Sake & Samurai is a card game for 3-8 players with a lot of interaction. Playing time is about 60 minutes.
In Sake & Samurai you play one samurai who sits in a bar, brags about his/her fighting skills and achievements while drinking sake. Well, I guess you can imagine that if a few of such like-minded samurais meet and brag around it will only take a few minutes before a deadly fight brakes out. They draw their katanas and start attacking each other till all opponents are lying dead on the floor or after the last sake from the bowl on the table has been drunk. The winner is the last man standing or the one who has drunk the most sake at the end.
Because it is a card game the main components of the game are cards but in the box you also find 8 character sheets for the different samurai players, a paper sheet which can be folded to a paper bowl for holding the glass tokens representing the sake and wooden cubes which represent the distance between players in steps.
At the beginning of the game every player gets a random character card (the different samurais have different special abilities) which is put in front of the player on the table. Between each player you put 3 wooden cubes to show that every player has a 3 step distance to their neighbors. Then every player takes a number of cards depicted on their character sheets and puts them as their life pool face down on the left side of the character sheet. In front of their samurai they put a katana to show that every warrior is by default equipped with a deadly sword. On the top right corner of the samurai sheet you put a wooden token on a symbol which indicates that the samurai is still seated. When the samurai attacks or moves the first time this token is removed and gives him/her one extra movement of up to 2 steps called "iaido" for this action. Once a samurai stands he will never sit down again. After all the setup is done every player draws 4 hand cards and the game can start.
Samurai character sheets: blood drop symbol on the left shows the life pool area, crossed blood drop symbol on the right shows the wounded area, armor symbol on the top of the card shows the defense weapon area and on the top right hand is the sitting symbol. on the bottom you find the special ability of every samurai
Game turns are pretty quick and quite simple.
Every turn consists of 4 phases:
a.) take two actions
b.) move and attack with your servants
c.) draw two cards
d.) ready one weapon for defense
I'm not going through all the rules in detail but here are the actions you can take: You can either play a card for 1 of 4 possible ways:
You can use the card for its attack value or for its movement value or for its "drink sake" value or for the effect which is stated on the card. After you've chosen one action you can play another card to take your second action.
top left: attack value, top right: defense value, bottom left: movement value, bottom right: sake value
The actions per-se are quite easy as well. If you decide to attack you add the number under the attack symbol on the card you just played to one of your weapons in play and attack one of your opponents. The weapon card states how far away your opponent must stand (in steps/wooden cubes) so you can use this weapon for a successful attack. After you played your cards and declared your opponent he/she can play a card for its defense value and subtract this value and the value from his readied weapon from the attack value. If the attack is higher the defender will loose life points according to the difference of attack and defense value. Which means he has to put as many cards from his left side of the character sheet to the right side to show he is wounded. If one samurai puts his last card from the left to the right side this samurai is dead and becomes a spirit to play as a ghost the next turn. At this point the game transcends from all against all to a team against all game because all spirits in play have a common cause now which is to steal more sake then one samurai can drink. Which I think is a nice idea and keeps the game interesting even if you have been killed.
If you use a card for its movement you just take the number of wooden cubes (stated on the played card) from one side of your samurai sheet to the other. This shows that if you get closer to one samurai you move away from the other. Also a nice feature in the game.
If you use the value for "drink sake" than you have to shout out "Sakeeeeeeeeee" and take as many glass tokens from the sake bowl as stated on the card and put them on your items, character sheet or life pool. You are only allowed to put one token per card. Every card you choose will be blocked for use until you "burn up" the sake. If you put one token on the life pool the alcohol smooths the pain and acts as an extra life point. If you put it on an item or weapon card you're not allowed to use that card. If you put a token on your samurai you can't use his special ability and have to talk in a drunken way until the token is removed. If you burn up sake you take the token from your card and remove it from the game and choose if you want to draw another card or take an additional action.
white background cards: items or weapons               yellow background cards: one time effects
green background cards: servant cards                       red background cards: reaction or interrup cards
If you use the card for it's effect you play the card as stated on it. If it is an item or weapon (white background on the card) you put it in front of you and from now on you can use this weapon to attack other players. If the background is yellow it is an immediate effects and will be resolved before moving on. If the background is green it is a servant which will join you in your fight and can attack later on or sacrifice himself for your noble cause. If the background is red the card is an reaction card and can only be played out of turn to interrupt the current action and has to be resolved before hand.
I didn't mention every detail there is like how the servants work and so on. What is important though is that there is hand-card limit of 4 cards and every player has to discard immediately if he goes over that limit.
If you get killed turn the character sheet to the other side
What I still would like to mention is the spirits. So if you get killed you become a spirit. You loose all your weapons, items and sake in play, turn over your samurai sheet and pick up all the cards from the right side (wounded side) of the character sheet. Important: you're holding your cards now with the back side facing you because for the spirits all man-made things are worthless but on the back side of the cards are 3 different colored symbols: yellow, blue and red.
different colored background symbols only important for spirits
Depending on which color has the top most card on the draw pile the spirit can do different things to mess with the still standing samurais.
game in progress
Hui, this is quite a long review but what do I think about the game?
I had a blast playing the game! There was so much trash talk all the time and it is so interactive that you can always do something even on other players turns with the reaction cards. A lot of fighting, negotiating and complaining "why the heck did you attack me and not him" and so on. The illustrations on the cards are outstanding and quality of the cards is decent except the character sheets which are quite thin.
As you can see from my quite long review although the game is pretty simple per-Se it takes a while to grasp all the rules and you might make one or two mistakes during your first game but the second game will run much smoother. The layout of the rulebook could be a bit better structured but overall it is okay.
For me this game is a fun party style game a bit like Bang! with lots of interaction and in-your-face action. If you like lighter, confrontational, fast playing games and have at least 4 to 5 players at hand I can only recommend this game. It's a lot of fun!
If your not the confrontational guy/gal, don't like getting killed or you like playing rather strategical games this won't be a good choice for you.
any comments and crits are most welcome!
- Last edited Sun Jan 15, 2012 11:03 pm (Total Number of Edits: 3)
- Posted Sat Jan 14, 2012 2:23 pm
thanks for the deeper look into the game
been watching this game and hoping to see how it plays out
you've given me a good idea about it and i hope to try it out someday
you're very welcome!
I'm glad my review could be of any help!
Thanks for the comprehensive review. I love the art style of this game and the game mechanics look simple yet elegant. It reminds me a little of Lunch Money.
I think I have to buy this game just to be able to use scalding ramen as a weapon...