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Samurai & Katana
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Store:  Strategy Games
Theme:  Oriental
Format:  Board Games

Samurai & Katana

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Ages Play Time Players
12+ 120 minutes 3-6

Designer(s): Pascal Bernard

Manufacturer(s): Clash of Arms, Tilsit

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Product Description

It is the middle of the 16th century during a Japanese civil war. You are the daimyo of one of the greatest samurai clans. In order to end this war, you must seize the opportunity to become the new Shogun and to unify the country under your rule. But only an honorable daimyo can obtain the shogunal title. To this end, you will build castles, subject the minor clans, battle your rivals, wipe out the religious sects and conduct business with foreign countries. With different means at your disposal to hamper your opponents (ronin, ninja and dark forces), you must also prevent your rivals from gaining the most coveted title of Shogun. But be aware that effective methods are not always honorable.

Product Information


  • 1 game board representing 16th century Japan
  • 55 cards
  • 120 samurai miniatures
  • 18 castle miniatures
  • 19 small and major city counters
  • 24 koku counters
  • 6 clan reference cards

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4 in 6 reviews

Great game that deserves more attention.
March 16, 2005

Samurai & Katana is a game that has not yet made a big impression on board gamming, for me, this was the game that made me stop playing Risk and start exploring every kind of board games. When I saw S&K was "back in stock", I thought I might as well post my coments on the game.

The only real problem the game has is the horrendously written rules! It took me maybe 5 games to get them right (at least I think I got them right). Most problems people has with the game on the internet comes from a poor understanding of the rules, and it's incredible how diferently the game's played from the actual rules (ahem... what I think are the actual rules).

Once you get the rules, the game's very simple to teach to new players and games are always very balanced and very interesting, the aspect I like the most is that you need money to keep your forces moving, and since castles allow for free movement, their placement makes a very important decision on the strategical/tactical aspect of the game.

Some games can get to be VERY long, but never boring, also, we've had some very fast games and in that case we usually play again.

The games plays best with 5-6 players, I just LOVE a 6 player S&K game! Borders are tight, deals are important, winning combats the honorable way is a serious thing to consider (because there's always an easy option: kill the samurai, or revolt the province), the deck does feel like it has very few cards, but it also somewhat balances card use, as if you use a powerful card, you can expect it will be on some one elses hands very soon, some times ruining your plans. Some times the player with the least honor (you need honor points to win the game) can be the richest player, as he does has a very important influence on power balance. Situation around the capital gets very intense, and some warriors prefer to stay away, just making sure no one gets an easy shot for the control of the whole imperial province.

In simple words, S&K feels very strategic and very authentic you face constant decisions and must have a good balance between economic, militar and politic power, yet, the game is in escense very simple. The more you play the better it gets, it's been 3 years of board gamming for me (and I've spent a VERY good part of my money on them) and S&K is always an option I'm willing to play!

Beware the rules are a very good example of how a rulebook can ruin a great game!

If you are looking for something new over A&A and Risk, then I would seriously recommend S&K.

Winning becomes an intriguing puzzle.
September 12, 2002

Our group of four has enjoyed playing 'S&K' even more than the Milton Bradley 'Samurai/Samurai Blades'. The game goes much faster for one thing. One's location on the game map is also not as crucial as in Samurai. You can make steady progress towards winning without having to conquer the whole map.

The other reviews have left out perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the game: the player with the fewest victory points at the end of the turn chooses the turn order for the next turn. Furthermore,the next player is not chosen until the prievious player has completed his turn. This ability to choose turn order is a huge advantage. If you cut down another player too much at the wrong time you may be handing him/her the means to engineer your defeat.

The game gives you many difficult choices throughout the play of your turn and you're never sure which action will seem to help you at first but prove to be your undoing in the end.

S&K is an excellent combination a conqust game with a 'Euro' style game. Highly recommended.

good ideas and concepts, cards need to be clearer
July 21, 2002

I played this game twice and did a 2 round test to learn the rules so far. It's an interesting game with good ideas and concepts.

I enjoyed playing this game.

I found some cards and rules need to be clarified. When playing, too many times we had to make our own ruling what the card meaning meant and how it should to be played and when.

Also, there r not enough swords on the cards. It happend sometimes that the players had all except maybe one or two samurai's on the board, and like 10-15 koku's during his turn to buy. So there was a part of the koku's that was wasted.

So, in short, the samurai's doesnt get killed often, so ppl just retreat when lossing a battle.

In that point of view, there should be more cards with swords, so that we can spend the money on samurai's to put elsewhere.

Because ater a while, it can happend that,

on territories that has 2 or 3 samurai's in a zone that is none threating to an attack, these samurai's r just wasted.

There r not enough cards, we keeped on reshuffling the cards, so in a short period cards keeped repeating it self.

Speaking of the cards, there r too many cards that can move or replace one or group of samurai's.

So it was hard to keep a whole zone of the same color without someone using one of those cards to take a territory of their choice and so, preventing a player collecting his honor for having all the territories of the same color at the end of the turn.

One of the two times i played was a 4 player game. I found it funny on the box it said a game lasts about 2 hours.

Turned out, we were playing a just a 15 pts game, and after about 2 hours, the player with the lead had only 7 pts.

In general, I like the game and going to play it again. It is a good idea to get this game if u enjoy strategy games.

With my experience of playing this game, i give it is 3 stars out of 5. So its a solid game, but with the details i given above, and rules being clearer, this game can be easily be a 4 out of 5.

by Haplo
Great game. Highly recommended.
April 23, 2002

I totally agree with the review below, except for the observation that it's an obvious strategy to attack a player to decrease his hand size. It seems to me that this is not realy a valid option, since you draw two new cards after each battle and the defending player even gets an extra card for winning. This means that you can't force a player to decrease his hand size, you can only force him to cycle through his available cards. Since you don't know whether the cards he draws as replacement will be better or worse than the cards he allready had you don't really gain anything with this tactic.

Good game. Takes Risk to a much higher level.
December 05, 2001

Im enjoying this game very much. It has the basic flavor of [page scan/se=0033/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Risk, being more of a conquest game than most Euros, but has a lot of interesting period chrome to add interest. The replayability is very good.

The great strength of the game lies in the number of decisions that a player must make every turn. You never have enough resources to do all that you would like to, so the choices you make are critical. Do you spend money on samurai (troops) or castles? Do you spend your good cards on winning battles or to generate special events? Are you more interested in taking territory or causing casualties to your enemies?

The three player game is OK, but like most games of this kind, the more players, the better.

The components are first rate. The rules are generally clear, but a clarification sheet being made available by Clash of Arms would be good.

All in all, well worth the money.

Some clever ideas marred by a few oversights
September 18, 2001

I've only played this once, but since no one else has offered any comments, I'll leave mine. Our game consisted of 5 players with varying wargame experience. It took about two and a half hours to play, but we had a notoriously slow player--I'd wager a 4- or 5-player game could take 90 minutes to two hours with most groups.


  • Excellent components; nice colorful map, cards and pieces.
  • Excellent theme. The rule book even includes some historical references to the people highlighted in the game, and the goal of the game is to accumulate the most 'honor' by winning battles, uniting regions and playing the right cards.
  • Lots of optional rules. If you play this frequently, there are about a dozen or so minor adjustments and options you can include to change the flavor of the game.
  • It encourages a degree of cunning and diplomacy. Lone wolves tended to get ganged up on in our game.
  • Fairly simple rules, with reference cards for each player.
  • One of the best elements is including a means for the player in last place to still be an important part of the game by making him the 'emperor'--thereby setting turn order and allowing him to get back into the game with some other twists (especially if you use some of the optional rules).
  • All cards have a combat value, but many also have a secondary ability or value. However, you can only use a card for one purpose or the other, leading to a few tough decisions on the best way to utilize a card. The inherent value of cards, however, is somewhat overshadowed by some of the cons mentioned below.


  • The deck of cards, an integral part of the game, is fairly small. We went through the deck about 7 or 8 times in our game, reducing the surprise factor of some cards, since you see them so often.
  • They don't include enough 'koku' (money) in the game. You'll probably want to grab some nickels and pennies or other tokens to use as cash, since the game is woefully short.
  • While overall the rules are simple, some are fairly vague and left up to your judgement. I'd wager there will be quite a few 'house rules' for different players.
  • Going early has a clear and definite advantage. You need at least two cards to attack another player. You also use cards if you defend, but during the 'action phase' where attacks take place, you only get to draw new cards if you're a defender without enough cards in your hand to fend of an attack.

So a tactic that came up *too* often in our game was to attack a player going later in a round with some meaningless forces to chew through their hand of cards. By the time those players' turns came around, they literally couldn't do anything because they lacked the minimum 2 cards to launch an attack.

>> To combat the above problem, the best suggestion I have seen so far is to allow people to purchase additional cards during their phase (at 2 koku per card), which they must do before any other actions.


A good game, but with a few flaws--most of which are interpretation of the simple, yet somewhat ambiguous rules. Should appeal to fans of Risk, Risk 2210, or other simpler war games. Room for strategy and negotiations. Luck plays a factor with the deck of cards, but is otherwise minimal.

Comparisons to Tenjo will surely be made. My group hated Tenjo (too much downtime between turns, too much luck with the d10 actions, not tied to its theme), but enjoyed this. I actually enjoy both games quite a bit, but they are definitely different beasts. If you want a more spirited game, get this. If you want a more patient, thoughtful game, Tenjo may be more to your liking.

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