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Each player has an identical force of warriors, priests, and peasants to use to gain control of the important power figures of Old Japan. The players deploy their forces to the spaces around the power figures. When a figure is surrounded, it is captured by the player with the strongest sympathetic force. To win, a player must gain dominance with one of the powers while getting better support from the other powers than the other players.

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AEG fan
Miniature Painter
US Army Service
17 of 18 gamers found this helpful
“ Out of print classic”

Samurai, by Reiner Knizia, is a 2-4 player game where players vie for control of three factions – Samurai, Priests, and Peasants. Control of towns is done via tile placement and each player draws and manages a hand of tiles through-out the game. Once a town or village is completely encircled by tiles, it is scored. Once the final town or village is scored, players compare their totals for each faction.

Once you start playing Samurai, you will very quickly realize that this game is actually very, very easy to play. The rules are brief and extremely streamlined and clean. As the game progresses, the turns gradually slow down as each player weighs the increasingly difficult options that they have available. Samurai is a tribute to the design skills of Mr. Knizia – simple to play, yet deep in strategy, it is everything you might want in a board game.

Samurai plays best with 3. When playing with two, moves are bit too obvious and luck is a large factor, while with 4 there is a bit too much chaos. But with three players, Samurai really shines – especially since there are three factions that the players are trying to gain a majority in.

+ Plays quickly (45 minutes)
+ Easy to learn
+ Excellent component quality
+ Good brain burn – but your options are reasonably limited

– Ties happen (might be a plus for some)
– Players prone to analysis paralysis can turn it into a 90 minute game
– Luck has some impact, especially in 2-player games

This is one of my favorite games and I enjoy it for it’s evolving pace and increasing complexity. It is fun to watch as the board slowly compresses and scoring starts to happen – I do try to win, but I enjoy how the game evolves as well and don’t mind losing.

This game has been out of print for sometime, but is available on both iOS and Android devices. For iOS, look for “Reiner Knizia’s Samurai” and on Android, look for “Shogun Hex.” The latter does not have fast units, so it is not a full implementation, but instead a very close relative.


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