Shovel Knight is a popular, platform-scrolling game franchise. Personally, I don’t have a lot of experience playing this fun, arcadey game, but from watching speedrunners and YouTubers I can describe the base game like this: imagine Mario, but instead of the quirky Italian plummer we all know and love, you control a knight armed with a shovel. 

It follows the well worn formula of side-scrolling platformers. Players must push forward towards the objective and are unable to go back on themselves. As with many games of this genre, the way to win is simple; fight through the levels, defeating monsters and interacting with crucial NPCs, before removing the threat of the big bad at the end of the game.

But the real question here is, what can a platform scrolling game bring to the table top? 

From PC to Tabletop

Level 99 Games have incorporated Shovel Knight into their Exceed Fighting System of card games. If you haven’t encountered the Exceed Fighting System before check out our Street fighter Exceed Review –

Individual decks are available – which means you can have a fight between Street Fighter’s Ryu and Shovel Knight! However, we played with the Exceed Shovel Knight Hope box, which comes with four decks included:

  • Shovel Knight & Shield Knight – It’s dangerous to go alone! Shield Knight joins Shovel Knight to fight together as a team once again. Work together with your partner to double-team foes!
  • Propeller Knight – Swoop and dance through the arena, striking with grace and precision as you dismantle your foes! If things prove too tough, send in your artillery crew to blow away the competition!
  • Mole Knight – Undermine your opponents by tunnelling across the arena, attacking from every angle and giving no quarter! When the going gets tough, turn up the heat with even more burrowing power!
  • Tinker Knight – It’s time to put your master plan into play! Though you begin each duel frail, use this time to build up your mech, then unleash havoc in the second phase of the battle!

First Impressions

To start with, the box and display itself is absolutely beautiful. The art style seen on the outside carries through to the interior. Thematic deck boxes are present alongside the decks, designed impeccably by  Level 99 Games, which allow you to sleeve the cards AND fit them into the boxes.

Along the side of these boxes are the names of the Knights (Mole, Shovel and Shield, Tinker and Propeller). On the front you get a full character profile of each Knight, backed by a single colour background to complement them. On the back is a short summary of what the decks do and a small pentagon with the abbreviations DEF, POW, RNG, SPD and TECH in the corners with a green overlay showing the deck strengths. (Think Pokemon when you’re IV training them) [Editor’s Note: Or player stats on Fifa – Dan]

Strangely, Mole Knight doesn’t appear to have the same design as the other three boxes. The others feature a striking X in the background centrally behind the Knights, while Mole just gets a solid colour that doesn’t compliment his armour and no X. This isn’t a massive problem, but to break from the consistency of the other three feels a little sloppy to me.

The backgrounds of the Knights match the themes of the boxes. For instance, I played with Propeller Knight and his background features the Knight in the sky, his propellers in the shape of a striking X. On the other side of the table, Shovel and Shield Knight’s background features the duo having a campsite nap on either side of the X of a campfire.

Getting Started

I personally found it a little difficult to get into the game. The rulebook isn’t very clear, but thankfully there are plenty of YouTube tutorials that explain the base game and then we just used the rulebook as a quick reference between turns. Our first game took us around 30 minutes between fact checking the rulebook and replaying parts of the tutorials to get to grasps with the playstyle. 

After a few games the flow got better, and we were flying through games in 10-15 minutes. My personal favourite deck is the Propeller Knight as it fitted my general playstyle of control and conquest, with enough get-out-of-jail tools to use to my advantage. My test buddy decided that Shovel and Shield was the best for him, as the duo of key defensive mechanisms paired with high damage abilities fitted his playstyle. We very briefly touched on Mole and Tinker Knight, but they didn’t really suit our playstyles so we quickly turned away from them.

Worthy of Your Table?

Overall, Level 99 have done a good job of fitting Shovel Knight into the Exceed system. After my initial reticence towards the game, I quickly warmed to it. The play system is different and it’s unlike your usual card games, for instance Ascension or Star Realms – this is not a deckbulding game at all. Instead it uses pre-constructed decks which makes a refreshing change to the cards game available out there. 

I would highly recommend this game to any card game lovers out there who need a change from the well-established games.

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