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Review: Reiner Knizia's Samurai

Brad Cummings
United States
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From gallery of thequietpunk
The Stats:
Compatibility: iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. (Universal)
Current Price: $4.99,
Developer/Publisher: Conlan Rios
Version: 1.15
Size: 30.9 MB
Multiplayer: Online Multiplayer, Pass and Play
AI: Yes.
Itunes link:

The Good:
Fantastic online play system.
Great design and graphic art.

The Bad:
Lack of AI difficulty settings.

Samurai is an excellent example of moving a game to the iOS. It has it all: a smooth interface, consistent graphic design, multiple modes of play including an impressive online mode, and much more. The amount of options provided in this game are astronomical.

From gallery of thequietpunk
Samurai is another title that is new to me on iOS. I begged time and time again to play it at my local game store but every game night it remained on the shelf. It is a great tile game that has a nice mix of strategy and tactics.

In Samurai players compete to influence different icons on a map of japan. These are Buddhas, Soldiers, and Peasants. They do this by placing tiles adjacent to the icon on the map or in the surrounding ocean, and the tiles are numbered from 1 to 4 showing their level of influence. These tiles are either the same type as the icon or a wild (ships, samurai). Once on icon has been surrounded on all its land tiles, it is claimed by the player who has the most influence over it. If it is tied the noone gets the icon and it goes to “tied island.” The game ends when all of one type of icon is gone or there are 4 tied figures. If a player has two icon majorities he wins, if he is the only one to have a majority he also wins. If both players have a majority then the winner is the one with the most icons outside of their majority type.

The scoring is actually not as complex as it appears and allows for many comeback wins. The app also includes 3 tutorials that walk you through the basics of the game and really help to get you up and running. It took me sometime time to develop a strategy even after knowing the rules, but that learning process has been fun.

Samurai is one of the most complete app versions of a game I have ever seen. I have to be honest, I resisted playing the app for some time because the cartoony graphic style brought back bad memories of Settlers of Catan. However, I was wrong, this app is a complete package.

From gallery of thequietpunk
The graphic design in Samurai, despite my initial qualms, is actually quite beautiful. The minute I saw the sun rise and the title Samurai pop up...I was sold. The board is well laid out, though on a smaller screen it is sometimes hard to see the whole play area, a pinch zoom would have been nice. The tiles and the way they are played is very natural and fluid. I like that they maintain an analog feel. I am also impressed by the many character designs that show up in the different menus. This is not necessary to the gameplay but adds a really great thematic touch. And that is really what is highlighted in the non-game portions of Samurai, theme. The game is tense and very strategic, and the designers leave it well alone, not adding in any cheesy animations, but in the menus they feel free to add creative and fitting elements. I think it was a great design choice and adds character to the game.

The single player mode in Samurai is fun and a good learning tool. I do feel the lack of AI with varying play styles and skill levels is missing from this game. I feel that you will either learn to defeat the AI’s strategy and win constantly or (like me) get trounced by the AI and lose repeatedly. A varying AI would allow players to learn new strategies and hone their old ones. The pass and play option is viable in this game, but I feel play on one device may be harder because a player must conceal their hand from the other players. The device must be passed rather than laid in-between players to maintain the hand secrecy.

The Online Multiplayer mode of Samurai is fantastic and my mind, outshines most other features on the app. It includes asynchronous play that allows players to set the time limit. It also includes a lobby where players can find games with players of similar skills levels as themselves or really any options they want. After each game players have the option of adding their opponent as a friend. It appears I am just listing features, and that is because that is what stands out to me. I feel like I am playing a Blizzard game where I have the options of a service like There are many apps with great online play, but none has done it in this way. Samurai really ups the bar for online iOS board game play.

Do not get me wrong, Samurai is much more than its online play. It is a well done app with excellent single player and pass and play options. It has great graphic desing and intuitive controls. However, many board game apps offer these features, so it is Samurai’s excellent online multiplayer that allows it to outshine the competition.

Rating: 4/4 One of the Best

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