Recommend
38 
 Thumb up
 Hide
6 Posts

Battle for Rokugan» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Battle for Rokugan - it's all about daimyos & deception . . . rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
LittleBlueCubes
msg tools
Avatar
mb
I don't normally write reviews. Writing this one as I find there's not a lot of reviews on this superb game. If I've not covered any particular aspect, let me know, so I can update the review.
____________________________________

If the words like Shogun, Samurai, Ninja, Daimyo etc in excite you in board games, you may want to check out this game/review.

My gaming group is just the three of us. We love area control games and we don't even mind mean games (secretly look forward to it). There aren't many area control games that play well at three players. While we have found the best game for our group in every single genre, area control has been an elusive one. Last not so successful attempt was Inis. Yes, it's a fantastic game but it doesn't quite feel like a classic area control game.

Battle for Rokugan had all the promises to be the area control game we are looking for. I had planned to kickstart Rising Sun because it ticks two important boxes for us - area control and Japanese theme (big fans of Sekigahara). I cancelled it later as I gathered it may be best only at higher player counts. And then Battle for Rokugan pops with exactly what I was looking for in Rising Sun, minus the minis. Also I'm a big fan of the production and mechanisms of Game of Thrones board game. Another game that needs a large player count. As many would have realised by now, Battle for Rokugan picks up combat ideas from GoT rather than from Rising Sun. Let's look at the game in more detail.

In Battle for Rokugan, various clans in feudal Japan strive to gain control over the provinces and territories in order to earn honour (yup). Game starts with a certain number of provinces selected by the players to be under their control and as the game progresses, control shifts back and forth. The way you take control of a neutral or enemy province is through combat. And combat (be it offence or defence) happens through face down combat tokens so the opponent wouldn't know if you're attacking with zero level army or five level army (bit like the 'combat' for galleons in Francis Drake). And then there are territory cards that allow you to give you special one-time use powers and break the rules. You earn those cards by controlling territories (group of provinces) by end of the round. Each of the provinces come with default number of honour points with an opportunity for you to make them more 'honourable' with your play. You will also have a special objective that gives your lot of 'honour' over and above the 'honour' you get for the provinces and territories. That's pretty much the game.

Battle for Rokugan is quite a simple game with very simple mechanics. You can teach the game in a few minutes and start playing with anyone including the ones that are new to board games. I rate the quality of any board game based on the quality of decisions in the game. This game has quality decision in spades. The battle is for about 30 provinces grouped into 10 territories. In a game of 5 rounds with 5 turns in each round, you have only 25 turns to achieve what you want to. And there are only 27 tokens for each clan. So after a round of 5 turns, the 5 combat tokens you used for the round will have to be discarded. So if you got a bad hand, probably an excellent hand is round the corner. So, you have a lot of crucial decisions to make - which provinces you want to hold, which ones you want to annex/invade, which ones you want to let go, and more importantly what messages you want to send to your opponent in terms of which you want to hold/annex/invade/let go. And due to the limited number of one-time use combat tokens, timing is also extremely key.

The bane of area control games is turtling (one player simply consolidating in one end of the board without really having to engage in combat and still winning). For me, turtling is always a design issue rather than a player issue. If you make a undesirable strategy very easy and beneficial, that's a design issue. Battle for Rokugan deals with that quite intelligently. Special tokens such as the assassin ninja who could attack ignoring the adjacency, the naval attacks that can be performed on any coastal province, the option of raiding an enemy territoryand making it unusable irrespective of the defence strength, very powerful territory cards for the faraway lands that are less exciting otherwise are some examples. Basically, turtling is possible in this game but it's not easy, nor is it beneficial.

As the game involves secret orders, and special moves to reveal or remove such secret orders of one's own or that of the opponents, there could be some epic moments in every single game. As the game gets to round four or five, there would be some unscriptable edge-of-the-seat moments. Our group totally enjoyed the thrills and spills of our mega plans going to the dogs by one token. But if your group doesn't like meanness - intentional or incidental - this game can be really nasty.

As I said this is a very simple game here. There's a framework of a game and the rest is left to the players. That's where the genius of the design lies. It's a bit like Chinatown in that respect. Game is dead simple but it's the players and their play that make the game. There's a lot of table talk in this game as you'd employ a lot of bluffing, misdirection and influence. You're free to deal with other players in some off-board diplomacy and up to you whether you follow it up or not.

I've seen some views on the private objectives and who how they skew the game. Just a couple of house rules will fix it quite easily. I don't believe that every house rule is a result of a poor design. But if everyone needs the same house rule or house rule for the same problem, it's a design issue. That way, I'd say the designers should have looked at this and addressed the issue. Below is what you could do about the private objectives:

1. Make all private objectives open information (like Inis, everyone knows what the victory conditions are)
2. ‎If open information is too open for you, you can draft the private objectives so you know what the opponents have but not what each one has
3. ‎If you draw a private objective related to your clan, discard and re-draw another objective card
4. ‎Draw the private objectives after you are done placing the initial set of control markers. This way, you can avoid the situation of having achieved half or more of the private objective as part of the initial set up

The game can be set up and 'set down' in no time. The game comes in a smaller box with full of stuff inside. For the size of the box, the map turns out to be really big. The game doesn't need a lot of table space beyond the board itself. As many would have noticed, the board is a beauty. As a red-green colour blind person, I'm always conscious of the choice and use of colours and icons in a game. With seven clans, the choice of colours is always going to be tricky. I think FFG have successfully found a way to accommodate seven distinguishable shades of colours without compromising on the colour palette of the board. So far, I've not had any issues in telling apart the colours of various clans. Yes there's an arty icon as well if the colours don't help you. For me though, the colours were easier than the icons. Always had to check the icon twice to be sure if it's a crab or a scorpion or phoenix or lion.

This could easily have been a miniatures game - minis with circular bases with the combat icons under the base. Not the massive ones like in Blood Rage or not the cheap and light ones in Inis. Something smaller, harder and heavier. And the control tokens could be replaced with castle minis. There can still be an upgrade kit to this effect, I hope.

This fantastic game must get expansions and component upgrades. There's a great base game here which can only get better with more investment in it. The beauty of the game is in its simplicity. So the expansion doesn't need to add any unnecessary complexity but just add more options - for objective cards, territory cards etc.

I think you have a fair idea of where I stand with this game. We love this game. This game for me, retires a few area control games from my collection - Inis, Barony, Tammany Hall etc (will keep my El Grande though). These are all brilliant games in their own right but if they are all trying to scratch the area control itch, then Battle for Rokugan beats them hands down. This is a 9/10 for us now. Expansions and component upgrades can still push this up. We have a played this game a few times already and can't wait to play it again. We do have some scores to settle you know . . . . . .
39 
 Thumb up
8.05
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
A. B. West
United States
Beech Grove
Indiana
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Why aren't you PLAYING a game?
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Just got this one for Christmas and would like to get it to the table. I too love Japanese themes and this one looked excellent. And like you, I didn't pull the trigger on Rising Sun - although I came very close. Thanks for the excellent review! Hearing it plays well with 3 is a big plus for me.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Red Tank
United States
California
flag msg tools
Check out the Board Game Barrage podcast or website!
badge
Check out the Board Game Barrage podcast or website!
Avatar
mbmbmbmb
Thanks for the early review! I want to get it to the table this week and may even do 3-player since you say it's great!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ymrde Buno
Czech Republic
Prague
flag msg tools
Avatar
mb
Nice review.
Such a great game, but for me can not beat an awesome Inis.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ryucoo
United Kingdom
Reading
Berkshire
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmb
Inis and BfR are incredibly different games. Sure there's an area control aspect to both but they work so differently there is space for both in any collection.


1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Shelby Oldfield
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
I completely agree. I've only played Inis, but after looking into this for a while (and hoping to maybe pick it up soon), they just seem like totally different games, which is a good thing as far as I'm concerned. I love Inis, but I don't need two.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.