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The Mirror
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Background:

First off, I'm not going to teach the rules here. The game is actually quite simple to learn the mechanics, and you can find the rule book at the GMT web page.

Secondly, I'm relatively new to war games and GMT in general. In a few years, I'm sure I won't be, but for now much of my experience is theoretical, or recently acquired obsession. That said, from what I understand, this game is not like many other war games out there. It reminds me a bit of Maria in battle, though they are quite different in pacing.

Components:

The point-to-point map is beautiful, as are the blocks and symbols. The new board of mine will require some breaking in to stay full flat without plexiglass or the like (which not being a proper war gamer I do not own). The map locations are fairly tight i areas and the castles can be difficult to see exactly where they're at, and stacking blocks with large armies was more often than I'd expected either too wide and visibly in multiple regions or too tall to stay stacked without careful avoidance of knocking them over, and then again when choosing specific blocks for deployment, and then again while moving. That said, it's not a huge deal, just a bit of a pain. Luckily it's the only fiddly thing about the game. This would be a different story if we were dealing with bookkeeping, stacks of cardboard chits and the like.

Actually, I hate talking about components and gripes. Sorry that I did that.


Gameplay Impressions:


Battles in Sekigahara are bloody and happen often. There is a constant sense of tension from the opening play as the various blocks begin interspersed around one another on the map. Opponents muster stacks of blocks in key regions and rush to gain control over various resources points.

Both players know where their opponent's leaders are and both leaders are fairly well protected, but they are goals. There are various other strategic battles to win before culminating in larger and more tense battles as the game progresses. Early, I find myself trying to clear out pestering smaller armies from castles and trying to cut off my opponent's access to different parts of the map while simultaneously mustering as large of an army as I can along highways for some big battles in the future. In my few games, these battles have happened and they've been horrendous with many losses on both sides. Between creating visibly large armies to frighten your opponent and trying to craft the perfect hand to attack with the slightly less intimidating stack, to bluff your way to a breach in their lines, this is a tactically and strategically exciting game. Really, it is. Until the end, where if in turn 7 you have not been able to kill your opponents leader, or you cant siege and kill the boy in the castle in Osaka, suddenly the game becomes a Euro-y area control game where you're just positioning your armies to control castles and resource areas as quickly as possible and win in victory points. This is how all three of my first games played out...


Conclusion:

Now, I do fully understand that the the strategy is in playing both games at once, so it's not just a goofy race for control at the end. And I'm sure I'll get there, but it speaks to something just kind of not working for me about the game. Now this is a personal review regarding my opinions, but something about the game emotionally simply doesn't click with me. Perhaps it's the chaotic battle mechanisms which are far more luck driven than I'd like, or maybe it's how dry and abstract the game feels when not battling, or perhaps it's the particular combination, but certainly each of my first three plays have thrown my mind into different cognitive situations and spaces which (while objectively that is interesting) subjectively, I'm neither able to fully immerse myself into the emotions of the game like with the incredibly thematically rich COIN games, nor ever fully block it out and deal with the game mechanistically and strategically (like I do with most heavy Euro games). Nor does it seem to be creating a singular new space where you do both simultaneously, and I feel a bit like a ball in a pinball machine.

All that said, I very much admire the design, and having waited to play as long as I did after ordering my p500 copy, I'm going to give it some more plays and more time to see if it settles a bit goo
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Hugues Richard
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Like the review but...

mirror33 wrote:
Both players know where their opponent's leaders are and both leaders are fairly well protected.

Are you playing with stickers flat on the map or facing the enemy? Hiding your leader and misguiding your opponent is quite easy to do here, not saying he could be anywhere but still.

mirror33 wrote:
Suddenly the game becomes a Euro-y area control game where you're just positioning your armies to control castles and resource areas as quickly as possible and win in victory points. This is how all three of my first games played out...

Not so suddenly since your positioning throughout the game will lend you advantages every turn. Furthermore, you gotta think pretty early which regions you want to hold or conquer and which you'll let go by discarding and mustering accordingly. Maybe I'm in the minority here but none of my games (20-30) have reach the final round though I must say a couple lot ended by giving up. I'm not one to do that easily in any game, quite the opposite actually, but it's pretty thematic to my friends and I to commit seppuku when the odds are clearly against us.

mirror33 wrote:
Perhaps it's the chaotic battle mechanisms which are far more luck driven than I'd like

I have no problem with cards because there's many ways to use them, favoring a clan over another, being able to discard and redraw if you wish and early good hands should even out by the end but on drawing blocks + initial setup, there could be a significant amount of luck there. If your horses and guns are mixed up together and spread all over the map, you'll have to be more patient and defensive, even more so if your opponent is lucky enough to be able to muster 3 blocks every turn from the start. In one of those game, my gf was drawing and mustering Toku blocks like hell and moving them down the Tokaido and Nakasendo. I felt like I was forced to destroy the Fukushima's with my Osaka army of mostly leaders before the two armies could join forces. I lost that battle, many leaders died and soon enough, I was giving my surrender. She showed me her hand and lets just say that Mitsunari saved many lives that day. Gratefully, that kind of game occurred only once and was so fast we played another right away. For the amount of luck there's in this box and my knowledge of wargames, almost every other exceeds it.
Hope you'll fall in love a lil' more with each play.
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Nick Wade
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mirror33 wrote:

Gameplay Impressions:


Battles in Sekigahara are bloody and happen often. There is a constant sense of tension from the opening play as the various blocks begin interspersed around one another on the map. Opponents muster stacks of blocks in key regions and rush to gain control over various resources points.

Both players know where their opponent's leaders are and both leaders are fairly well protected, but they are goals. There are various other strategic battles to win before culminating in larger and more tense battles as the game progresses. Early, I find myself trying to clear out pestering smaller armies from castles and trying to cut off my opponent's access to different parts of the map while simultaneously mustering as large of an army as I can along highways for some big battles in the future. In my few games, these battles have happened and they've been horrendous with many losses on both sides. Between creating visibly large armies to frighten your opponent and trying to craft the perfect hand to attack with the slightly less intimidating stack, to bluff your way to a breach in their lines, this is a tactically and strategically exciting game. Really, it is. Until the end, where if in turn 7 you have not been able to kill your opponents leader, or you cant siege and kill the boy in the castle in Osaka, suddenly the game becomes a Euro-y area control game where you're just positioning your armies to control castles and resource areas as quickly as possible and win in victory points. This is how all three of my first games played


None of my games have been anything like that.

Leaders are hidden so you can't know for sure where they are unless you always give it away with marching. Still, knowing where they are is not really a major problem I find.

Most battles aren't that brutal, normally only a couple of blocks lost.
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Oninohugo wrote:
Like the review but...

mirror33 wrote:
Both players know where their opponent's leaders are and both leaders are fairly well protected.

Are you playing with stickers flat on the map or facing the enemy? Hiding your leader and misguiding your opponent is quite easy to do here, not saying he could be anywhere but still.


No, I meant in the beginning of the game, and you can keep tabs on likely locations.

Oninohugo wrote:
mirror33 wrote:
Suddenly the game becomes a Euro-y area control game where you're just positioning your armies to control castles and resource areas as quickly as possible and win in victory points. This is how all three of my first games played out...

Not so suddenly since your positioning throughout the game will lend you advantages every turn. Furthermore, you gotta think pretty early which regions you want to hold or conquer and which you'll let go by discarding and mustering accordingly. Maybe I'm in the minority here but none of my games (20-30) have reach the final round though I must say a couple ended by giving up. I'm not one to do that easily in any game, quite the opposite actually, but it's pretty thematic to my friends and I to commit seppuku when the odds are clearly against us.


Ha! All three of my games ended after the final round on victory points, though a friend and I are learning the game together, so it could be a personality thing.

Oninohugo wrote:
mirror33 wrote:
Perhaps it's the chaotic battle mechanisms which are far more luck driven than I'd like

I have no problem with cards because there's many ways to use them, favoring a clan over another, being able to discard and redraw if you wish and early good hands should even out by the end but on drawing blocks + initial setup, there could be a significant amount of luck there. If your horses and guns are mixed up together and spread all over the map, you'll have to be more patient and defensive, even more so if your opponent is lucky enough to be able to muster 3 blocks every turn from the start. In one of those game, my gf was drawing and mustering Toku blocks like hell and moving them down the Tokaido and Nakasendo. I felt like I was forced to destroy the Fukushima's with my Osaka army of mostly leaders before the two armies could join forces. I lost that battle, many leaders died and soon enough, I was giving my surrender. She showed me her hand and lets just say that Mitsunari saved many lives that day. Gratefully, that kind of game occurred only once and was so fast we played another right away. For the amount of luck there's in this box and my knowledge of wargames, almost every other exceeds it.
Hope you'll fall in love a lil' more with each play.
I do appreciate the stories that this game tells, and I'm not deeply concerned with the randomness in card acquisition. I actually think that my biggest concern is how you can get swept up in the game like this, but if there isn't an immediate victory through battle, the end game does this bizarre switch in my admittedly little experience where it becomes an area control Euro unless you've been playing to avoid that the whole time as you mentioned above. I'm definitely down to keep playing and see where the game takes me. I was just surprised as to how few reviews there were since the new printing, and how most were written by strong advocates.
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Hattusilis_III wrote:
mirror33 wrote:

Gameplay Impressions:


Battles in Sekigahara are bloody and happen often. There is a constant sense of tension from the opening play as the various blocks begin interspersed around one another on the map. Opponents muster stacks of blocks in key regions and rush to gain control over various resources points.

Both players know where their opponent's leaders are and both leaders are fairly well protected, but they are goals. There are various other strategic battles to win before culminating in larger and more tense battles as the game progresses. Early, I find myself trying to clear out pestering smaller armies from castles and trying to cut off my opponent's access to different parts of the map while simultaneously mustering as large of an army as I can along highways for some big battles in the future. In my few games, these battles have happened and they've been horrendous with many losses on both sides. Between creating visibly large armies to frighten your opponent and trying to craft the perfect hand to attack with the slightly less intimidating stack, to bluff your way to a breach in their lines, this is a tactically and strategically exciting game. Really, it is. Until the end, where if in turn 7 you have not been able to kill your opponents leader, or you cant siege and kill the boy in the castle in Osaka, suddenly the game becomes a Euro-y area control game where you're just positioning your armies to control castles and resource areas as quickly as possible and win in victory points. This is how all three of my first games played


None of my games have been anything like that.

Leaders are hidden so you can't know for sure where they are unless you always give it away with marching. Still, knowing where they are is not really a major problem I find.

Most battles aren't that brutal, normally only a couple of blocks lost.


Ha, perhaps I have a penchant for hyperbole. But I'm discussing the opening scene where the spread of opposition is interwoven into the map in such a way as to create an interesting brand of tension. In my limited play, I've found battles to be quite common and later in the game to be fairly devastating as you effort to bluff and hand manage your way to victory by amassing large armies. How many people are each block worth? How would you feel if 6000 of your friends suddenly died? Meanwhile you're just sitting in cushy cafes in Melbourne sipping on some particularly expensive and finely sourced coffee.
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Ed Bradley
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I see what you mean about the end-game but I treat it as another thematic element. Both sides recognise there won't be a decisive military clash so they grab valuable positions for the post-war negotiations.
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Fwing wrote:
I see what you mean about the end-game but I treat it as another thematic element. Both sides recognise there won't be a decisive military clash so they grab valuable positions for the post-war negotiations.


I like this idea. I'll buy in.
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Steve
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mirror33 wrote:
I actually think that my biggest concern is how you can get swept up in the game like this, but if there isn't an immediate victory through battle, the end game does this bizarre switch in my admittedly little experience where it becomes an area control Euro unless you've been playing to avoid that the whole time as you mentioned above. I'm definitely down to keep playing and see where the game takes me. I was just surprised as to how few reviews there were since the new printing, and how most were written by strong advocates.

Interesting that you see it that way. I've only played twice, but in neither game was there a switch for me. From the beginning I was working toward controlling as many resource locations and castles as I could by force or by threat of force.

I've always preferred wargames (or wargame scenarios) that had objectives on the map. I don't know if that makes them "area control" games or not, but I find them much more satisfying than games where the only objective was to break more of your opponent's units than he breaks of yours.
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Roger Greenwood
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The first few games of Sekigahara we played were a mad rush to grab resources and lots of little battles were being fought. The end game was a little odd as the few survivors rushed to grab castles or resources points. After more games we realised that the play needs to be more subtle. When the cards are not in your favour, you need to back away from the battles. The game is very much about not taking casualties. You need to resist the urge to fight a lot of small skirmishes and build large, if slow moving, forces that can do real damage.
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