Samurai, a hex tile-based capture game set in feudal Japan, is a remake of a 1995 board game of the same name, it retains the same strategic mechanics but updates the game components.
The aim of the game is to capture a majority of the three types of caste pieces (rice, castles and Buddhas). To win outright, you need to have a majority of two castes, but if players are equal (if three players have one caste each), a quick series of checks against the players other captured pieces reveals the winner.
To capture caste pieces, they have to be surrounded by tiles. The winner of the caste piece is the player with the highest total on his tiles relating to that caste piece. Tiles vary in their value and are dedicated to one of the three caste pieces, and can’t be used to capture the others. Each player has a small selection of ‘wild tiles’ which can be used to capture all caste pieces. There are also switch and move tiles that allow you to swap one of your previously places tiles and a caste piece for extra tactical surprises.
Each player has the same twenty tiles available to them, and they start with five tiles each. Starting hands can be chosen or randomised, depending on how you want to play the game and then you draw random tiles throughout the rest of the game.
The game components are of a very high quality. The tiles pieces are a subtle pastel colour and stand out very well against the light colours of the board. The style of the components suits the game setting extremely well. All the components tidy away nicely into the box and the durability of the card and caste pieces means that they should last a long time.
As usual with our test review games, I read through the rules once before we played a series of games to see how much we had to refer back to the rules. The first game was slightly slow, but everything from the rules made sense straight away and by the second game we had all developed our own styles of tactical play.
This turned out to be the biggest strength of Samurai. What appears to be a simple board game at first sight, has a huge depth of tactical play, which you have to learn to revise and adapt depending on the style of play of the other players. None of our games had a clear cut winner and we had to go through the quick series of checks to identify who had won. It will be clear early on that heading for only one caste type was not a sure fire way to win, and you have to be extremely tactical to win without going through the checks.
Samurai is a very decent tactical board game. And like all board games of its type, it is extremely easy to learn, but difficult to master. It plays as well with two players, as it does with three or four, which is an extremely handy feature to add to any game collection. The Samurai theme, like the many variations of Monopoly or Risk, could be anything and isn’t central to the game, but the colours of the components goes extremely well with the feudal Japanese setting. Samurai is an extremely fun and challenging game to play and it’s quick enough that you will always want to play just one more game.
4 out of 5 Nerds