Amazon.com :: Samurai Battles on Amazon.com
I will preface this review with a quick explanation of who I am and my game preference. I'm not a war gamer. I couldn't really take learning the rules to Axis and Allies. I am a social gamer. Every Tuesday night I have a group of my friends come over. In the summer time, we swim, play volleyball, and play werewolf around a campfire. In the "off" seasons, we play quick and light party games.
So when I sat down in front of Samurai Battles, I was not expecting to have a good time. I really wanted to NOT be playing this game. Yet, at the end of the game, I found myself having had an amazing time. Samurai Battles truly reaches across the isle and connects casual/social gamers with war gamers.
I never played any of Richard Borg's previous Command and Color (C&C) games previously. Again, I never intended to play these games. Yet, the quality of the components found within Samurai Battles could not be denied. Tons of plastic miniatures. One half of me was thoroughly impressed with what I saw. The other half looked in dread at what must be the most complicated game ever designed. After playing the game, here were the 3 biggest complaints about Samurai Battles:
1.)The Alternate Game. Samurai Battles comes with 2 ways to play. They quite literally have two separate instruction manuals in how the game is played. On the box cover (which is beautiful, BTW) it says loud and proud, "2 Games in 1 Box." There is Richard Borg's C&C method, and there is another method I'm just going to call "Actual Samurai Battle Simulation 5000 Hell" (ASBS5kH). It's actually called "The Art of Tactic."
I'm sure this alternate game play is a dream come true for others. It involves preplanning each of your units moves on a dry erase board. This is suppose to simulate what it would be like as a squad-leader guy receiving specific orders from a general ordering dude. (You may notice that my lack of military terms reflects my lack of interest in military warfare). Unfortunately, I feel that an actual battle would be less complicated and would take much less time.
As a casual/social gamer, this game mode is my own personal nightmare. I'm sure it is AMAZING for some truly hardcore individuals. Yet, for me... hell.
2.)Assembly. When I opened the game with my friend, I had no idea that it would take me HOURS just to put the game together. 120 models is no joke. This game comes packed! Even worse, we needed tools to do it right. The miniatures come in plastic spools that need to be cut using an Exact-o knife (or risk damaging the minis). Then they must be glued. Since my (non-Tuesday night casual gamer) friend was more into maintaining the integrity of the minis, I was put in charge of labeling the dice. That alone took me 45 minutes. To be fair, I really didn't want to make a mistake and was trying really hard.
This complaint might be a compliment for those miniature gaming collector's out there. I, however, just want to look and touch the game parts. I don't want to have a birthing relationship with them.
3.)Repacking. So, the game pieces are assembled. You've played the game. Awesome. Good luck putting the game back into the box. If you can do it without damaging any pieces, you're a gaming god. Good work, you are better than me.
Now that I've given my complaints, allow me to provide what I like bout the game. Here are the 3 biggest compliments about Samurai Battles:
1.) Learn-ability. But wait! Didn't I tell you that this is a war game?!? How can this be easy to learn? Well, it is. You have simple to read and understand cards, easy to learn iconography for the dice, and then you are off like a prom dress. While the alternate game is a nightmare to learn, the C&C is as easy as Ticket to Ride. In fact, in the amount of time that it is taking you to read this review, you could have learned how to play the game. You still might have questions, but the answers to which would be easy to find in the rule book.
RECOMMENDATION for casual/social gamers: Learn as you play. Instead of trying to learn all the rules at once and jump into the game, simply follow the easy-to-use step by step guide for each stage of the game. When a question comes up, you'll find the answer to it.
2.) Visual Appeal. The quality of this game is phenomenal. The cards feel thick and durable, and there are a ton of minis. Sure, it will take you a long time to assemble them, but once you do... DAMN, you've got samurais battling in front of you. If the game was already set up, pieces essembled, it is near impossible to pass up this game without gawking.
3.) Gameplay. This is goes along with the learn-ability, but the gameplay is simple and stream-lined. The game simply plays in five phases per turn:
Phase 1: Play a Command card (yeah, it's explained on the cards)
Phase 2: Order Units and Leaders
Phase 3: Movement
Phase 4: Battle (roll some dice)
Phase 5: End of Turn
Rinse and repeat, and before you know it you are battling with Samurais as casually and as easily as though it was Connect Four.
In the end, Samurai Battles scratches many types of itches a gamer might have. By offering enough depth and strategy to satify the heavy war gamer and simultaneously enough simplicity for the casual dice roller, the game transcends gamer genres. You really can't lose with this game (after burning the alternate rules and assembling the pieces).