprints and/or errata of Daedalus-edition cards such as Quan Lo. All cards are black-bordered with a white (not foil) pair of crossed swords Shaolin Showdown in the upper right corner.

Shadowfist Shaolin Showdown booster packBooster packs contain 10 randomly assorted cards; each display box contains 24 boosters. Distribution was better in this set than in Netherworld 2 but not ideal, so even though it's possible to get a set out of two boxes, it still didn't happen often. Percentage-wise there are fewer reprints in this set than Netherworld 2; all are eligible for the reprints-for-promos [, 19 Feb 2008] program.

This set introduced the Faceoff mechanic, which forces two Characters to enter single combat, except during an attack. The set also includes two Rules cards to explain Faceoffs and a few other things. The Rules cards appear in the common slot, although they are half as common as all the other commons so you shouldn't be overwhelmed with them.

Shaolin Showdown




















The secret booster wrapper message appears under the sealing flap, on the outside: "You're starting to feel sleepy... sleepy... sleepy... You WANT more Shadowfist... You NEED more Shadowfist... GO BUY more Shadowfist"

The secret display box message appears on the outside bottom of the box:

"Please don't kill us
We're just the Aquabats
We're just trying to have a little fun
So if you want to fight
We can duke it out
Just please don't kill me with your gun"
The Aquabat March from
The Return of the Aquabats
(if you don't have it, GET IT!!!)

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 Shaolin Showdown breakdown by faction and type, including errata and reprints   Shadowfist Shaolin Showdown 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 Shaolin Showdown breakdown by factionShadowfist Shaolin Showndown breakdown by card type

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The Nitpicker's Guide: Shaolin Showdown

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Storyline Summary: Shaolin Showdown - The Ascended vs. The Guiding Hand in 1855 China

The Shaolin Showdown story was also written by David Eber, and it's published on the Shadowfist website [, 19 Feb 2008] as well. This is a huge story, but the basic plot is much easier to summarize than Netherworld 2 since it's not as twisty. But it also introduces a lot of new characters, and then kills them :)

The Ascended in the modern juncture decide it's time to take a more active role against the Guiding Hand in 1855. They send the Eastern King to coordinate operations. He and the Ascended of the 1850s (led by Kinoshita) do not agree on the best way to handle the problem.

The King decides that he needs direct action against a number of key Hand operatives, and so brings some Lodge enforcers to 1855. Of the three, only Senor Ocho is successful—he kills Li Sen-hao. Juan "El Tigre" Velasquez is killed in his attempt to kill Tsung Jin. Rachel McShane is critically wounded in her attempt to kill Tong Su Yin. "Monkey" Chang is sent to kill his former master, Old Man Wu, but his heart isn't in it, and their battle is interrupted by a Jammer attack anyway. Chang is last seen jumping onto a flying monkey, just for fun.

The Ascended also send Natraj Thalnasser, the head of the Bear family, and an expeditionary force to secure an area and prepare for the arrival of a larger modern army. The Hand send Wei Fong-yi to confront him, and Natraj is killed by Fong-yi in the ensuing fight, and the remaining Pledged forces are routed by the Hand.

The Eastern King finds the location of the Hand's secret Temple of the Shaolin Dragon. He goes there to confront Quan Lo, and Quan Lo kills him in single combat.

In a subplot, the Dragons discover a Lotus plan to take over five key feng shui sites devoted to the elements, and so cause a critical shift. Kar Fai leads Zheng Yi Quan, Dr. Shen, Jenny Zheng, Big Mack, Katie Kincaid, Six Bottles Hwang and Iala Mané to try to foil the Lotus plot (led by Lai Kaung). Shinobu Yashida shows up gunning (swording?) for Kar Fai. Shinobu and the obligatory thugs put a beating on the Dragons. They are saved by the arrival of Fong Sai Yuk, and his mom (Miu Tsui Fa). Fong Sai Yuk kills Shinobu, then takes Kar Fai to see Quan Lo.

The Dragons catch up to the Lotus at Four Sorrows Island. Lai Kuang is killed by Katie Kincaid. The Poison Clan Killers are taken down by Kar Fai, Zheng Yi Quan, and Six Bottles Hwang. Their plot is foiled.

In a sub-subplot, we learn that Mr. X set up the Shinobu encounter as a distraction so that he could assassinate Iala Mané. Mr.X fails in his first attempt, but later tries again while the Dragons are fighting the Lotus on Four Sorrows Island. He shoots Iala with a silver bullet, but Iala tackles him and the two fall off the island and disappear.

The Unspoken Name visits Kinoshita in 1855, then later announces that he has taken leadership of the Lodge council in 1855. We don't know what happened to Kinoshita.

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Etc: Shaolin Showdown

This set took a lot of heat from players when it was released. It was derided as "Shaolin Letdown" among other less pleasant nicknames. The cards feel like they were driven by the story rather than the other way around, but that was also argued vehemently on the Shadowfist Forum so I won't add more fuel to that fire. I don't think the set was as bad as its reputation, but in general these cards are more specialized (or at a lower power level, if you prefer to be cynical :) than previous sets, with a few huge exceptions (The Eastern King, for example).

The set also drew fire for "cookie cutter" decks (decks that pretty much build themselves) based around designator matches and appropriate support cards. I don't have a problem with that approach, and in fact applaud a set that includes one easy/obvious deck archetype, since not everyone has the skill or time to invest in tinkering with combos, however this set included at least three silver-platter combos, so that may be why some folks complained. The Ascended got a new set of foundation Characters, plus their cookie deck based on Manchu, which turned out to be a pretty good deck. The Hand got a cookie deck based on Sword, but despite a lot of Swords and Swordsmen in the set, it hasn't worked as well. The Dragons got a new foundation and a cookie deck to go with it, based on Student, and that has been developed into a reasonably common deck type.

And the set took even more slams than Netherworld 2 for having a high number of reprints, although percentage-wise that's down from 1/3 in NW2 to 1/5 here. Part of the problem may have been the choices of reprints, which weren't as obviously needed as the NW2 reprints. Veterans didn't really want to get rare reprints of Mr. X or Quan Lo any more than they wanted Kar Fai back in Throne War. I haven't seen either of those cards in play for a long time, and the reprints didn't change that :)

And to top all that off, the initial Faceoff cards aren't very strong (which isn't really surprising for a new mechanic, but didn't help given the heat the set was already taking). They have fairly strong restrictions and not very big payoffs, making the opportunity cost quite high compared to "traditional" Ascended and Hand Events.

The set continued to introduce more cards for the Fire subfaction of the Monarchs, and also introduced a new mechanic with the "Path of the..." cards, that allows to be substituted for requirements under the right conditions.

The card that disappointed me the most in this set was the reprinted Swordsman. He didn't get a much-needed upgrade. Yes, there are lots of cards that key on Sword now, but that doesn't make him any more playable. Instead, if you want to play this not-so-good card, you have to play several other not-really-good-on-their-own cards. I'd much rather have seen a Swordsman that was a playable foundation outside the Sword deck (in most cases, I'd rather have Kung Fu Student or Golden Candle Society, even in that deck).

So, that sounds bad overall, but there are some very good and playable cards in this set. The Eastern King is a must-have, any Ascended player should pick up a few. The Dragons got a smattering of interesting hitters plus Jenny Zheng; no one that will cause you to pull your Golden Gunmen, but solid additions to a lot of decks. The Lotus got Rend Chi, Li Yu and Feng Kan (a much-needed boost for them in the midrange, too bad about the misprinting that makes him so hard to find). As I see it, this set did not raise the power curve of the game, but instead filled in niches. If you weren't looking to fill any of these niches, you wouldn't be happy with the set. Some folks advocate buying singles or trading rather than buying by the box from this set, but I've gotten good use out of more than a few cards so the box has worked for me. Your mileage may vary, as always.

Art in the set runs the gamut as usual; some very appealing and some, well, less so. I really liked newcomer Ravindra Rana's pieces (Juan "El Tigre" Velasquez, etc.) and Randy Asplund did a great job capturing the martial arts movie feel in Path of the Raging Bear. At the other end of the scale, Shaking the Mountain was my least favorite piece, for the same reason as Violet Senshi Chamber in NW2: the cartoony style just doesn't fit well with Shadowfist.

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