So i was playing Shogun recently with 2 of my friends. During the game i found myself caught in the middle of the board, being grinded by both the player on the right and the player on the left. They had nothing to fear since i was the only one who could attack them and i couldn't even do that since i had to fight 2 enemies.
I got pretty annoyed and afterwards we played another round where the same thing happened. My friend was stuck in the middle of the board after a few rounds and me and my other buddy grinded the player in the middle.
This lead us to the conclusion: This game is only fun for 2 of 3 players if you play a 3 player game.
Did we do something wrong? Do you know any solution? We thought that in a 3 player game you could connect the one end of the map with the other (like in risk).
Did any of you have the same experience?
Many games with Japan as a map have this same problem. Ikusa, Senji, etc.
A few ideas:
A randomized setup could be the answer; it won't allow players to control on end of the board from the start. Look through the variants here on BGG.
Leave provinces unprotected* so they advance towards each other. Make room to let them fight. *Unprotected = just 1 army OR let angry farmers kill your 1 army. At least it will give you rice / money / no 'angry-farmers' token in another province.
It might work. If you and player 1 make a pact to only attack player 2 (his main competitor for the win)- you just might have a chance to grow.
This made me smile. For a long time our gaming group was always(or nearly always) 3 people and at the time Shogun was our favourite game. So I must have played maybe 20 3 player games (this was before I'd started logging plays so haven't got an accurate number).
In our experience, yes, this is a common problem and one you can't really get around given the geographical realities of Japan. You could try your suggested fix and I'd be interested in hearing how it goes, though I would suspect you might find it difficult to choose connections that don't unbalance the game.
It got to the point in our games where the first year was all about not getting stuck in the middle, with everyone trying to build a powerbase at one end or the other, before anyone even began to think seriously about where their points were going to come from.
Having said that, it is possible to win from a central position by ceding areas at either the top or bottom of the board to your opponents, creating a front between them, and then picking off seemingly less valuable areas at the other end to build up with structures. All three of us won games following this kind of strategy.
These wins were much less common than getting crushed between the two other players though.