rethemed edition of Wallenstein
List Price: $64.95
Your Price: $51.95
(Worth 5,195 Funagain Points!)
from 5 customer reviews
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As warlords in 16th-century Japan, the players attempt to secure a position of dominance for their respective clans. The most successful Daimyo at the end of the game will become shogun.
To succeed, a player will need not only to control as many provinces as possible, but also to develop his realm by building castles, temples, and theaters. The player who manages to build the most buildings in each of the 5 regions will be rewarded with valuable bonus points.
SHOGUN by Queen Games (not to be confused with other Shogun, Samurai, Samurai Swords games)
Designer: Dirk Henn, based on Wallenstein
SETUP: 10-15 minutes
PLAY TIME: 2-3 HOURS
PLAYERS: 3-5, dynamics works well with all numbers
TYPE: Strategy planning, war game
SHOGUN has replaced Risk, Axis and Allies, and all other board war games of medium to light complexity for me. I will not even touch those other games when Shogun is around. I would love to see expansions or other versions of the game, using the same game mechanics which are brilliant. A World War II version, North America, Europe, Fantasy, Space, etc. would be fantastic.
The board is Japan divided into smaller territories in the 16th Century during the Sengoku Jidai period, an era of warring samurais, ninjas, daimyos, Shogun, and the Emperor. Each player chooses one of the main clans that are battling to rule Japan. Players setup relatively quickly receiving territory and placing troops down on the board. Small colored cubes (not fancy pieces) are used as army groups and placed according to the chart on owned territories. They are used in battle with an ultra cool tower mechanism which surpasses the use of dice or other random battle deciders.
BATTLE TOWER: the tower is loaded with armies and farmers which can help or hinder your battle progress. There are unique slats that capture the cube, allowing some to fall through while trapping others. By dropping your cubes and the opponent's cubes, they cause a chain reaction which releases cubes into the bottom tray like a slot machine. Based on the colors, the dominant one wins. What makes it great is that if you lose, it is because your cubes are still in the tower which will give you an advantage in the next battle, eventually evening out the odds, but still providing enough of a random battle factor. No one wins based purely on luck or rolling all 6s or 1s!
Every season, players must preplan all their actions, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and just like ancient battles, Winter is a non battle/build phase, and dedicated purely to feeding people and preparing for the new season. During the main three seasons, you must battle, build, recruit, and collect gold/food. Another unique aspect, you can only choose one territory for one action which makes planning and predicting your opponents' actions crucial. Do you use a key territory to build, produce, launch a battle, or recruit new troops, you must choose only one per territory, you can not do it all and so your multiple actions are spread out among your territories. I love this aspect as it avoids the big slow dice-rolling slugfest battles, and avoids hoarding in one spot like the mega armies of Risk or Moscow's last stand in A&A.
Each territory has unique features shown on its deed card, how much gold it can produce, how much rice it can produce, how many buildings it can sustain. By building castles, temples, and theaters, you gain valuable victory points, beware if you lose your territory, all your buildings are destroyed. Another aspect which is great, only the first five actions are revealed, the next five actions are hidden. You must plan all your actions and in which territory before you can even act. Therefore the game is not based on act, react, act like Risk, if you misplan your actions, you will be crushed. All ten actions are planned before anyone goes, 3 building actions, 3 army recruit actions, 1 produce gold, 1 produce rice (feed your troops or face revolts), 2 battle/war actions. You can opt to skip actions as well. Once you plan all ten (or less) actions, the actions are resolved in turn order, you also bid to see who goes first and receive special bonus modifiers. ie first action may be 1) all receive rice 2) all build castles 3) all build temples 4) recruit or move soldiers 5) go to war 6-10) ??? you flip to reveal those actions one at a time. Of course there is much more to the game, and only by playing will you get a true feel for the game.
The game is beautiful, elegantly simple but strategic, relatively easy to learn, and great replay value. The cost is high, so look for a used copy or try it out at a convention or a gaming club. If you do purchase, then you should love Risk and desire much more planning and challenge, if you love games like Samurai Swords, Fortress America, Axis and Allies, Battle Cry, Conquest of the Empire, you should be fine. A personal favorite and highly recommended.
Not so much about war as it is about building. You still need a good defense, and knowing when to attack is the key.
The most novel bit is the cube tower. Instead of rolling dice for combat, you throw both opponent's cubes into a tower. Whoever has the most cubes come out the bottom wins. War is costly in this game; rarely does the winner come out unscathed.
This is a clever way to mitigate bad luck, because if you DO lose a lot of cubes in the tower, they will probably come out the next time you fight.
The other great thing about Shogun is the game only lasts 8 rounds. So there is no possibility of 2 players going back and forth trying to wipe each other out.
When I first read about this game, I had to have it. I had never been able to find Wallenstein, the game it was originally based on as it is now out of print. When it arrived, I was not disappointed, it is domination on a grand scale -- even the box is big. The board and the bits were wonderful, but the sheer number of them put off everyone I tried to talk into playing it. It didn't help that the rules came in multiple languages thus causing the box to never fully close.
After tossing the rules in languages I didn't need, I got down to setting the board up and running through the rules by moving the pieces so I could see how it worked. I figured leaving it set up would cause friends and family to want to sit down and try it out; unfortunately, it just scared them even more. All those wooden blocks and the many action points and decisions to make caused people to dismiss it as a complex war game, which it is not. Defeated, I finally packed the game back up and kept trying to interest people in playing it for the next six months without result.
I finally decided to just play it by myself, planning and executing strategic movements in a four-person game that took four times as long to play as it would have with other players, and I loved every minute of it. Certainly not the best way to play the game, but it helped me see how to break through that initial fear of the game and understand the strategy enough to explain it to others.
It really isn't anything at all like a war game or even a simulation, although the two-sided map does show the different historical shogun territories. The actual clashes that occur have more of a Risk quality to them, but seem much more fair. I know others have criticized the cube tower that makes the outcome of the clashes more random, but that is really no more random that the Risk-factor of rolling dice or the extra bonus of additional armies gained from matching army cards. Shogun doesn't allow increases of occupation any higher than six and when battles with adjoining territories happen, you have the unknown factor of residual cubes in the tower that can benefit either player, along with the possibility of peasant farmers (green cubes) that can join the defender to keep the land or revolt as well. Battles are never predictable this way and it keeps the strategy interesting.
The game is played in eight rounds, representing two years of four seasons (winter becomes a scoring round where players try to amass victory points while also satisfying rice quotas for the peasants in their territories). The game is constantly shifting with auction elements to gain the territories you desire; blind bidding to establish turn order; multiple steps to keep your territories supplied, happy, and cultured (with No theaters, temples, and palaces that increase the quality of life and your victory points). It is actually a wonderfully engaging game, even if I did play all the turns in a solitaire version.
Even as I played the game alone, I found myself seeing the interplay that keeps players trying to manage their own possessions as well as anticipate outside attacks and plan for expansion of their own. It makes for a fascinatingly complex bit of gaming. And, so as I ran around the table, dropping cubes in the tower and laughing manically at my vicarious multiple victories and defeats, I managed to attract attention to the game that merely setting it up had failed to do. My family began to ask questions about it and showed some interest in this unique gem.
I have a feeling Shogun will be hitting the table again soon with some newly recruited players... and I can't wait! Until then, I will save that last half a star on the rating for the pleasure I will have playing this winner with others!