Designer: Tony Chen
Publisher: Monsoon Publishing
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2
Playing Time: 30-60 mins
WARNING: This is a preview of Warriors of Jogu. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.
tl;dr: Tactical fun for 2 players, with lots of replay value. Above average art, with the perfect combination of luck and mechanics.
Getting to the Game: Warriors of Jogu pits two players against each other, vying for control of 5 different locations with one each of 5 different pre-made decks. Setup is fast and easy, and learning the game from the detailed and clear rulebook is just as simple. From unwrapping the plastic to the first turn, you'll be playing in no time.
One of the real selling features of Jogu is also probably one of the things holding back its potential: deckbuilding. I mention that here, because this single mechanic changes the player pool drastically. If Jogu were a CCG / LCG, I think it would have the legs to do well. Including 5 different decks in the box (only 3 in the starter set) is very helpful for replaying with the same people, but will eventually lead to staleness. It's entirely possible that additional rules for mixing these decks or entirely new decks will come out eventually. If they do, look for them with earnest, I think they'll be well worth the time.
Playing the Game: The rulebook for Warriors of Jogu states that the premise of the game is two factions are vying for access to a resource called saiur, which is apparently some kind of energy-generating liquid, which one might more easily call "fuel." This is only in the flavor text of the rulebook, though. No game mechanic references it, you don't collect it, and you're not rewarded with it for winning a round. It's not the most flavorful game out there, which is actually kind of a shame, because there are five separate factions here, and they each feel unique.
Each player will choose one of the five factions, and shuffle their deck. Each of the five has a singular playstyle or mechanic that makes them all feel very fun, and lends a different air of strategy to each. The Gang of Mibits are Rabbit people who focus on pure numbers and cycling to amass unstoppable forces (checks out). Tribe Wu are elemental masters, high in strength, but fickle and easy to manipulate. The Guards of Keion are a medieval clan, focused on making sure the battle is only where they say it is, which can really mess with opposing teams' plans.
What you're actually fighting over is five distinct locations, denoted by numbers 2-6. At the beginning of each round, each player has the option to discard any cards they don't want anymore and draw back up to 7. After that's done, each player will secretly draw one card from their location deck, a set of 10 cards (2 each of the 5 locations). These two location cards are the only ones that matter in this round, and you only know one of them. This partial-information gambit is fun on its own, but gets even better: higher-numbered locations are worth more at the end of the round than the lower-numbered ones. You and your opponent will take turns playing a single card to a single location. You're welcome to play cards to a non-active location to try and bait your opponent to send their forces there, but keep in mind that you only have 7 cards in your hand, and barring any card mechanics, you won't draw any more for the round. Thus begins a very delicate dance of Feinting (yes, yes, I know) towards a location hoping your opponent bites. If they don't, then you have to decide when to commit to the real battle, while at the same time trying to suss out where they're trying to mass their forces.
Once you pass, you're done, and your opponent can place cards until they also pass, and then you reveal your respective locations. The trick now is that you add up all your card values at each active battle location (again, COMPLETELY IGNORING the other locations) and multiply by the value of that location. Sum those two numbers (or just the one, if you both managed to draw the same location card), and whoever's got the higher total wins the round.
By way of clarification, on the example to the right, my Mibits have dominated Wu at location 5, but fared less well at location 4. However, my total score is (9 x 5) + (1 x 4) = 49. Interestingly, Wu has also scored 49 here, (5 x 5) + (6 x 4) but I'm going to win this round because I was the first player. The average game is played over 7 rounds, so you gotta win 4.
As simple as this setup sounds, designer Tony Chen has added a few really great elements that add complexity to the tactical decisions without over-complicating the game as a whole. The first is that once your deck is empty, you draw no more cards. Thus, you're tasked with winning 4 rounds with 40 cards. You have some wiggle room, but not much, and games that go to that 7th round are going to be VERY interesting. Also, losing a round is more detrimental than just being set back in the victory points column. If you lose a round, your side loses morale equal to the morale value (denoted by diamonds at the bottom of the card) of ALL the forces committed to that round, not just the ones at the designated battle locations. Each player starts with 23 morale, and if you go to zero, you automatically lose the game. Finally, it's not as simple as slamming down as many cards as you have to the higher location once you're certain- each numbered space can only hold up to 10 value of both player's cards, so if you're losing 5-4, and you've got a 4 in your hand, you can't play it there. You can't play a card that would cause a location to go above 10 (Again, there are some mechanics that let you, but these are sneaky-sneaky).
The little things make all the difference in most games, and it's very clear that attention was paid to those things in Jogu. The game feels tactical without being punishing or overly-cerebral, and play is quick while still maintaining a very good sense of being important.
Artwork and Components: There's no credit given to the artist for the cards in the rulebook, box, or kickstarter page. Whoever did the art design did an admirable job. The boards feel like they're from the same game as the cards, and the art on the cards is cute without being cloying or overly cartoony. This isn't a deadly serious game, but it's not winking at itself, either, and the art takes this theme and does a good job with it.
The components are just average, and there's no listed kickstarter goal for upgrades, which is a shame. I would have loved wooden or even acrylic victory point markers for the score board. Upgraded cards are absolutely a necessity here, as these are going to get shuffled and played a ton, so I was glad to see those listed on the KS. The boards are just fine, serving as a place to put the tokens and the cards and not much else. Also, the retail version of this game should come with a single baggie, but this is a personal mission of mine.
The Good: Jogu has tight mechanics, quick gameplay, and just enough tactical crunch to fill its 30-60 minute timer. It's also different enough from other similar games, that it should earn a good spot in your collection.
The Bad: Theme is a little weak, as the factions are nicely separated from each other, but I don't understand how they work in the larger world of the game. I don't have to, either, but the rulebook's half-handed attempt to put me in a bigger story is too light to be useful. Another minor quibble is that the box is much too big for the game, ending up with a lot of empty space. What I really, really want is for this to be an LCG. And one baggie.
Score: Despite my reservations of theme and what this game could have been, it should be pretty clear that I very much like what it is. If you're in the market for a quicker 2-player experience that's easy to learn, then here it is. I'm giving Warriors of Jogu: Feint a score of Hits the Spot.
Warriors of Jogu: Feint is on KICKSTARTER between now and February 16, 2018
See more reviews from Nicholas L and EBG at http://www.everythingboardgames.com/p/reviews.html