Tuesday, July 27, 2010


It has been a while since I played Shogun, so last week a game was organized and our samurai troops shuffled around feudal Japan. It was a great game that ended in a 4 player draw with the winner decided on the number of war chests. As I had calculated to spend all my chests I ended up last but it was a monumental game.

Shogun is one of my favorite games, its more than an area control game with players having limited number of actions to perform and the cube tower is a great piece of kit.

For those that don't know about Shogun I will break it down. The board is made up of Japan's provinces with players having a number of cubes in the provinces they control. Everything starts off even with each player controlling the same number of provinces and having the same number of cubes. You have a card for each province that you control.

The game is broken down into 2 years, with each year having three playable seasons followed by the winter season where scoring and other processes happen.

For each of the three main seasons players have to decide what their province is going to do. Each player has a board showing all 10 options and they must place a province card upside down onto the action they want. The actions are broken down into 3 building actions, castle, temple and theatre. Obtaining Rice which is used to feed your provinces in Winter and war chests which are the currency of the game. The other actions revolve around building up your troop types and moving them around the board attacking adjacent provinces.

Once all of the players have chosen a province then the order of these actions is revealed and a turn order bid happens. One of the nice mechanics is that only the first 5 of these 10 possible actions is viewable at the start of the round. As the actions happen, the remaining actions are flipped. Sometimes this means that you may not be able to afford to build your armies as the war chest action hasn't happened yet. Either way you only get to do 3 possible actions in a province before winter happens.

Taking rice or war chests from a province makes the local peasants unhappy and revolt markers are placed in the region. These have two effects, one the farmers will not help the defenders in battle and two, if you have more than one token in a province the peasants will revolt against the occupying player.

Combat is handled with the cube tower. It's one of the best parts of the game. It's a cardboard tower that you drop in the attacking and defending cubes. They rattle around inside and a number of cubes will end up in the tray at the bottom. These are then used to determine who wins and the attrition of the battle. Sometimes your cubes will end up in the tower to come out at a later time. It works really well, especially as you seed the tower at the start of the game.

When Winter arrives players must have enough rice to feed all of their provinces. If not then more revolt markers are placed on the board and players can loose the provinces if the peasants revolt and win. Scoring then starts with players earning points for the number of provinces they own, the number of buildings they control and for the majority control of each building type per region.

After the first year has ended, all revolt markers are removed and the whole process starts again.

Its a fine balance between attacking for more provinces, defending provinces that you have built on and building to gain the majority in each region.

Most of the game is spent planning, which can lead to a bit of analysis paralysis. It also takes a bit of time to setup, the names of the provinces take a while to find on the board but after the first year new players should have a good idea of what they are doing and how to win. Subsequent plays help round the strategies of the game out.

Overall I really like this game and wish I could play it more often. It's a big game so it takes a bit of thought and table space but this shouldn't put people off.

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