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For centuries, Samurai have represented unfailing courage, imperturbable loyalty and internal harmony. There are three Samurai forces: peasants, clergy and nobility. The way to power leads through these three: peasants, represented by rice fields, clergy, represented by Buddhas and nobility, represented by high helmets. To become a Samurai, one has to be supported by one of these forces and have strong connections to the other two. Each player has an identical force and they deploy their forces to the spaces around the power figures. When a figure is surrounded, it is captured by the player with the strongest sympathetic force. To win, a player must gain dominance in one of the powers while getting better support from the other powers than the other players.
- 39 figures:
- 13 high helmets
- 13 buddhas
- 13 rice fields
- 80 hexagonal tiles
- 4 Japanese screens
- 1 game board in 4 pieces
Average Rating: 4.3 in 17 reviews
Stuart Dagger's excellent review details the nuances of Samurai, and I concur with them.
This is a great tile-laying game for both families and serious strategy gamers. Like Knizia's Through The Desert, it is ideal for introducing newcomers to the genre, because the rules are very straight-forward, and the game components are first-class. But pay close attention to the scoring rules when you devise and execute a strategy, for like yet another Knizia classic -- Tigris & Euphrates --- balance is key, and too much focus on one type of icon can take you out of running.
There's lots of value in this game. I'm glad to see that Rio Grande Games has re-released it, and I strongly recommend it for new and veteran strategy gamers alike.
I love this game--while [page scan/se=0874/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Tigris & Euphrates is a 'better' pure strategy game, Samurai is much easier for the new player to grasp, and the challenge is nearly as deep.
There's certainly an element of chance to the tiles (and with your competitors) that can give this game the same type of feel as the card game Hearts. (If you like the 'stick it to them' feel of Hearts, you'd love some of the play in Samurai.) That element of chance, combined with the random game set-up, makes this a new game every time I play it.
Give this one a spin--I can't believe it's rated so low!
First of all, a premise. I played Samurai various times in the version between 2 players and I can't find an evening with 4 persons to play at this little jewel. So I cannot review this game in the 4 players version. I can only try to imagine how beautiful it can be.
In my opinion, this is a great tiles game (less complicated than Euphrat & Tigris, by the same author), easy to comprehend, easy to play but with some strategic passages that every player learns game after game. I don't spend much time and words about the way of playing (briefly, you have to surround figures with tiles, and the one who has the greatest value on the figure, catch it). Instead, I definitely recommend this game for its capability to entertain the occasional gamer as the strategic player, that can surely appreciate the chance to calculate the remaining tiles of the adversary (because every player's tiles and every captured figure are hidden by a screen). Maybe the most important tiles are the ones which permit to change two figures between them, enabling your competitors to take the one they've planned, and the one which permits you to replay a yet positioned tile on the table. Even the way to calculate the winner of the play is typical of Knizia's mind. You don't have to accumulate many tiles of all forms, because the winner is the one who has the majority of a figure. To solve the eventual draw between majorities, the winner will be the one with the most figures except the ones of the majority he owns. I suppose the 3-4 player version will be also more interesting.
Finally, a good entertainment that hasn't hard weaknesses.
This game is really cool. I've played it a load of times and each time it gets more exciting than the last. You take turns laying down tiles and trying to collect Buddhas, rice fields or High Helmets. For the price, I believe that sharing thirty minutes with friends or family is definitely worth the price.
Having played this game only 3 times, it has impressed me as being a game of tremendous depth, with lots of exictement and just enough luck to make a neophyte have a good chance at winning among a group of experienced 'shoguns'. The scoring system is clever and for more than 2, hiding the captured tokens behind your screen makes the ending a real surprise. Everyone I played with has commented that they felt they had a good chance of winning right down to the very end.
Kudos to Reiner Knizia for another excellent game!
From Battleline, Avalon Hill to Milton Bradley there have been many games on this theme. Throw the rest out! This one smells of the word classic. Few games make me glad to be involved in boardgaming as this. Playing this game involves skill, cunning, and plenty of fun. Some games are designed well, some very well. This game gives you the understanding of genius.
SAMURAI is the latest in the tile trilogy (EUPHRATES & TIGRIS and DURCH DIE WUSTE being the other two) from designer Reiner Knizia. The production values on this game are outstanding, ranging from plexiglass figures to thick, easy to handle tiles. The rules are only 4 pages long, but that includes examples and end game conditions. We were literally playing the game 5 minutes after opening the box.
In SAMURAI, players place various tiles on the board to influence 3 different sets of figures: High Hats (nobles), Rice Paddies (food), and Buddhas (religion). Other tiles like boats, loyal samurai warriors, a figure switch token, and a tile switch token all add a degree of variability to the contest. When all land hexes around a figure are occupied with tiles, the player with the highest applicable influence captures the piece (in the case of a tie, the figure is set aside, and no one scores). When the game is over, a player must be high in one of the three categories (again, High Hats, Rice Paddies, and Buddhas) to qualify for the win (or if high in two categories, you get an automatic victory). Disregarding that unique majority of figures that they hold, each qualifying player then adds up the total remaining figures from the other two categories, and a winner is determined. Like in E & T, these conditions may cause initial confusion among some players, but after a few games, it is no problem at all.
Another strong feature of SAMURAI is that it plays just as well with 3 players (and can also accommodate only 2) as it does with 4 participants; simply remove one of the four interlocking pieces of the map, and reduce the number of figures, and you're ready to go. Gameplay is fast (usually under an hour) and smooth. And since figure setup and tile selection are different for each game, replayability is another strong point for this title.
SAMURAI is a synthesis of elements from Knizia's other published efforts. It offers tremendous gameplay, and challenges the players with a plethora of decision making opportunities in such a compact and neat design.
SAMURAI has vaulted to the top of my favorite games play list, and not simply because it is just one the newest titles available. The design is elegant and easily accessible, and the pure fun factor is extremely high. I'm hesitant to rate any game as 5 Stars, but SAMURAI is about as close as you can get.
Kudos to Mr. Knizia and Hans Im Gluck Games for this excellent product.
This is a fun and relatively straightfoward game. My 5-year-old has beat me at it on more than one occasion, so the basic mechanics of it are not hard to master.
The little figurines are nice and made of lacquered wood, I think. I'd even say that the theme is much more than pasted on...the rules and pieces do capture some of the basic notions of fuedal fidelity, albeit in an abstract way.
Enjoyable, and not too deep.
I like this game. It's not rocket science, but it is fun and pleasant. Most reviews cover its pros and cons well, EXCEPT they fail to mention that (a) it's really good for introducing kids into gaming (and off the TV set), and (b) it plays very well in mixed company (how many girls do you know who'd slog through Axis & Allies or Tigris and Euphrates?) A real crowd pleaser, it has the additional advantage that you can play a decent game pretty much minutes after opening the box. Nothing wrong with that!
I have no idea how I went so long without writing a review of this Knizia classic. While not one of his masterpieces, a la Euphrat & Tigris, Medici, or Taj Mahal, it still stands tall in the good doctor's canon of work.
Gameplay is simplicity itself. Play one (or sometimes more) tiles from behind your screen, exerting influence on the three factions represented on the board. The object is to be strongly supported by one of the factions, while still maintaining enough influence with the remaining factions. There is very little luck to the game since each player has an identical set of tiles, although each player picks his new tiles randomly from this set.
The components are top-notch. The board, while a bit drab, is attractively laid out. The tiles are refreshingly thick and the pieces representing the three factions are beautiful. The only downside is the set of player screens, which do not want to stand on their own. One small flaw in the presentation is the pseudo-Japanese font used on the tiles. Some people complain that the '1' tiles look too much like it should be a '7.'
Samurai lacks the sweep and grandeur of Euphrat & Tigris. It lacks the funkiness and easy accessability of Durch die Wuste. What it does bring to Dr. Knizia's tile-laying trilogy is a quiet charm all its own. Understated, elegant, subtle. This is a game for the thinkers of the world. Highly recommended.
I've owned this one over a year now, and it pushes the envelope of my abstract boardgame barrier. However, I've never NOT enjoyed a game I've played, and the mechanism is really a bit of mathematical genius. The combination of tiles of different strengths paired with the exact number of spaces (meaning you use almost every tile, every game) really forces you to think about what goes where. Of course, only having three face-up to choose from at one time limits this. This is classic Knizia game design here: He gives you a large number of options which make the game seem to be easily won, but then limits the number and manner in which those options may be chosen. This is almost the cosmic law of the universe in way, and it doesn't surprise me that a mathemetician has captured it to some degree. So many opportunities, but with each one chosen, the rest are altered by your choosing that one. And as in real life, the consequences of your previous actions are with you for the rest of your life--I mean, game... yeah, it's just a game. OK.
Unlike real life, there are tiles which allow you to go outside the boundaries of the cosmos. One tile allows you to retrieve one of your previously-placed tiles once per game, and put it somewhere more to your advantage. Similarly, the other 'special' tile allows you to switch two of the aesthetically-pleasing plexiglass figures. These two tiles; and when and how how they are used, can make you the Shogun, or just another pissant warlorld kicking himself for not moving that one rice bale. Make no mistake: this one is for thinkers, deducers, contemplators, GAMERS. It forced me to grow as a gamer, which I came to appreciate. I wouldn't introduce Aunt Betty to the wonderful world of German gaming by pulling out Samurai. But if you and a couple of gamers can enjoy the quiet, zenlike warfare of chess, and aspire to Bushido, the warrior's path, Samurai can feed the need.
The first Reiner Knizia game I bought was Euphrat & Tigris. Samurai was the second, mainly purchased because I liked the author's other game so much. I was not disappointed.
As usual, the game is beautiful. The pieces that make up Japan slot together perfectly into a long board. The three figures - high helmets, Buddhas and rice fields - are adorable and easily differentiated.
Since most of the influence tiles can only be laid down one at a time and only affect one type of figure, having the high-value tiles isn't always a great advantage, especially if someone unexpectedly switches the kind of figure you were trying to take with something else.
The scoring at the end of the game is quite complex and I still need the rules to figure it out. As a result of the scoring, a player who is clearly behind in collecting figures can still win the game. A novel twist.
(Only later did I find out that Samurai and Euphrat & Tigris were not typical of Reiner Knizia's games. That only came as a pleasant surprise some time later when I discovered games like Money!.)
Samurai was easy to learn compared to Euphrat and Tigris but still presented some strategic challenges. The goal of the game is to collect the most of 2 types of 3 token types (hats, buddas and rice paddies). These tokens are obtained by surrounding them by your 'armies' (chips with strengths from 1-4 which can be placed next to certain tokens and 'wild card' chips which can be used anywhere). When completely surrounded, the token is obtained by the player with the most 'armies' adjacent to it, or if there is a tie the token is removed from the game.
The game is visually appealing. It plays well with 2 players but is more challenging with more.
Our game group eagerly awaited the arrival of Renier Knizia's third game of a tile laying trilogy (Durch Die Wuste and Euphrat & Tigris being the other two) and we were not disappointed. This game plays well for 2, 3, or 4 players due to the adjustibility of the map which allows you to add or subtract islands as needed.
The English rules in the Rio Grande Version are clear and easy to understand. We reviewed them and were up an playing in a matter of 5-10 minutes. The game plays fairly quickly and has a number of levels of strategy going on. You always seem to want to do more on your turn as your attention is captured multiple areas of the board and the need to keep track of who has the largest number of each piece as well as the total of all other pieces. This is a great mechanism for keeping the game close until the very end.
The production value of the game is fantastic with the playing pieces being extremely attractive. My one gripe with the game is the the theme is very weak. If not for the map of Japan, the link to the theme would be nonexistent making this game extremely abstract. Fortunately the gameplay makes up for the thin veneer of a theme (hence only 4 out of 5 stars)
Overall I would say the game has very high replay value and is a must have. It is simple enough that it is good for family and friends outside of the gaming group too. I would rank Samurai above Durch Die Wuste and below Euphrat & Tigris. There is a little more depth than the former, but much less than the latter.
One of my friends commented that Samurai is the weakest of the manufacturer's three major tile games. I do not agree with that review. Samurai was described by one member of our foursome as 'complex.' I found the game absorbing and constantly changing positions.
Our English rules took about 30 minutes to digest. We particularly had to get used to the winner being the one with largest number of Buddhas, helmets, or rice fields, along with the largest number in the two other categories. Therefore, I found myself mentally counting who had the most rice fields or Buddhas during the game.
I liked the idea of choosing five tiles to begin the game as well as everyone somewhat randomly placing all the helmets, Buddhas, and rice fields in the cities and villages. Naturally, players tended to place adjoining helmets or rice fields to help their locations later on. A tendency existed in my case to choose 3 or 4 level samurais and ships to execute quick moves to grab helmets, Buddhas, or rice fields. That worked fine at the beginning of the game, but some players held back their 4 level Samurai to grab territory at the end. You have to determine what strategy you like.
One of our players concentrated on capturing the city of Edo and outwitted his opponents who were too busy with their own captures. I certainly liked the extra tile of transferring the helmets, Buddhas, or rice to different locations late in the game. The other one of these extra tiles allowed you, for example, to pick up a played Samurai 4 and transfer that same tile to another place on the board. Both of these actions, I found, late in the game enhanced the playability of Samurai.
All in all, Samurai proved calculating and confounding. You never knew next what was going to happen with your opponents. The game ended in a tie for first place, which indicates the balanced quality of the game. The players ended up with 11, 10, 9, and 7 pieces respectively. Again, that kind of ending shows balance. The interaction with four players works particularly well. I would play the game again.
This game is my least favorite of Reiner's 'tile-laying series'. Euphrat & Tigris is one of my favorite games of all times, and I like Through the Desert despite its completely luckless, abstract nature.
But I can only give Samurai 3 stars. After playing 10+ times, I tend to feel that the game boils down to an exercise of "don't give the following player a chance to take a piece". The game feels very defensive to me, as you can't really play a long-term strategic game. In this way, it almost feels like Knizia's Battle Line, where the strategy is to play "as ambiguously as possible" and not commit to any piece in particular. Defensive games are not my cup of tea. There are about 4-5 'tricks' you pick up in the first few games. These are exciting at first, but then after you've seen them all, the game slows down to the same old defensive game. In this way, one really poor player can really upset the game as the following player will take advantage of their mistakes to win the game.
Samurai was a good game, but played too long. The game pieces are excellent! The board represents a map of Japan. The object is to capture the most tokens. The catch is you not only must have the most, but if you tie with another player, you do not win.
The Player with the second most tokens wins.
It starts placidly: Players place, one by one, the three types of figurines they need to collect to win, in the towns and cities of the Japanese islands. The battle for them is waged by laying tiles that exert their numerical influence on any adjacent prize space, and the highest values gain the awards when a city is completely surrounded. Very soon, intense local battles rage all over Japan. Two special tiles grant privileges and can dramatically change fortunes in the endgame. The first to capture a majority of two or three groups of figurines is the outright victor. Operating in a foreign environment with unfamiliar rules can be confusing as well as exhilarating. The almost inscrutable secondary methods for determining the winner might even bewilder an inexperienced victor. Don't you like surprise endings?
When we learned a couple of years ago that Reiner was working on a "gamer's game", I, like many another, got very excited. He is so prolific and targets so many different markets that it would be unreasonable to expect me or anybody else to like all his games, but when he is in this mode, there are very few who can stand alongside him and none who can pack so much play into a relatively short space of time. The game, Euphrat & Tigris, appeared last Essen and has been gathering plaudits and prizes ever since. Then we learn't that there were more in the pipe line and life took on a very rosy glow. Durch die Wüste made its debut at Nuremberg, now we have Samurai and it is clear that the three of them form a set. All three are tile laying games -- OK, in DdW the tiles look like camels, but they are tiles really -- and in all cases the object is to place them in such a way as to score points and to capture things. It is not a similarity that you can push too far, because one of the characteristics of Reiner's work is that he doesn't recycle his ideas to anything like the extent that other prolific designers do, but there is a common thread of inspiration, even though there is no overlap in the actual mechanics.
The setting this time is Japan and the aim is to collect three types of objects -- pointy things, round things and square things. Apparently these represent high helmets, Buddhas and rice fields, but, attractive though the pieces are, if you hadn't told me what they were I wouldn't have guessed and in my circle the square ones were immediately rechristened Mintolas, with big Ian receiving his usual instruction that he was not to eat them. The board comes as a four piece jigsaw showing the four main islands of Japan, together with surrounding coastal waters. On the islands are the capital (Edo), three major cities (Kyoto, Sapporo and Akita) and an assortment of villages. The helmets, Buddhas and rice fields are placed in these settlements in the opening phase of the game and after that it is a matter of capturing them by placing tiles so as to surround them.
The tiles come in three main types, each showing a symbol and a number. Type one shows one of the three types of object, type two a samurai and type three a ship. Each player also has a couple of "switch tiles", which are of tactical importance in the play, but which needn't concern us here. The concept underlying the capture of the various objects is that of "influence". As soon as all the land hexes adjacent to an object are occupied by tiles, the object is captured by the player with most influence over it. Tiles of type one only influence the object shown on them; the samurai and the ships influence all three objects. As an example, let us suppose that Akita contains a helmet and a Buddha, that the four land hexes adjacent to it are occupied by a "3 helmet" and a "2 samurai" from you and by two "1 samurai" from me and that I also have a "1 ship" in an adjacent sea hex. You take the helmet by 5 points to 3 and I take the Buddha by 3 points to 2.
The game begins with each player selecting 5 of their 20 tiles to form their initial hand. This is done in secret and the tiles chosen are placed behind your screen. The remaining 15 tiles are mixed face down to form a pool from which you will draw replacements as the game proceeds. Next, players take it in turn to place objects on the board. There are 13 of each type, three go into Edo, two into each of the major cities and one into each village. The only restriction is that a city cannot contain two objects of the same type. This phase, the choice of tiles and the placement of objects, is where you have an opportunity to set up some sort of strategic plan and then to try and produce a board that will suit it. Thereafter it is a matter of taking it in turn to place a tile and draw a replacement, though the switch tiles referred to earlier and the fact that some tiles can be placed in addition to your normal placement add tactical spice and stop this becoming too much a matter of simple counting.
The normal ending of the game (though as in DdW there is an alternative) comes when the last object of one of the types is captured. Players then lift their screens and everybody reveals how many objects of each type they have collected and now (shades of E&T) we have another Reiner special. If one player has the most figures of two or three types, they win. If, as is likely in a four player game, nobody has managed this, then each player who has the most of one type becomes a contender for victory. In all this talk of "most" it has to be a clear lead that you have; tied first places don't qualify. Contenders now set to one side the objects that got them past this first hurdle and count how many objects they have of the other two types combined. It is this second number that determines the victor. This means that to win you have to walk a very narrow line, concentrating enough on one type to establish yourself as a contender (not easy with four players, only three types and only 13 of each type) but not so much that you don't have enough of the others and end up failing at stage two.
So much for the plot, how does Samurai measure up to the two earlier games and does it have a genuine Japanese feel to it? The first of these is the more important, but the second is also worth asking, partly because some of you find your level of enjoyment enhanced when there is a proper marriage of game and theme and partly because the rule book itself expresses the hope that it is something the game has.
The game, like the two earlier ones, is a well crafted, multi-player abstract. With a lot of games that are published, you have the feeling that there were aspects that the designer could have done better. I never feel that with Reiner's games. You may like the concepts in them or you may not, but it is always the case that the presentation of the ideas is as accomplished as it can be made. That is again the case here. This is one very polished game and there is a lot packed into it. Not everybody is going to like it, because some will find it too dry and abstract and some won't like the fact that you have to concentrate and count if you are to entertain any hope of winning. It is not a game where you can be successful with a "flying by the seat of your pants" approach. Others will like it because it is interesting, very skillful and because it calls for concentration and thought. You need to know your own taste and make the call accordingly. If you liked both the other two, and particularly if you liked Durch die Wüste, Samurai is a must purchase; if you are averse to the abstract and the cerebral, you are probably better giving it a miss.
As for the second and lesser of my two questions, for me the answer is "no". The shape of Japan makes it a very good choice for the game and the graphics and components do an excellent job of capturing a Japanese feel. Hans im Glück were giving Franz Vohwinkel almost equal billing with Reiner in the pre-Essen publicity and he deserves it. But the game itself doesn't feel at all Japanese to me. The archetypal Japanese game is Go. (Chinese in origin I know, but the Japanese took it over and made it their own a long time ago.). In that, the idea that the Japanese understand better than anybody -- the influence on the space between of groups of relatively distant objects -- comes through as strongly as it does with their gardens. (And the Japanese are like the British in that if you want to understand them, you should begin by looking at their gardens.) There is none of that here. In Samurai there are no long range influences; everything is short range and about counting and watching. That it is not to belittle the game, simply to say that it doesn't feel Japanese. I'm also not convinced that you could have a 45 minute game that does; they may rush around a lot in their day to day lives, but their art is leisurely and contemplative. The insistence on speed and getting things over quickly is a Western thing. Kurosawa's masterpiece Seven Samurai runs for 200 minutes in its original version; when it was released in the West it was cut down to 140 and the remake as the Magnificent Seven came down even further to a few minutes over two hours. Same story in all three cases; the difference is how quickly do you want to tell it.