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Subject: What an engaging game rss

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Larry Baxter
United States
West Lafayette
Indiana
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(This review looks at the gameplay, overall experience and some comments on the computer version, for more info on rules or the components of the game itself, see other reviews such as http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/67214 or http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/65660 )

After hearing good things about Reiner Knizia's "Samurai" game I finally went and tried the demo computer version. It may be downloaded freely and without hassle from: http://www.klear.com/new/games/samurai/index.php
It's available for both Macs and PC's, and installation was painless.

The program is extremely well done. Some have commented that the theme is loosely pasted on but the graphics and music really help with that immensely. It draws you into the game quite nicely, and has easy to follow in-game help/training game so that you really don't even need to read the rules ahead of time. Mechanics are simple, but the implications of your moves are much deeper.

Game Play

You're competing to win the support of three castes: clergy (buddha tiles), nobles (high helmets), peasants (rice paddies). It's a tile laying game with majority scoring mechanics, so you want to get the most influence of one or more of these castes. Influence is gained by having the most pts adjacent to the tile at the point when it is surrounded. The tie breaker (frequently used) is overall balance, so going for just one caste won't do it. There are a variety of tiles to play including some special 'tactical' tiles that can be used in very clever and fun ways. In fact I can see the use of these strategic plays being ones that get a lot of shouts at the game table. The game is played on a map of Japan and ends when all the influence of a single caste has been given out. (Alternately, some play 'domination' where it goes until all tiles are placed to reduce slight impact of randomness on draw of the tiles). The game only takes about 20 minutes to play. It works great for 2 players and should also work very well for 3(-4) players of about the same level. It's clear that a much weaker player would greatly benefit whoever is sitting on his left. (I've never seen it mentioned, but I'm wondering if a simple score handicapping system could fix this and make it a much tighter game for everyone? One or more players can be spotted one or more points in one or more castes, e.g. spot the newbie 2 pts in each caste)

Experience

The rules really are simple and could be picked up easily by someone playing a 'sample game' with you. Unlike other semi-abstract games where you have no idea what to do at the start, the rules make enough sense that from the beginning there will be plausible actions to take. What was a ton of fun was in learning the implications of these actions as you play the game for the first few times. Having your opponent use the special strategic tiles to devastating effect is brutal, but also (for me) left me giving a virtual bow to my opponent for being clever, and taught me something to use against him next time! shake

Overall the game was extremely enjoyable. After one play I was hooked and had to play 'one more'. Actually, at 15-20 mins each, that turned out to be eight more. I'm not into moderation I'm definitely looking to get the boardgame after playing the demo (waiting for sale) and am eager to try it out with both my spouse and with my harder-core gaming buddies. With the former, the high quality components and easy-to-learn rules should be a big plus. (I'll lay off being 'too' mean with the special tiles like the Ronin for the first few times, until I find a wakizashi in my back when she figures out how to use them! ninja ) For the 'gamer' group, the depth of the game, the wonderful Knizia scoring mechanism and special tactics tiles will make this a super gamenight opener or closer. ('Filler' in this sense, but the word doesn't do the game justice to call it 'just a filler')

Two big thumbs up from me thumbsup thumbsup - but don't take my word for it, you should definitely go and download the demo immediately if you've never played this game before!

More comments on the computer versions

The demo allows for "playing the game 10 times" but that's slightly inaccurate. You can *launch* the application ten times and play as much as you want each launch. So even for a demo that gives you a much greater sense of the game - play time is relatively quick so trying several games at once is easy.

Also, the game can be played online at http://www.mabiweb.com/ and for more info if you really like the demo but are stuck by the lack of availability see the thread http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/98674
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Gary Pressler
United States
West Lafayette
Indiana
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OMG! Overtext! How long have I been sleeping?! OVERTEXT! Also, I'm a DESIGNER now?! Sweet! OVERTEXXXXXXT!
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Hi Larry!

I heard you had finally taken a delve onto the BGG! Welcome, and a fine review to start! (Apparently you did months ago! Ah well, welcome all the same!)

If Matt doesn't have Samurai, I know that Steve and Emily do, in case you want to play against people. This is one of my favorites (only very slightly biased by who gave it to me), and it scales very well from two to four players. I have been playing a lot of 2P games against Mom lately.

Also, there's info on here somewhere, but if you've been playing on PC, you can easily wipe the game's registry information to get another 10 sessions. Enjoy!
 
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