"During the 15th and 16th centuries, feudal Japan was in turmoil as warring factions competed for power. You will play as a Daimyo, in control of your dominion, but your grasp must be tight to survive. Only your well-balanced skill as a civil and military lead-er will assure your victory as you fight for control of Japan!
Sakura, meaning “Cherry Blossom”, is one of the central symbolic themes in Japanese culture. Poets have sometimes compared cherry blossoms to soldiers within vast armies. These ethereal blossoms can also represent the souls of the fallen." - Carrot Cake Games, LLC
Publisher: Carrot Cake Games, LLC
Released: Currently on Kickstarter
Game Designer: Ben Cope
Artwork: Rachael Moody
Players: 2 - 4
Ages: 12 to adult
Playing Time: 30 Minutes
Game Mechanics: Dice-rolling, modular board
Contents: 4 map sections, 4 cities, 12 rice paddies, 4 resource cards, 8 peasants, 4 foot soldiers, 4 samurai, 16 chikaruta cards, 16 coins, 1 defense die, 1 attack die, 1 kill shot die 1 center map piece, 4 mini rule cards.
Suggested Retail Price: TBD
Parental Advisory: Safe for kids
Recently Sakura was launched on Kickstarter by Carrot Cake Games, LLC. Sakura is a fast paced 2 - 4 player game in which the players will use resource management and military conquests to achieve victory. The first player to destroy an opponents city wins the game.
Each player has two phases each round:
The Production Phase: Here the players gather resources (rice, iron and wood) that allow for the upgrade of soldiers, cities and movement of their peasants, foot soldiers and samurai.
The Action Phase: During this phase, the players may recruit new peasants, upgrade peasants to foot soldiers or foot soldiers to samurai, move a soldier, upgrade a city, repair a city from battle damage, buy a chikaruta card, battle their opponents or if they have a samurai on the board, they may fire a kill shot. Finally, players may trade resources for coins or vice versa.
First let me start by saying, what great production was achieved just on the preview stage of the game alone. One of the people who play tested it with me, didn't know it wasn't a final copy or that it was on kickstarter. He thought it was a final version and was very impressed himself. Kudos go out to the team at Carrot Cake Games, LLC for providing such a well done
Sakura is a very well done game set in 15th - 16th century feudal Japan. It balances basic resource production with battle elements very well and even with so little to the game components wise or the seeming lack of actions per turn, this is a lot of "game" to Sakura. You will have definite moments of strategic thought to outsmart your opponent as well as the constant upkeep or repair of your own people and city.
While there are resources to be had, it's really a very simple portion of the game. The more you upgrade your city, the more resources you will get, but only marginally. If you don't start out with two rice paddies with the first couple of turns, you will fall behind as rice is essential in the early game. This game is about battling your opponent often and constantly causing them to make new peasants, heal their city or rebuilding their rice paddies.
Due to the amount of combat you will have in Sakura, each player will want to upgrade their city quickly. There are two different upgrades. The first upgrade gives the city +1 health and +2 to the players die rolls. The second upgrade gives the city another +1 health but remains at +2 die rolls. The peasants have 3 health and no die bonuses. The foot soldier has 4 health and +1 to their die rolls and the samurai has 5 health and +2 to their die rolls and may also make a kill shot roll if they are one hex away from their opponent for the cost of one wood for each attempt. Also once a player engages in battle, there is no running away. It is to the death of each soldier or city.
Also at the players disposal are the ability to buy chikaruta cards. These cards have special abilities on them that may be a one-time use or ongoing. A few of these cards are almost useless and a definite gamble if you buy them but many are very useful and worth the coin that is spent on them. They may offer defense bonuses or even a one-time use samurai for the purchasing player. These cards are available for purchase on play only on the players turn.
In all the games played that I did for this review, I always had that great feeling of board game tension, not only because of the racing to attack first or to rebuild the damage done to my city or soldiers, but also the strategy that it will take. What is my opponent planning? Should I upgrade my city or build a samurai? For a 30 minute game, there really is a lot of game here to keep you engaged and thinking about a solid strategy moves while also knocking out a quick game.
I can't really compare this another game I can think of in this category as it stands on it's own. It's one of the better short 2 - 4 player games I have played in a long time. The historical theme adds a certain feel and depth to it I wasn't expecting for such a short game. The Carrot Cake, LLC team did a great job on this point and that says a lot when a company spends this much time making sure the historical accuracy is correct let alone the production value of a preview copy.
So my final thoughts are this. Sakura is a simple, efficient tactical game that has a surprising amount of strategy, depth and fun packed into a half hour. It's a very easy learn and play game that I am sure when completed will be gorgeous as well which will of course only lend its self to the feel of the game. For people looking for a great short game for game nights, lunch with gamer friends or a nice strategic game that scratches an itch when you don't have much time, this is the game for you. I highly recommend you back it on Kickstarter and share it with everyone to raise the roof on it.
I am giving Sakura a 7.5 out 10 stars because it packs a wallop in 30 minutes. It's hard to beat the period.
This game is Club Fantasci Certified!
Note: A review copy of this game was provided to me.
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