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Subject: Ninja? I don't see no stinkin' - rss

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Ike Evans
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Preamble: Shogun was the first "geek" game (i.e. a game you won't typically find in Walmart) that I've ever owned, stemming back decades ago from my high school days. It got played so much that I literally wore it out and eventually had to throw it away. Since they never bothered to update the rules with the new implementation as Ikusa, I can write a review for a game that I suppose I technically never played.

Value:

The game is priced on Amazon at $53-ish, and that is a better than average deal considering you get a crapload of really good (if a bit fragile) miniatures with the game. Compared with a lot of other games that are mostly made of up wood cubes and cardboard, it is refreshing that in the updated version they never bothered to fix one aspect what was never broken.

Aesthetics/Artwork:

The new implementation got a small upgrade to the artwork, but as I already hinted at in the previous category, the miniatures are really what make the game great. The older version of the game still had perfectly good artwork, even if it looked dated.

Gameplay:

This category really puzzles me. Board gaming has come a long way since the 80's and 90's. Designers have come out with ideas that have greatly enhanced concepts of gameplay. So what the hell were the game designers of Ikusa thinking in not updating the rules? This was a badly missed opportunity.

Strategically, the game lacks depth that it should otherwise have. If you spend exorbant amounts of koku on anything other than peasants and muskets, you are probably making a mistake. You might occasionally spend koku on taking swords or hiring the Ninja, which can work well for you. But buying a castle is very rarely ever a good idea - especially when you opponent can swoop in and just take it from you and then use it against you. Buying bowmen and other samurai or ronin are usually not the most effective use of resources. No, if you want to win, you need to spend 75% (or more) of your money on peasants and muskets. I've played against too many players that tried another strategy to their detriment. To win you need mass numbers to help protect and upgrade your diamyos.

Other problems arise in the turn ordering system. One person is expected to order ALL of his troops in one turn while everyone else sits and watches - downtime can be loooooooong. If you got the wrong turn you can watch as all of your territory and/or diamyos are taken from you or destroyed while you can do pretty much nothing about it. I will acknowledge that it is rare for a game to end all in one turn so suddenly, but it can happen.

There is an upside, however. I enjoy how relatively maneuverable the game feels, especially when your generals move up in rank. Also, I friggin' love how you can definitely expect to get into combat from the very first turn. Although diplomacy is not integrated into the rules (another small mistake that could be fixed) diplomacy happens largely on its own, especially in a five player game. There are too many campaign-style board games today that take several turns before a player typically gets into combat with another player, and this is one aspect of Ikusa that shines through-and-through.

Theme:

The cutthroat atmosphere of 17th century Japan is spectacular. For an Ameri-trash game like this, this is somewhat peculiar. Where the gameplay is most certainly lacking, the theming of the game still makes it worth playing.

Verdict:

I am explicitly sad that the publisher didn't give this game an upgrade with the reprint. To that I ask a big fat: WTF?!?!?! I mean, seriously, I would put this game on my list of games to buy TOMORROW if the designers put a little more thought into this. But, for now, I have no plans to divert funds towards this when there are so many other much better games out there.

There are people who have a lot of really good house rules, and I recommend taking a look into those. Some people have some really good ideas in this regard.

In short, the game gets 6.5 stars when it should get at least 8.5 or better.
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Noel
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Having played this game since it first came out and was called Shogun, I disagree that strategy is limited.
Sure, peasant troops are cheap. Spearmen are great cannon fodder. However, you are limited in the number that you can place in any army or province. Bowmen are fantastic, in the long run they are more cost effective than cheaper gunners that don't hit as frequently.
Castles and fortresses can be instrumental holding key strategic points. Ronin are great for unexpected defense or army bolstering. They can turn the tide of a battle and change the game situation.

I am glad that this game wasn't "fixed" because it doesn't need it. It is all too frequent that classic games get "updated" and end up ruined.
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Ike Evans
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Peasants are limited, and it is only at the point of running out of peasansts that you would ever buy the more expensive Samurai units.

For the cost of one Bowman, I can buy three peasants. I ran a statistical analysis on a spreadsheet comparing this battle scenario. Up to eight bouts of combats (eight rounds of rolling of the dice for battles that actually lasted that long) over 4,000 iterations. I came up with the Bowman winning about 9.0% of the time, and the spearmen winning 91% of the time. This is a no-brainer. Don't buy expensive troops until you have to.

Meanwhile, of the countless players I have played against, those who built castles lost every single time. Building castles only makes sense in very rare scenarios.

Now, there are variant rules that fix some of these problems. But the game designers made no effort to do any of this, which wasn't only a bad decision from a gameplay perspective, but also a marketing one. Why buy this new reprint when it is just the same as the old game?
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Cracky McCracken
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The way to reprint classic AT is the way Eagle handled Conquest of the Empire...

respect the classics and have the original set of rules,

And have a second more modern set of rules using the same board and bits. Two games for the price of one.
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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ikesteroma wrote:
For the cost of one Bowman, I can buy three peasants. I ran a statistical analysis on a spreadsheet comparing this battle scenario. Up to eight bouts of combats (eight rounds of rolling of the dice for battles that actually lasted that long) over 4,000 iterations. I came up with the Bowman winning about 9.0% of the time, and the spearmen winning 91% of the time. This is a no-brainer. Don't buy expensive troops until you have to.


That's the wrong scenario. Try 6 peasants against 1 bowman and 3 peasants. The expensive troops are supposed to have pincushions to absorb losses.
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Craig C
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ikesteroma wrote:
For the cost of one Bowman, I can buy three peasants.


Yes, but only one of those peasants can join your army per turn. I agree every army needs them, but as casualties, while the samurai and gunners do the killing.

I also agree castles are worth more in intimidation than in actual combat value. They're rarely built and almost always get conquered. If you have a pivotal province you really don't want to lose, they're a quicker way to add multiple units to your defense, but in the long run, they can't stand.

I like the lack of formal diplomacy rules; it frees players to come up with their own deals, which can make for a lot more treachery and create situations true to the history.

I've had this game (the "Samurai Swords" version) in my storeroom for probably a quarter century now (man, that makes me feel old), and wish I could play it more often.
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Dan Long
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You can add something into the mix with these cards-
https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/shogun-strategy-cards

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Noel
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The game gives you tools to use. It is up to the players to determine the correct situations to use those tools. Not all tools are good in every situation or even every time you play. The best players in this game are the ones that are flexible and know when and how to use which tools, be they the different types of units, the ninja, the turn order, the ronin or the castles. Player diplomacy and psychology are important aspects of game play.

As an example:
Castles are bolsters to defense, not a defense in themselves. You use them where and when appropriate. They are a cost efficient means to help you hold onto sea crossings or choke points. When they fall to your enemies they will have been costly to take, provided that you are using them correctly.

Trying to mathematically isolate units in unrealistic duels does not give anyone the actual picture of a unit's utility.
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Ike Evans
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sdiberar wrote:
ikesteroma wrote:
For the cost of one Bowman, I can buy three peasants. I ran a statistical analysis on a spreadsheet comparing this battle scenario. Up to eight bouts of combats (eight rounds of rolling of the dice for battles that actually lasted that long) over 4,000 iterations. I came up with the Bowman winning about 9.0% of the time, and the spearmen winning 91% of the time. This is a no-brainer. Don't buy expensive troops until you have to.


That's the wrong scenario. Try 6 peasants against 1 bowman and 3 peasants. The expensive troops are supposed to have pincushions to absorb losses.


Hmmm. Now you got me thinking. I ran another scenario as you described. Writing it into the spreadsheet took me a few more minutes because it is a bit more complicated. This is what I got.

1 Bowman and 3 Spearmen vs. 6 Spearmen, up to six rounds of combat, 4000 iterations. The 1 bowman and 3 spearmen won about 24% of the time, the 6 spearmen won about 72%. The remaining 3% is either a tie or unresolved.

It definitely starts to equalize out as opposed to the original scenario I laid out. But the advantage remains with the guy who stacks his army with lots of cheap troops. If you want, I can send you the spreadsheet just to verify I haven't made a mistake - which is entirely possible.

Don't get me wrong: Ikusa/Shogun is not a bad game. There are elements of the game that are better than other more modern war games. I would rather play this version than the "Z-man, Dirk Henn" Shogun anyday.
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Ike Evans
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n815e wrote:
The game gives you tools to use. It is up to the players to determine the correct situations to use those tools. Not all tools are good in every situation or even every time you play. The best players in this game are the ones that are flexible and know when and how to use which tools, be they the different types of units, the ninja, the turn order, the ronin or the castles. Player diplomacy and psychology are important aspects of game play.

As an example:
Castles are bolsters to defense, not a defense in themselves. You use them where and when appropriate. They are a cost efficient means to help you hold onto sea crossings or choke points. When they fall to your enemies they will have been costly to take, provided that you are using them correctly.

Trying to mathematically isolate units in unrealistic duels does not give anyone the actual picture of a unit's utility.


Noel,

Mathematical models help us all to understand what is going on in the game, and are verified by players who adopt these strategies with a tendency of winning more often than not. Besides, the situation that I set up (one bowman against three spearmen) is very realistic for a game setting. What do we learn? That your money is better spent on the spearmen.

In regards to castles: even as there might be scenarios where something like a castle can be used appropriately, occasions where this is the case are very rare. I've played this game way too much. The player who builds a castle is often the first knocked out of the game.
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Ike Evans
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ikesteroma wrote:
For the cost of one Bowman, I can buy three peasants.


bird94us wrote:
Yes, but only one of those peasants can join your army per turn.


I will admit that it has been a long time since I looked at the rules. I just don't remember that rule, ever. I could be wrong - I often am. But I never played that way with any gaming group I was in.
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Noel
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Ike, as already demonstrated, your model is flawed.
There will be few game instances in which a single bowman is facing three spearmen.

Your model does not take into consideration various army compositions.
It does not account for different player choices in unit elimination of mixed composition armies.
Does it calculate that shooting unit casualties are eliminated before hand to hand units attack?

Quote:
Yes, but only one of those peasants can join your army per turn.


That's not really the case, though. If I buy three peasants and I want them in an army, I place them in the path I intend to move the army through and pick them up as I go along or place those units in adjacent territories and move them into the army's space to be collected.
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Craig C
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n815e wrote:
Quote:
Yes, but only one of those peasants can join your army per turn.


That's not really the case, though. If I buy three peasants and I want them in an army, I place them in the path I intend to move the army through and pick them up as I go along or place those units in adjacent territories and move them into the army's space to be collected.


Ok, technically, more than one can "join" your army in a turn that way. What I suppose I should say is you can only place one unit in a province per turn. That's the challenge of creating a horde of peasants.
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Ike Evans
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Noel,

Quote:
It does not account for different player choices in unit elimination of mixed composition armies.
Does it calculate that shooting unit casualties are eliminated before hand to hand units attack?


My model does indeed compensate for casualty elimination - that is, that the bowmen/gunner casualties are removed first.

Also, choosing which units die first tends to be pretty straight forward: cheap units die first. Granted, there are some variances on this, and I won't claim that my model bullet proof (or in this case, arrow proof, ha ha) but it is a good glimpse in understanding the value of various units and whether or not they are actually worth the cost as outlined in the rules.

The answer is pretty straight forward: bowmen are generally too expensive. When possible and/or practical, invest in peasants.

That said, I feel like I've been playing the game wrong, and now I feel like a dunce. The rule of not putting more than one peasant in an army at a time is new to me. modest But I wasn't the only one to miss it. Several of my friends also read the rule book and nobody caught it.
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Noel
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Many times I have seen - and done - removing more expensive casualties in order to strike in either the shooting or close combat parts of the combat round. This calculation is taken frequently when battles are running close.
Do I sacrifice my swordsmen (now those I find overpriced) in order to keep those gunners for the next round of shooting? Do I lose my bowmen since they have already fired in order to attack with spearmen?

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John Labelle
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bird94us wrote:
What I suppose I should say is you can only place one unit in a province per turn. That's the challenge of creating a horde of peasants.

And that's what makes Ronin, showing up at a strategic place and time to double your army, such a powerful weapon. Expensive, yes. But it can win the battle.
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Craig C
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ikesteroma wrote:
Several of my friends also read the rule book and nobody caught it.


There's no question the rule book isn't overly clear, so that could benefit from a "new edition". I haven't read the Ikusa rulebook, so perhaps it clarifies things.

Experienced daimyo movement was especially confusing when we played it. It appeared as though a level 3 daimyo could attack three spaces, then retreat back three spaces at the end of the turn, but we thought that made them way too powerful, so we always played it as they can move a total number of spaces equal to their level per turn, combat or non-combat.
 
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Daniel Kearns
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I recall Ronin could be highly useful as they were the only(?) case where you could levy more than one unit directly into an army on offense.

Especially good when you had multiple armies threatening so your opponents were at unease.

Really great game. I've wanted an Ikusa set even though I've still got my worn out Shogun.
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I once expected someone to attack my rear. I built a castle and had a provincial army of 1 bowman, 1 swordman, 1 gunner and 2 spearman. I secretly added 4 ronin. He did attack, with his full or near-full army.

So it became a showdown of his 'professional army' against my bowman, 5 swordmen, gunner and 6 spearmen. Awesome battle. Pride didn't let him retreat, so finally my provincial army+ronin+castle took out an army of his. It was a very near battle.

Don't tell me castles and ronin are useless and to rely solely on spearmen.

Once or twice a year I mail some 8-10 friends if they feel like a game. We always play with a full 5 player board. Love this game, as is. And they do, too.
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Chester Hendrix
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Scott Randolph proposed a Rule set giving Victory Points at the end of each Player's Turn [avoiding the 'Last Man Standing' aspect which is about the only thing we don't like about this game]. I modified it a bit [to simplify and streamline] and posted it on another thread here. I'll post it again below. Together with the exceptionally cool tactical card card set Scott Muldoon and a few others created [discussed elsewhere on a long thread here], this game rocks harder that it ever has! Try them both and see if it doesn't make your crowd believers!

Your Buddy, Chester

the 'Last Man Standing Syndrome' is the only thing that keeps this from getting played more often [I play every year with my boys]. I'm thinking this will bring it out more often!

Your Buddy, Chester


Shogun / Samurai Swords
Mile High Strategists – “Game Day with the GUYS” crew
Victory Point Shogun variant
v2_7.18.09
Modified by Chester Hendrix on 9/18/14

RULES for Victory Point Shogun / Samurai Swords


1. Unless herein modified all standard as-written rules for the MB GM Series game “Shogun” (also sometimes referred to as “Samurai Swords”) remain unchanged.

2. Game Length for Victory Point Shogun:
a. The normal game length in complete rounds of play shall equal the total number of players plus two. Example: if there are [5] players the game will go for seven normal, complete rounds. At the end of the normal length final round, Victory Points (“VP’s”) are totaled and whichever player has the most VP’s wins, and is declared the Shogun Warlord. [NOTE: for 2 players, play 5 rounds].
b. Overtime: one extra round will be played if, at the end of the normal fully completed set of required rounds of play, any player is [4] VP’s or fewer behind the VP Leader. At the end of the last round/overtime the game is over. Whichever player has the most VP’s wins and is declared the Shogun Warlord.

3. Victory Points (“VP’s”) are as follows:
a. VP’s ebb and flow throughout the game and are awarded to each player at the end of that player’s turn [it is possible to earn VP’s on another player’s turn. For example, destroying an attacking army] in the form of coins/tokens/written points or whatever medium the players choose to represent VP’s. VP’s are earned in the following manner:

i. Possession of one Province = [1] VP

ii. Possession of Province with Castle = [2] VP’s

iii. Possession of Province with a Fortress = [3] VP’s

iv. For each and every Daimyo Experience Level above Level 1 that a player’s Daimyos have gained, the player receives [1] VP. Example: a player has one Level 1 Daimyo, one Level 2 Daimyo, and one Level 3 Daimyo; receives [0] VP’s for the 1st Daimyo at Lvl 1, receives [1] VP for the 2nd Daimyo at Lvl 2, and receives [2] VP’s for the 3rd Daimyo at Lvl 3.

v. Successfully assassinating a Daimyo with the Ninja yields [1] VP; either as the primary strike, or as the revenge counter-strike

vi. Eliminating a Daimyo’s Army, including the Daimyo’s board piece yields [4] VP’s.

vii. Eliminating a player’s Last Daimyo, or final remaining Daimyo, yields [7] VP’s.
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