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Ben Hodgson
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The game rules are covered elsewhere. This presupposes some idea about those rules, and is written after a first time 6 player game (using tanin expansion) with 5 noobs and 1 teaching player with only one game under his belt. Having done so, I have the following suggestions and advice. I have posted this under the base game as I think the following points are very important to avoid knee-jerk game hate.

A. In short, Bushido sounds and looks like a wargame but it is NOT a wargame. If you play it with wargame expectations you will probably get frustrated. The wargame aspect of the game has players control various map locations, but rather than envisioning an immanent military conquest of the entire map, encourage players to think of the area under their control as fairly constant and not to expect to conquer the entire map! Maybe a key location or two can be gained, but focus more on trying to avoid losing the high honour locations to ronin and other players' attacks.
B. We are not worthy! Focus on getting honour - that is the key to victory. Attacks are just a means to gain honour, and sometimes remove honour from opponents (by removing the location).
C. Negotiation is key. Work with others where possible to bring down leaders. Try to outmanoeuvre your fellows just enough to take the win.


A more lengthy discussion follows here:

Played Bushido for the first time with 6 people. Used the following expansion rules:

1. Tanin: the Stranger (Monk and Swordsman roles)
2. Dual resource bags
3. Steel fan tactics
4. 6 player map tiles and setup

The following complaints were levied:
1. Players had only 2-3 Daimyo turns each
2. Geisha effect seems too powerful
3. Battles are very random with the tactics
4. Political bag ran out too quickly
5. Players ended up discarding most tactics disks to try and get traitors/fans
6. Special tactics are too powerful?
7. Troops did not seem very important
8. The random setup seems potentially very unbalanced
9. What if a player starts as Daimyo with 5 Temples (50+ honour)?
10. Start two players got an extra Daimyo turn, and came 1st/2nd?
11. Combat was confusing?
12. Lack of control in the game : too random?
13. Boring : Some players did nothing during the game!

Responses to these issues:
1. Having few turns doesn’t mean much as other roles than Daimyo are effective too, helping keep all players involved throughout the game with less downtime. It was people’s expectations which led them to be unhappy with this, so making it clear that the game was not a conventional wargame seems vital.
2. The Geisha is very strong. However, as above, being the Daimyo and capturing a province or two is NOT the aim of the game, merely a possibility. Besides, in our game, the main issue was with the same players being ‘geisha’d’ twice, but this was partly due to poor play from those players and partly through the political bag running out, allowing players to geisha the player to the right, then collect the geisha straight back in their turn as Daimyo passed to them and they took income. The above could still happen if the bag ran out, but we were not playing with 50% of the new political tokens (optional expansion rules) so we had it happen very quickly. I do not think it is a given that a player will use the geisha in such a situation to hurt the player to the right, but it might be a consequence of sitting next to a player who is also situated adjacent on the map.
3. The tactics are not random : there is strategy. For example, in a 6 player game, NO ambush tiles remain in the tactics stacks to be drawn after players have taken their default tactics. This means the duel tactic is actually a viable option against battle tactics. The doubling affect on katana is very important, but obviously of reduced effect if the katana numbers are small. A large number of katanas has been seen to draw or only just lose to a dominant tactic tile doubling. Conserving your tiles seems more important than was realised by players. Also, the ambush tactic, though appearing quite rubbish, is actually boosted by the shuriken expansion feature; and the ability to cause specific troop casualties (and therefore points of honour gain in battle) can result in several points of honour gained when ‘leap-frogging’ is possible on the honour track.

4. The political bag will not usually run out so fast ! We did not play with the expansion yellow border tiles. However, the rules made no mention of problems arising from only implementing certain expansion rules in concert. In fact, they encouraged a gradual adoption of them. I guess we should have kept the combined bag if we ignored the yellow border political tiles.
5. It does seem to make sense to discard remaining non-special tactics to search for the specials (Steel fan and Traitor). However, discarding 4 telegraphs that you didn’t have any beforehand! Also, in 6 player for example, NO ambush tactics remain in the tactics stacks prior to a reshuffle, so discarding 4 means you will NOT have an ambush tactic prior to a reshuffle, so duels against you would be a safe bet, assuming no traitor/steelfan is found. Also, the Steel fan does NOT add troops like the battle tactic: Doubling is not always enough.
6. Special tactics are powerful but see 7 below.
7. Troops may not have seemed very important, only impact on battles when the battle tactic is used, and for claiming the province by wiping out defending troops. Bushido is NOT a conventional wargame. You get so few attacks, with Geisha possibilities, that the role of aggression is unclear. The power of the tactics is significant as the katana doubling effect can be massive with large katana stacks, but with smaller stacks the wins will be marginal. A game in which large troops stacks with large katana stacks are employed is possibly an unusual one: Traitors and the doubling triad/Steel fan can result in huge casualties, but only if you have committed the troops. Concentrating your eggs in one basket can fortify a province, but weaken others to potential ronin insurgencies as well as making a single traitor a lethal proposition. Perhaps the alternative solution of smaller moderate armies in most provinces still forces attackers with large stacks to be wary because of tactic disc strengths. Losing a province need not be as significant an effect either. High honour provinces are more useful towards game end, high rice/katana more useful at the start? In addition, setting a high honour samurai to take a fall by attacking a well defended province with a single daimyo troop is a viable strategy and if troops were too important then the battle would be a forgone conclusion. As it is, traitor tactics or just a large stack of katana, possibly doubled can still permit an exciting victory.
8. The random setup is usually going to be alright with some inequality setting up the political landscape. The expansion with tile upgrades and buildings goes someway towards remedying this as rubbish locations provides a greater benefit when upgraded as opposed to good ones being overwritten. It does seem irritating if a player should, god forbid, find all 5 temples and be start player, therefore autowinning on 50 honour in turn 1. Unlikely, yes, but possible. Perhaps a trade mechanic could permit players with excess mountains to ‘trade’ a mountain for a better terrain from a luckier player? It did annoy people that a player could start with almost nothing compared to other players through random chance. Many gamers would say that such inequality is very unlikely to be fair and hate the game for that alone. Certainly it contributes to feeling a ‘lack of control’ in the game.
9. See 8 above.
10. Too early to say, but I’m pretty sure this was coincidence. The start two players gain an extra turn of income ( say 7 tiles average ) but start with 3 less than the others (on average) so they were only about 3-4 tiles ahead anyway. The extra turn of attacking may be significant for retaking provinces, but possibly only because a lot of ronin/slaughter had left some nice honour provinces vulnerable. The attack seems to be less relevant than you think, as it seems almost impossible to win the game by taking a high value province in battle : the samurai would certainly throw the fight to stop you?
11. The battle rules are tricky to get your head round. Attempted summary here:
i) The winner is almost always decided by highest katana total, defender wins ties
ii) The loser usually loses troops equal to the difference in katanas
iii) The tactics triad doubles katanas for Ambush vs Duel, or Duel vs Battle, or Battle vs Ambush. Steelfan always doubles.
iv) Traitor ignores katanas, autowins, and kills all enemy troops except vs Steel fan or another traitor
v) Ambush tactic inflicts extra 1 casualty for each 1 katana pair (1 casualty per 1 katana vs another ambush)
vi) Battle tactic adds troops to katana total. VS another battle tactic, kill ALL loser troops and winner takes 1 casualty for each 3 katana played by loser
vii) Duel VS Duel : NO CASUALTIES but the difference is taken in honour from the loser. Loser troops all retreat or die if not possible.
viii) Daimyo gets the province if no defender troops remain after battle, and 1+ attacker troops survived. i.e Samurai could lose, but troops survive to capture the province cleared through the assassin’s 1 katana strike.

Post battle honour scoring:
i) Winner AND Loser gain honour for each troop they managed to kill through the katana difference or otherwise (e.g. ambush shuriken or 1 katana kills, battle 3 katana kills)
ii) WINNING SAMURAI gains 1 honour for each tile they spent in the battle, the value of the Daimyo bonus incentive tile if played, and the value of the province ONLY IF conquered and occupied successfully.
iii) WINNING BUSHI gains honour equal to the value of the province ONLY IF a defending troop remains in the province.

So, killing troops are common honour gain conditions regardless of victory, but only the Samurai gains honour per katana spent and the daimyo honour incentive tile for winning. If the winner holds the province (not always the case!) they gain honour equal to the province honour.
12. There is certainly a sense of lacking control in Bushido but I am not sure this is a flaw. In fact, the base mechanic of assigning another player (samurai) to fight on your (daimyo) behalf forces you to negotiate and incentivise. Besides that, the actual combat system with katana doubling gives a random feeling to a lot of people. On inspection, the battle is not a clear-cut scissor-paper-stone system as the tactics are not equally numerous, they have essential qualities (like the ambush killings and battle troop boost), spies can gather combat info. As combat casualties are usually katana difference, doubling often gives victory, but the province is not taken unless the defender is removed completely and the attacker survives.
13. Some player felt they had not done anything in the game. In part, this was due to each player getting no more than 2 or 3 attacks in the 6 player game, and being hit by the geisha. However, as stated before, it seems to be a mistake to fixate on the attacks. In fact, as honour is the main aim of the game, here are the potential sources of honour:
i) Daimyo: May spend a number of 3 katana triples (3 x 3 katana) to get a daimyo honour. May gain honour by capturing a province (temples and cities have highest honour).
ii) Samurai: May gain honour in battle. Always gets a warrior honour per troop defeated, but as winner also gets one pt per katana tile spent, any daimyo incentive token. Also gains province honour if conquered.
iii) Bushi: May gain honour in battle. Always gets a warrior honour per troop defeated, but gains province honour if successfully retained.
iv) Sensei: For wise counsel, Sensei receives 1 daimyo honour if his ‘Samurai punishment’ is recommended.
v) Hatamoto: Gains no honour, but may deny honour to daimyo by attacking him with ronin.
vi) Swordsman: Steals 10 samurai honour if successful in duel
vii) Monk: Gains no honour, but generates honour for other players depending on how many resource tiles are ‘gifted’ i.e. 5 or 10. If none are gifted, player loses 2 daimyo honour.
viii) Being invited to tea!
Bushi, Samurai and Daimyo are the core honour players, but Swordsman and Hatamoto are also potent. Monk generates a lot of honour for others, but the Sensei does almost nothing except for the effect tiles he can play. Seppuku is maybe his greatest ability to punish the losing Samurai. A player with high honour provinces may try to conquer more, but the better idea is maybe to avoid losing them. It is difficult to have both high honour and high troops unless one holds cities and towns, or rice fields and temples. Either way, the other players would do well to remove them from you!

Concluding points:
As mentioned above : Confusingly, ‘Bushido: Way of the Warrior’ is NOT a wargame. It looks like a wargame, sounds like a wargame, but if you try to play it like a wargame you are liable to get frustrated, confused and probably never want to play again. This is perhaps the fundamental reason why the game has received such a cold reception. Bushido has some resource management, some wargame but a lot of negotiation, overt and covert. Honour is the key, and given our 6 player game where some players never made a single attack (due to enthusiastic geisha) it is still playable without actually capturing anywhere! If players fail to realise the importance of the negotiation and politics, and instead degenerate into very selfish honour grabbing, the game can become dull. However, if players start to co-operate, through subtle tells, they can start to stitch up the others quite effectively. Also, if people always tea ceremony down to 0 warrior honour, then any player making a bid for victory cannot be refused a tea ceremony. If players start working together, only dropping to 10ish honour, a player going for a win can be stalled, then stitched up to commit seppuku, by a player refusing the invite and taking the warrior hit ‘for the team’. Also, tea ceremonies could be used to emergency boost a player on 5 to 10 honour for a refusal perhaps? I think that players used to simple cause effect games where you want something, you take it; might find Bushido a challenge too.

I hope some of the above will tempt you to try Bushido, as well as helping to avoid some gamers getting annoyed by their own prejudiced expectations of an unusual and intriguing 'war' game.
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Gordon Watson
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ASL - other tactical wargames call it Sir.
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Hi - I have the base game and the expansion sitting waiting for a play, both bought based on it looking great and sounding good, but I haven't done a detailed rules read yet. Could I check one thing with you - when you say 'negotiations' do you mean Diplomacy' style negotiations with people dissappearing into huddles between turns, or just in-flight across the table suggestion and threat type negotiations?

Thanks.

 
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Lutz Pietschker
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Ben,
these are very thorough and valid comments, IMHO. It is nearly always wrong to concentrate on high-honour provinces early on, you could as well hang a sign around your neck saying "Please punish me!". It is very important not only to see what the other players own but where their future potential for VP gain may be.

Just one q. concerning the geisha: did you observe the rule that the turn marker does *not* move if the geisha was used? Because that way a geisha turn is actually a void turn, but it still allows the Daymio to have a tea ceremony; this does not necessarily mean that the distracted Daymio himself benefits from the extra turn, but as you say, often acting as a Daymio is not what gains you victory. We found that the timing of tea ceremonies is very important. Province honour comes and goes, often, frustratingly, without a lot you can do, but honour won through tea ceremonies stays and can never be taken away from you (as does honour you won as a Sensei, for example). A clever Samurai bows deep before his master and at the same time makes a plan how to benefit himself, preferably more than his Daymio does.
 
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Ben Hodgson
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We played the geisha as you describe. My concern was that the Daimyo's psychological response to the geisha was excessively negative BECAUSE they felt that losing their attack in a 6 player game (where they may only have had 2-3 anyway) was overpowered. However, I think we agree that the actual importance of the attacks and conquering provinces is not as great as in conventional wargames where the attacks ARE the game. In Bushido, the attacks are but one path to victory. I wanted to make sure new players realised that!
 
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Ben Hodgson
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domus_ludorum wrote:
Hi - I have the base game and the expansion sitting waiting for a play, both bought based on it looking great and sounding good, but I haven't done a detailed rules read yet. Could I check one thing with you - when you say 'negotiations' do you mean Diplomacy' style negotiations with people dissappearing into huddles between turns, or just in-flight across the table suggestion and threat type negotiations?

Thanks.



The latter. Mostly opportunistic conspiracies with other players.

For instance, a Daimyo can attack a well defended province with just one troop. This is difficult for the samurai to win, and if he fails to do so he may be forced to commit seppuku by a non-daimyo player, thus losing his current warrior honour before he can convert it to the lasting daimyo honour. In this case the Daimyo has sacrificed his potential gain of a province and effectively rewarded the bushi defender in order to punish the samurai player - but only if another player co-operates and actually plays the seppuku tiles.
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Hugues Paradis
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Everything you seem to have some problem with seems to be covered by Senji. Myabe you should give it a try ?

Only problem, and a rather big one, with Senji is that a single mistake or backstab can put you too far behind for a win.
 
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Ben Hodgson
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Funny enough, I just tried Senji a week or so ago. You're right - it was good fun with negotiation and so forth - I'd like to replay it. I think they are both (Bushido and Senji) very interesting negotiation games well worth playing. The hostage mechanic seems common to both, and the nature of battles involving multiple players is interesting, as is the honour target. At the moment, Bushido seems the more meaty game, but conversely Senji would seem a little more streamlined/faster.
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King Rool
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Bushido is definitely not a fast game, yeah. I mean the rounds are ok once everyone knows the rules but there's a lot to dig through and it only gets more complicated once you use rules from the expansion, Tanin.

That being said I feel that with the expansion they did some nice work balancing out the game and it's much more enjoyable now. The basic game often made us feel like we had to use houserules to keep some effects (like the traitor) from pushing the game too much into a certain direction while with the Tanin rules most effects have counter-effects now.
 
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