As the head of a triad, your goal is to amass as much money as possible, well, at least more than your fellow triads, anyway! Shadows of Macao is a quick and easy game with beautiful looking cards and artwork.

In the box you get:

  • 10 Establishment Tiles
  • 45 Character Cards
  • 7 Widow Cards
  • 7 Deceased Widow Cards
  • 1 start Player Marker
Shadows of Macao Component

Put the deceased widow cards to one side for now. Deal one widow card to each player, place it in front of them blue side up. Add a number of widow cards equal to the player count minus one (eg three if you are playing with four players) to the character deck and shuffle them. Put the rest of the widow cards back in the box. Split the character deck into four equal-sized piles, blue side up and place them in the middle of the table.

Shuffle the establishment tiles and draw a number appropriate for the number of players, four for a two-player game, five for three players and seven for four players. Place them face-up on the table and put the rest back in the box.

Decide on a starting player and give them the start player token.

Shadows of Macao Hand

In your turn, you may do one of three actions:

Contact an Informant

Draw a card from the top of one of the four piles and place it, blue side up, in front of you. You may only ever have five cards in front of you at any time. You may, however, take a card and discard one of your older ones.

Recruit a New Member

To flip over a blue card that is in front of you, you must pay the cost as shown on the bottom. You can pay this with either blue or red cards in front of you, using the symbols in the top left of the card. If you use red cards they stay in front of you, however, if you use blue cards in front of you, you must discard them. Character cards are discarded to the bottom of the smallest pile on the table. When the cost is paid, flip over the card to show it’s red side, it now provides a permanent resource for you.

Open an Establishment

When you meet the conditions shown on an establishment tile, take the tile and place it in front of you, red side up. If the condition is resources, you must pay them, like you would for recruiting a new member.

Widow cards work the same way as any other, they provide a single resource - diamonds that act as wild. However, when you use a widow card for its resource, she dies. Place a deceased widow card on top of the card and it will still take up one of your five available card slots. You may also flip them in the same way as other character cards. However, they are now worth minus two points at game end.

Shadows of Macao Scoring

The game ends when one player has seven character cards red side up in front of them or when there are no more establishment tiles available. Count up all points from flipped character cards and establishment tiles. The player with the most points wins.

Shadows of Macao is, at heart, a fairly simple card game. However, the skill lies in knowing which cards to take and when, only being allowed five cards means making some tough choices and if an opponent takes a card you want, you will need to change your plans and this is something that happens frequently! I’ve also had a few games where I have finished the game with seven flipped cards but not won on points. It’s easy to grab the quick and easy cards but you need to watch carefully what other players are doing as a few bigger point cards can make all the difference. All of the character cards have special effects which can also change the game dynamic drastically, for example the barman allows you an extra blue card, and all of these effects stack. The establishment tiles give bonuses of five or six points, which is huge in this game so it’s well worth keeping an eye on them and aiming for one or more early in the game. It's a quick and easy game, the cards have a nice linen finish and the unusual shape and artwork just add a touch more class to an already quality game.