Friday, March 25, 2016

Not conquering any new territory

Samurai is a pretty typical example of a Reiner Knizia game. The game play is abstract and deceptively simple, featuring a complex scoring system that is more than simply adding up points, and the theme is, for the most part, a tacked on afterthought. That said, the game still manages to be fairly engaging.

The game board, which scales based on the number of players, represents the islands of Japan. Cities and villages are marked out on the board, and at the start of the game their spaces are filled with tokens representing religion, commerce and military. Each player has a collection of tiles of varying values and symbols that correspond to the tokens on the board. Players take turns placing on the board, and as soon as a city or village is surrounded by tiles, the player whose surrounding tiles add up to the highest value claims the token or tokens that match their tiles' symbol. Some tiles have special abilities, such as allowing placement of an additional tile, or moving a tile that's already on the board.

As usual with a Reiner Knizia game, there is a little more to it than that. While the primary strategy lies in placing your tiles in such a way that you control when a village gets surrounded, you also need to think about which tokens you're claiming. The final scoring depends on how many of each type of token each player has collected, so you have to make decisions on which tokens you are trying to collect, based on what you have and what your opponents have taken.

The beautiful graphic design in the new edition published by Fantasy Flight Games helps to make up for the fairly inconsequential feudal Japan theme. In any case, there's enough going on to keep the game interesting, if similar to many of Knizia's other games such as Through the Desert and even Ingenious.

Rating: 3 (out of 5) A pretty good game when taken on its own merits, but it is very similar to a lot of other games from the same designer.

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