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Samurai Swords
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Store:  War Games
Edition:  Shogun/Samurai Swords
Series:  Gamemaster
Theme:  Oriental
Genre:  War & Combat, Negotiation & Diplomacy
Format:  Board Games

Samurai Swords

formerly Shogun

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Ages Play Time Players
12+ 240-360 minutes 2-5

Designer(s): Michael Gray

Manufacturer(s): Hasbro, Milton Bradley

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Product Information

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4.6 in 14 reviews

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by John M.
Best RPG ever????
December 28, 2006

One reviewer called this game the best RPG game he's ever played... well then he hasn't played any RPGs or he would know that this is just Risk with a few twists added in. There's nothing even remotely RPG-ish about this game. It's a Milton-Bradley Gamemaster Series game formerly known as Shogun. It was the third release in a string of games produced in the late 70s to mid 80s. Amidst titles like Axis & Allies (A&A), Supremacy (AKA Super Messy), and Fortress America. Fortress America being the worst of the bunch and A&A being the best of them. Shogun is a good game, a bit easier to learn than A&A but quite a bit harder than Risk to learn. Takes anywhere from 1 to 3 hours to play, depending on the number of players, and your skill level. As you play more often, the quicker the games will go, but never less than at least one hour per game. This game is playable with 2 to 5 players, though much better when played with at least 3 (just like Risk).

The one thing I like about this game is that you never know who's gonna go first. Renamed "Samurai Swords" because of the vehicle used to determine the order of play each round. Each player at the start of the game draws a samurai sword. They are numbered 1-5 which tells a player when his turn comes. This is done very round so no ONE person ever always goes first, which is pretty kewl. The other kewl thing is that the game is managed by 12-sided dice rather than the old standard 6-siders.

I agree with the previous reviewer in that this is a good 5-Star game, but IT IS NOT an RPG, not by any stretch of the imagination. It is a complicated, strategy driven game of Japanese Feudalism, it does not lend itself to being portable, and is therefore not suitable for camping or traveling. It is however very good for having a few friends over, a few beers, and few hours of fun. If your friends are good and fast, like mine, you can probably get in 2 or maybe even 3 full games of Samurai Swords in one afternoon (or evening) of gaming.

by A Gamer
Best RPG I have ever played
December 17, 2006

If you like samurais, war, politics, and RPGs than this is a game for you. Me I like all of those so when I got the game Fortress America and saw a picture of this game on the side I stopped at nothing to get this game and if you've just seen or heard of this game you would love it because you know I did.

It is an slow but explosively good game
August 09, 2004

i give this game a 5 of 5 because it is a great game for kids who understand history and are mature enough to not pout when losing because you have to really think for this game it is a fact that at somepoint in the game you are going to lose some amount for some period of time but if you want a game that friends can spennd alot of time playing toogether then you want to buy this game and if you can get a copy of it original name you sould pay $100 or less for it because it is a collectors item

by Raaf
Cool game
July 26, 2004

We have played this game for many times now and always had lots of fun. Miniatures are great, map is great and the battles are rad. But an advice is to play with more tight rules if it comes to alliences and negotiations on truces. Secondly, there seems to be a tendency of not trying to loose instead of trying to win, but this could also be related to the players culture.

Clean Rules, Fast & Dastardly Play
May 05, 2004

By far the best of MB's 'Gamemaster' series (A&A bites IMHO), this game has been a hit with everyone I have introduced it to. The rules are clear and easy to learn, but the gameplay is pleasingly complex. Diplomacy, stratagy, deception and luck all play important roles, making for a satisfying game everytime, even if your ninja's backfire! >:-/

I have owned the game sence the early 90's, and my copy of Shogun (the original title) was getting a bit worn out. I am glad to learn that someone else is publishing it now. Go get a copy and play it tonight!

A Playable and Enjoyable historically accurate game
January 28, 2004

I have recently started reading Taiko, the story of the rise of Hideyoshi Toyotomi (known as the Taiko) to the Shogunate of Japan. This story details the rise of Toyotomi over Nobunaga and Tokugawa. Being an Old school 'Shogun' fan I was ecstatic to realise the accuracy of the game. Including the Hiring of Ronin the use of ninja, even the game play is accurate with the bloodshed being concentrated around Owari and Mikawa. I have always been fascinated with Feudal Japan, everything from the Americanised TMNT to Usagi Yojimbo, and I believe that the greatest tribute the west has made to made to Feudal Japan was Shogun. I recently picked a copy on Ebay for $40US and believe it is worth every cent. Pity the last publication was Samurai Swords though; I personally would kick James Clavell in the nuts if I met him.

by Jon
Best Game of All Time!
July 20, 2003

Samurai Swords is the best game from the GameMaster Series.I Love this board game,it has so much history.

The miniatures are so detailed,(even though they are made of plastic)like the Daimyo.

You can see his face mask, and the map of Japan makes this game great. I would recommend this game to any Samurai/GameMaster Series Fan.

God Bless,Jon

'RISK' with fangs: Samurai Swords (Shogun) is amazing.
June 06, 2003

I used to enjoy Risk, but upon finding Samurai Swords (I know it as Shogun), I realized I never had to look back. Inidividual unit flexibilty, combined with the sheer power and potential for dramatic strokes brought about by the ingenious army structure and experience system makes this game shine.

By far the most flexible and engaging of the Gamemaster Series, and a fine, accessible strategy game in its own right.

by Redie
The best Strategy Board Game around
August 13, 2001

Samurai swords is a 4 to 5 player wargame in which players try to become Shogun over all of Japan. It is the best strategy game that I have ever played! The reason for this is that it gives you a lot of options.

At the beginning of each turn, each player gets a number of koku (money) dependent on the number of provinces they own. They have a choice on how to spend those koku on 5 different options: what place they want to go in a turn, whether to buy a castle, buy permanent soldiers, buy temporary warriors for a major battle, or buy the dangerous ninja.

It is a game for those people who enjoy wargames, and it is a much better game than [page scan/se=0033/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Risk or [page scan/se=0431/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Axis & Allies.

One piece of advice, make sure you have enough time to play it. A typical game can last from 4 to 6 hours.

by Savaroth
Shogun / Samurai Swords
February 09, 2007

Shogun / Samurai Swords is a very interesting game. The players must think and plan on several levels to be successful. There are many twist and turns, especially with the use of the Ninja. Because of the Ninja, the game tide can easily suddenly change, and be prolonged. The game however, with 5 players, takes at least 12 hours. If it does not take that long, then you have not understood the concepts of the game. Unfortunately, this leaves it among the many games that regular working people only can play on Saturdays. Leaving your girlfriend as you "wasted" another Saturday... But it's great fun!

Best of the Gamemaster series
October 31, 2001

This is a lengthy game. But if you go into it prepared to spend up to six hours playing, it is a great game. Since territories are either chosen by round or given out at random (the only way Ive played), there is a lot of strategy. Where should I consolidate? Which territories are hopeless to retain? Also, playing with the maximum number of people further adds to the intrigue. You can all agree to beat down on one player, but you never know that is really what your co-conspirators are going to do until their turns. Since there are four different types of pieces, there are tough decisions to make there as well. Do you want quantity or quality? Additionally there are the extra hired hands from the ronin, who will quickly desert you. Finally, there is the decision of how to spend your money. Should you hire any troops, or do you want to build fortifications, hire the ninja, or pick your pecking order for the round?

The pieces are really nicely done. But they are a bit delicate. The use of swords to decide the order of play for the round is also a nice touch. The mix of strategy and luck is in just the right ratio. Battles are never certain due to the dice. On the whole, I believe this to be the best game in the [page scan/se=0829/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Gamemaster series.

by John
Board Game Mastery!
July 28, 2000

Samurai Swords is far and away one of the best boardgames of all-time. I have only played it once in my life but immediately fell in love with it. In fact I ordered it just yesterday and am greatly anticipating its arrival. Although gameplay is quite long and arduous, time seems to fly by. The game itself is part of the famous Gamemaster series by MB but personally I believe that Samurai Swords is the best game in the series.

The game itself is truly epic! The length of the game is broken up and prevented from being monotonous through many different rules and gameplay procedures. This game makes Risk look like Candy Land! The only downsides to the game ARE its gamelength and intense, in-depth rules. Learning the game can take up hours all in itself, however once learned the game is addictive and takes incredible strategic planning. Not a game for the faint of heart--a game for REAL players! If strategic games or wargames are your forte, Then Samurai Swords is the game for you! It's too incredible to let collect dust on the shelf!

by Ken
"Ashigaru Gunner - 4 or less!"
February 04, 2000

This game is the best! Being a fan of Japanese samurai movies and Japanimation, I was naturally hooked when I was able to set up my armies before me. Gunners, spearmen, bowmen, samurai swordsmen. I love the detail put into each playing piece--each army has a distinct title and flag. I have played about a dozen games of this with good friends and had an absolute blast. This is what Risk should have been, in my opinion, more diverse and detailed to give real flavor rather than just simplified as 'armies.' You don't just receive 'armies' at the end of a turn either--you receive the equivalent of money, koku. With it YOU decide what to buy. Do you want to fortify your southern territory with a castle? Or perhaps you want to raise an army of ronin warriors to surprise your foe? Or, hire the deadly ninja? I really like this aspect which easily enhances the game into true strategy. I'd highly recommend this game to any wargamer or samurai enthusiast.

I will say that the game is long. No less than 4 hours is needed to play, and that is with express setup rules provided. When we were short on time, we had to claim victory by number of territories. Spare spearmen are provided too, which is a good thing, because those pesky spearmen just seem to fluctuate in number. Definitely you need to count the number you start a game with or you will end up with an unfair advantage/disadvantage situation for a player if their number is off. The playing pieces are vulnerable--I haven't lost any swords from the little samurai figures but I have had ones bent up. And there are some rules that can be misinterpreted or glossed over, as we found out, meaning we were playing the game wrong the first several times. We still enjoyed it though. And since we were all using the same set of rules while playing, fair was fair. All in all, a game I prefer even to Axis and Allies because each time you start you have a new setup, not the same one.

There are also player-created optional rules for the game that add even more flavor once you get more experienced and they can be found online. Although I've lost the original address I'll post them on my website to share with interested folks:

A fantastic game, if you ever have time to play it.
December 19, 1999

I had a hard time choosing whether to give this game three stars or four. I think the game itself is a four-star game, but I wasn't sure how severely to penalize it for taking so long, both to learn and to play.

I love many things about the game. For starters, the pieces. The armies and units are very detailed little plastic men, as opposed to the generic markers you get in a game like Risk. The bowmen, pikemen, and Samurai are all just beautiful. My second favorite thing about the game is the koku system. Each turn, players secretly allocate their koku (equivalent to money) in five different production areas. You have to try to out-think your opponents, and guess their strategy. This adds a really exciting element of bidding to the game, and also an opportunity to equalize the game for a player who has fallen behind; crafty bidding can give a losing player an edge.

Now, to the drawbacks. The game is very complicated, and usually it takes about an hour before it's ready to play--refreshing everyone's memory about the rules takes a while, and game set-up itself takes a while. I have tried many times to organize people to play this game, and even playing with people who have played before, we have never finished a game in under 8 hours. We usually have to play over two or more nights. On top of that, after my first two games, I discovered we'd been interpreting the rules incorrectly!

Anyway, I think of this as one of my favorite games, even though I've hardly ever gotten to play it. It's one of those games that sits on my shelf, begging, 'play me, play me!' And I always look at it and sigh, 'I wish I could...'

So, if you like war games--and it wouldn't be too far off to think of this as a jazzed-up variant of Risk--and you think you've got the time, I heartily recommend Samurai Swords.

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