Monday, April 22, 2013

Conquering Medieval Japan...and tilting at windmills!

I'm a bit behind, as tomorrow is our standard Tuesday gameday, and I haven't even blogged about last Tuesday yet...not to mention the weekend.  I will make this quick, and likely add links and pics later.

Last Tuesday, we had a crew of 5 - Grant, Mike, Brian G., Brian D. and myself.  After some hemming and hawing, we decided to throw down on one of our favorite, well of our favorite games of the recent past - Shogun from Queen Games.  Now this is not to be confused with the old Milton Bradley Shogun which was part of their "Gamemaster series", which include Axis & Allies and Fortress America.  That game has undergone an identity crisis, changing first to Samurai Swords, and now known as Ikusa.  In any case, we were playing Queen Games Shogun, which is based off an earlier game called Wallenstein, and an even earlier game called Im Zeichen des Kreuzes, which is about the Crusades. 

Now there is some debate in our group as to whether Shogun is a eurogame trying to be a wargame, or a wargame trying to be a eurogame.   The board is a map of Japan, which is divided into 50 or so territories, which are grouped into 6 larger regions.  During game setup, you "draft" a certain number of territories, and place your starting armies (euro style wooden cubes) in those territories.  The game lasts 2 "years", which have 4 seasons each - although you can only perform actions in spring, summer and fall - winter is for feeding your people - if you can, that is - you may start to feel a bit like Ned Stark - "Winter is Coming".

Now during the 3 "action seasons", you can take up to 10 actions, by placing your territory cards on the different action spaces on your player board.  Those actions consist of rice collection, tax collection, building castles, temples and theaters, two battle actions, and 3 different reinforcing type actions.  You also bid gold for turn order, as well as a special ability that turn (collect more rice, more gold, attack or defend better, etc...).  On each turn, the order in which the 10 different actions will occur is random.  You will know the first five, but only know the order of the 2nd five after you've completed the 5th action. 

Let's get right to the most unique part of this game - the battle tower.  Whenever an attack happens, the attacker and defenders cubes are scooped up, and thrown in the battle tower...which is a little like a dice tower, except it's designed to capture some of the cubes thrown in.  The winner is the player with the most cubes to emerge from the tower.  Note that in some cases, an army may emerge with more cubes than he had going into the battle...cubes stuck in the tower from previous events came come free at the most opportune - or inopportune times!  Green cubes represent peasants, which may or may not help you depending on whether you've taxed them for gold or rice lately. 

Quite simply, this is a great, engaging game, combining eurogame mechanics with the most unique and entertaining combat mechanic I've seen.  Our game was particularly close, and in the end I beat Grant by 1 point.  The only reason I was able to do that is that Grant fell short on feeding his people in the 2nd winter, and had a rebellion in 1 province.  By sheer luck, the territory that contained his least manned province was drawn, and he lost it to the peasants.  Great game, can't wait to get it to the table again...although we've all agreed that we need to bring in the expanions, Tenno's Court

Grant left, and the remaining 4 of us played a game of Gingkopolis to end the evening.  Not a whole lot more to say...I had a more challenging game than my victory a few weeks ago...coming in dead last this time.  I was never able to get a good engine going that kept feeding me tiles and workers...I was always short on something, it seemed.

Fast forward to the weekend, where our family made our annual pilgrimage down to Blacksburg for the Virginia Tech spring football game.  I won't say much about the football game itself - defense looked great, offense looked very shaky, which is par for the course lately for the Hokies.  But the trip is also a time to get in some gaming. 

We didn't get into town until late on Friday evening, so we decided on something easy and entertaining - Resistance.  It wasn't quite as whacky as our escapades at Prezcon, but we still had a good time.  We played 4 or 5 games, and after 2 "standard" games, we introduced the concept of "Morpheus" and the assassin to our group.  It was a tough night for the resistance...the spies seemed to have the upper hand...poor Morpheus even got assassinated in the last game.

Saturday night Tom and I took the opportunity to teach Walnut Grove to Becky and Susan.  Becky had played a 2 player game with me a few weeks earlier, but now we had a full 4 players.  Tom stayed just a step ahead of me, claiming the bonus tile for largest field before I could (I had a 7 tile wheat field that would have reaped big points...)  In the end Tom won with 27 points.

The women were OK with Walnut Grove, but weren't super crazy about it, so we ended the night with one of everyone's favorites, Lords of Waterdeep.  We had a very close game.  I claimed the "Magisters Orb" quest early on which gave me the ability to play on occupied spaces, and that was a big help.  Once again, though, Tom was just a step ahead of me, swiping a few quests before I had a chance to get them.  And I was one cleric short of being able to complete another high value quest on the last turn.  Tom won with 130 or so points, Becky and Susan were just behind him, and I finished in dead last with 115 or so.

I figured that would be it for gaming, but on a lazy Sunday morning, Susan taught me Finca.  The theme of the game is that you're harvesting and selling various fruits in a Mediterranean setting.  The interesting mechanic here is the movement of your workers around a track designed to resemble a traditional windmill.  Your workers move the number of spaces forwarded equal to the number of people on their current space...and the space they land on, they collect the number of fruit equal to the number of figures on that space.  It's an interesting mechanism, and reminded me slightly of the circular track in NavegadorWhen you collect certain combinations of fruits, you can turn them in via donkey cart to collect tiles in different regions on the board.  There are ways to get certain bonus point tiles, and when a certain number of provinces are empty, the game is over.  I enjoyed this little game, and would like to play it with 3 or 4 players...I imagine that with more players, planning ahead is virtually impossible. 


  1. Only played Shogun once, but I vote, "euro trying to be wargame". Intrigued by the battle tower though! Would like to see it used in a better game, to see how it really pans out.

  2. The battle tower really is the driving mechanism for the game, although I like the other aspects as well - but then again, I do like a good euro game.