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The peace that existed in decades past has vanished. A new breed of warlords has emerged. Among these men, authority depends on the ability to wage war. Each seeks to control and unify the nation.
You command a fearless army of Samurai soldiers, Daimyo generals, and secret Shadow Warriors. Your military strength is immense.
However, to acheive victory you cannot rely on military strength alone. Fear, greed, trust, and deception may be your most powerful weapons. You must anticipate your enemy's ambitions and understand the true nature of man!
In the end, only one can rule the nation. Will you be crushed by your enemy? Or will you have the ability to become Shogun!
An era of chaos is on the horizon. There is no longer one man to rule the nation. The only way to ensure the safety of your land, people, castles, and family is to defeat the opposing warlords.
War will come. The question is when. Will you be ready? Your political and military positions will be critical. You will need vital resources to maintain and strengthen your army. You must fortify your province borders and protect your castle walls.
Diplomacy is crucial. A strong alliance will allow you to focus your military strength against the enemy. But can you trust your ally? Are you able to perceive his true ambitions?
On the battlefield, attack with force and overwhelm your opponents. Time your encounters cautiously. Superior leadership and strategic battle formations will give your army the tactical advantage. The warlord who acquires the most resources, builds the strongest army, and conquers the largest domain will emerge as the dominant force and earn the title of Shogun. All others will be lost to the flames of war.
I do not know about the last reviewer from Ontario, but his review is totally unwarranted. This is by all means a great game, one of the best I have played. The componants are absolutely stunning and the gameplay deep and both very strategic and tactical. Diplomacy is also very important in this game and it has to be played with 4 players to get the most out of it. With 3 it becomes a 2 vs. 1 affair and with 2 the diplomatic element that makes the game so interesting is absent. The rules are clearly written and laid out with exemples. I do conceed that the rules for family cards are a bit confusing, but easily clarified with common sense and a visit to the designer's website. Finally, yes there is luck involved but certainly not enough to make the game a luckfest. The game has just the right amount. It evens out and does not take the strategy out of the game. It will from time to time throw one of your plans out the window but that is war. Anything else would be boring.
If you like deep, engaging games with diplomacy and tense gameplay, this is a great choice. Be prepared to invest 5-6 hours though.
This is the type of strategy game I have been waiting for. It is a solid game with a great setting that involves making deals and alliances (no matter how short they may last; after playing the game you will completely understand what that means) as well as having your normal/standard strategic elements. You can make deals/alliances by trading off family members for provisions such as protection from another player, the right to share land borders, or you can even make an arrangement to stop you current assault on one player and force that player to attack someone else. Elements like these guarantee you never play the same game twice.
The random factors in the game are as balanced as I have seen in any game. There is enough game play modifiers like dice bonuses and special ability cards that ensure you will live or die by your game strategy and not by the will of the dice roles.
There are only two notes that should be mentioned about the game. ONE, it should be played with at least four people. (I believe Whyspire is making a 5 and 6 player expansion). With two players you lose the wheeling and dealing aspect of the game, and with three players the first two people to start fighting each other become an easy target of domination by the third player who has an army yet to be diminished by battle. TWO, it takes awhile to play. It is an in depth strategy game so this really should be of no surprise. Anybody who has played other great strategy games like Axis & Allies: Europe or Risk 2210 A.D. will understand.
This game is definitely worth your time.
My rating scale:
4 or 5 stars: Worth owning and has great replay value
3 stars: Not worth owning and play only once in awhile
1 or 2 stars: Id rather watch paint dry
Let me preface this review by stating that, while I have a plethora of games, this is only the second wargame that I have played (and the first was easily 20 years ago). This passage of time is not a result of an aversion to wargames, rather it's due to an absense of exposure to wargames.
Ok. Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about the game.
The playing board is made up of a mishmash of connected line segments (imagine taking a tangled string of Christmas lights and flattening it into 2 dimensions). These paths are further segmented into 13 regions. Eight of these regions allow the building of castles, one region allows monthly acquisition of resources (samurai or koku).
At the beginning of the game, you establish 2 castles with 100,000 samurai. Your samurai are distributed to you on disks of your chosen color. The quantity of samurai that each disk represents(from 1,000 to 25,000) is notated ONLY on one side of the disk. During gameplay, your disks remain face down until a battle occurs, making for interesting strategy since only you know how many of your samurai are at each point.
You also receive 2 Daimyos and 2 shadow warriors. The Daimyos are like generals, enabling movement of your samurai, and aiding in the outcome of battles. The shadow warriors represent 25,000 highly mobile samurai.
You also start out with 3 family member cards which can be used for negotiating alliances (you can have my daughter as a hostage if you will let me pass through your province) as well as some koku (used more or less as a monetary unit), and some cards that allow you to attempt some nastiness, e.g. assassinate an opponents samurai or daimyo, or block an opponent's attempt to do the same to you.
The basic mechanics of the game are relatively simple. Game play transpires over 'years'. Each year is broken down into 12 months, with each player getting one turn per month. Lost anyone yet? No? Good.
On your turn you roll a ten-sided die. The resulting number is how many action points you get to use per turn. With those action points you can move your samurai or attack your opponents. It's really that simple, although there are some limitations on how you move your samurai.
If you have samurai on certain points of the board, you obtain resources each month, which can be either additional samurai or koku. At the end of each year you have to pay expenses for each of your castles (or else some of your samurai will starve), draw fate cards (which can either have positive or negative effects on you), then reap the benefits of your castles' production, as well as getting a bonus for provinces that you control.
The game can be played until only one player remains, or for a predetermined number of 'years'. If the game is terminated by time, points are given for the quantites of resources that you have, which will determine the winner.
Like a lot of games that I enjoy, this one concentrates on strategy and resource management. From the very first move you have many decisions to make with the action points available to you: Do I move my samurai to resource generating points, or to close off borders to my opponents? How many samurai should I move? Should I attack my opponent now (remember, you don't know how many samurai your opponents have at each point until a battle forces the clashing groups to reveal the involved markers), or should I wait till I can bring more reinforcements in, etc...
With the involvement of hostages, assassins, and allies, the game does a nice job of intertwining the feudal Japan theme. The bits are nice, and the interaction of the components seems pretty well thought out and balanced. And this game plays well with two, three and four people. I understand that the manufacturers are also coming out with a supplement to enable 5 and 6 people to play.
Downsides? Well, this is not a quick game. Although you can always limit the duration of the game, the more players you have, the longer the years will take to go by. You also may get 'decision paralysis' with some frequency.
You'll need to pay close attention throughout the game. Since there are some limitations to movement, we have found that it's very easy to forget a restriction when the board becomes full of pieces.
And then there's the rulebook. At 25 pages, for a non-wargamer, this was a little bit daunting, even though, after playing it, the rules seem pretty simple. I imagine this game would be much easier learned by playing with someone who already knows how to play, but this wasn't an available option for me. If you're playing for the first time, set aside an hour for setup and to go over the rules. The rulebook gets kind of confusing when trying to work theme into the introductions to the different parts of rules, but they have excellent examples that clearly demonstrate most of the rules components. We also found a couple of minor points of the rules to be vague (although easily decided by general concensus), but the manufacturer's website has a good bulletin board that clarifies any rules questions anyone might have.
There is also the issue of luck. Since actions are governed by a die roll, it is possible for someone to have extensive bad luck with their rolls, although in the big picture, strategy can overcome bad rolls over time. The use of a 1D10 is debated with many alternative suggestions on the manufacturer's website. If this is truly an issue for someone, luck can be completely eliminated by use of a set amount of actions and resources, but in my experience, the variability adds a flavor of excitement to the game.
All in all, I really liked this game. It's challenging, yet fun. We were thoroughly engaged in the game and atmosphere. 'Careful you don't starve your samurai!', 'Stay AWAY from my border!', and, 'If you want, I'll take your wife to prevent an attack on your castle,' have been heard during our gameplay.
I know wargames aren't for everyone, but this one was a great intro for me. And at Funagain's price, this game was a great value.