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Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan» Forums » Reviews

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Gerald Gan
Philippines
Quezon City
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Sekigahara: Unification of Japan is a two-player block wargame designed by Matt Calkins and published by GMT Games in 2011. Its a low-complexity wargame that typically takes roughly two to three hours from start to finish.

The game is based on Tokugawa's campaign in 1600 that would unify Japan for over two hundred and fifty years.

COMPONENTS:
The game comes with a mounted mapboard, a bunch of gold and black rectangular blocks, stickers, two bags, two decks of cards (one in gold and one in black), some wooden cubes and cyliners, player aids and a glossy rulebook.

GMT has recently released a volley of games that include a mounted mapboard, as opposed to the usual cardboard/paper map fare. And, as with the previous releases, the map included in Sekigahara is nothing short of breathtaking. Wonderful contrast of colors, and the information is perfectly laid out. Everything is easy to read, and the overall effect is stunning.


Picture Submitted By: Mark Mahaffey || Taken From the BGG Database


The blocks are typical wooden blocks, but they're made rectangular as opposed to the traditional square ones. The gold blocks are a specially nice touch. After stickers are applied, and the blocks are set on the map, they look gorgeous... plus they are quite functional as well.

The cards are glossy and made from thick cardstock, and should last you awhile even without sleeves.

The rulebook is very easy to read and digest and the player aids are invaluable as they contain pretty much everything you need to know and remember during the course of the game.

In fact, the box is so chockfull of stuff, that its almost impossible to get everything back in without doing it a certain way (pictured below) so you can end up getting the lid closed properly.


Picture Submitted By: Francis K. Lalumiere || Taken From the BGG Database


Bottomline: Top notch components as one has come to expect from GMT as of late. Great bang for your buck!

GAMEPLAY:
I will not discuss every little rule here, as I believe there are other reviews that have covered that (plus you can easily download the rulebook online). I will run thru the gameplay very quickly, just to give people an overview, and maybe help them decide if this is a game they'd like to own and/or play.

Setup is a breeze as all the information you need (what goes where) is already on the board. All remaining blocks (those not used during setup) is placed inside each player's respective bags to be drawn on future turns. Each player shuffles his/her own deck (maybe take a couple of minutes to take stock of their units) and draws five cards, then play begins on week one. The game will last for seven weeks. There're several automatic victory conditions (i.e. Tokugawa kills Ishida, etc.), but if no one wins the game by the end of the seven weeks, whoever has the most victory points claims victory.

Every week, a player will end up basically doing the same things:
- Discard: You discard half of what remains of your hand (rounded up) and draw five new cards. The player with the most castles get to draw an additional card.
- Reinforce: Based on the number written on the board. The player with the most resource points get an additional block.
- Initiative: Each player plays a card to determine initiative.
- Phase A: Initiative player moves and attacks. Remaining player moves and attacks.
- Phase B: Initiative player moves and attacks. Remaining player moves and attacks.
- Week Ends.


I know I said I wasn't gonna go thru every little rule, but allow me a couple of minutes to roughly explain movement and combat.

On each phase (Phase A & B), a player can choose to play zero cards and move one stack OR reinforce, one card to move three stacks OR two stacks and reinforce, or two cards to move all stacks AND reinforce. You can also choose to not play any cards to discard any number of cards from your hand and re-draw the same number from your corresponding deck. A stack of blocks has a default movement value of one, which simply means that you can move it from its current location to any adjacent location. There are several bonuses that can apply to a stack that will allow it to move further (i.e. having a leader grants it a +1 movement bonus, etc.) and also some penalties that can apply to a stack that will hinder its movement (i.e. having five to eight blocks grants a -1 to movement, etc.). This simply means that you have to coordinate and organize your stacks accordingly to be able to maximize certain bonuses and minimize penalties so as to give you the best chance to position your troops in advantageous positions.

Combat is a tad harder to explain without going into detail. Suffice to say that you play cards in combat that correspond with the symbol(s) on your block in order to be able to activate it for battle. Once activated, each block provides a certain "impact". Impact is the amount of strength a block provides in any given battle, and will determine the number of casualties at the end of combat, as well as who wins and/or loses (yes, there is ZERO dice in this game). The loser MUST retreat after combat. After combat is resolved, both players re-draw whatever number of cards they used (along with any additional cards they may acquire due to losses/casualties). There's more to it than that, but that pretty much sums up combat in a nutshell.

After both players perform move/combat twice, the week ends and the cycle repeats. There're other nuances I skipped like loyalty, overruns and sieges, but that's pretty much a decent overview on how the game works.

COMPARING IT TO OTHER SIMILAR GAMES:
Compared to other block games such as Hammer of the Scots and Julius Caesar, I would say that Sekigahara offers a much more unique experience. Yes, there's your typical play a card then move, but there's a higher premium on maneuvering because of all the bonuses/penalties you acquire. The diceless combat is also great and reminds me a little (very little) bit of the combat system in Napoleon's Triumph.

All in all, its hard to compare Sekigahara to pre-existing block games because its quite a unique beast. On one hand, its very simple to teach and learn, on the other it has good depth and strategy. In your typical Columbia block game, its almost always whoever chucks the most dice wins... not so in Sekigahara because having a lot of blocks not only minimizes your movement, but there's also no guarantee that you can get them all to join the fight.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
I'm not saying this game is the end-all-and-be-all of block wargaming... I still enjoy my fair share of Columbia block wargames (like Julius Caesar for example), but Sekigahara: Unification of Japan is an excellent game that should be a part of every block wargamers collection. I look forward to new games/wars that can be derived using this system. Its elegant, unique, low-complexity (but high in strategy), beautiful and quick-to-play. From its components down to its gameplay, this game is nothing short of marvelous. Buy it, trade for it, bug a friend/gamer who has a copy to break it out... whatever... just PLAY IT!
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Neil Henning
United States
Nutley
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I couldn't agree more. I love block games and this one is quickly challenging Hammer of the Scots as one of my favorites.
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David Brown
United Kingdom
Stockport
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This game and Ikusa are on MY Christmas present wish list. I can only have one thoughcry
 
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Sean McCormick
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Philadelphia
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thirtybrowns wrote:
This game and Ikusa are on MY Christmas present wish list. I can only have one thoughcry


This is the one you want. It's not even close.
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JR
Canada
Sooke
British Columbia
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"I fear threatening JC with a thumb boycott would be as effective as threatening Br'er Rabbit with the briar patch." (E. Brosius)
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seanmac wrote:
thirtybrowns wrote:
This game and Ikusa are on MY Christmas present wish list. I can only have one thoughcry


This is the one you want. It's not even close.


Agreed, unless you are a person who really prefers >2 player games. Ikusa's only draw over Seki is that it can play 3+ players. For some people that's an important thing. To me, Sekigahara is far and away the more enjoyable and interesting game, but I enjoy 2P games and have a hard enough time getting opponents for them let alone 3 or more.
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Jason Birzer
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Burke
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jrebelo wrote:
Agreed, unless you are a person who really prefers >2 player games. Ikusa's only draw over Seki is that it can play 3+ players. For some people that's an important thing. To me, Sekigahara is far and away the more enjoyable and interesting game, but I enjoy 2P games and have a hard enough time getting opponents for them let alone 3 or more.


Course, I have the opposite problem, being in a gaming group that typically require games capable of 3+ players.

I had P500ed this as a gift for a friend of mine, but i was so interested in it that I used my 50% discount on another copy for myself. Hopfully I can get a chance to play it at some point.
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Andy Daglish
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Cheadle
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Quote:
but there's a higher premium on maneuvering because of all the bonuses/penalties you acquire.


I am unaware of any link here, but its unlikely to be significant because you can't manoeuvre, which is geographically and historically accurate. You fight the same battles with the same units in the same places in the same way in every game. The cards are a bit like petrol in the desert -- if your panzer army has none, a small camel troop can round you up. I'd suspect some Geeks wouldn't like this, but of course you are fine if you maintain a certain number of cards...mostly.

Its an excellent game and its worth a few plays. And a few more several years hence.
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Rodger MacGowan
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Hi Gerald,

Thank you for your wonderful review of our new game "Sekigahara". I will share it with our fans at the C3i Magazine website.

Enjoy the Games,

Rodger

www.c3iopscenter.com/
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Martyn Smith
England
Bourne
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My son and I on a great day out at Bovington Tank Museum. Happy memories...
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My copy has just arrived and when I opened it I had that, "Wow, just wow!" moment and I haven't even snickered it yet, let alone PLAYED it!!!!!!

What a breathtakingly beautiful game...

I am going to get it sorted tonight and familiarise myself with the rules ready for my inaugural game this Saturday with my son.

What a totally engrossing and satisfying hobby this is
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