Shogun – First impressions

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Last Wednesday night saw the first play of the boardgame ‘Shogun’ (designed by Dirk Henn and published by Queen Games) at Scimitar Wargames Club.

This is a boardgame which is a re-theme of the classic 30 Years War game Wallenstein, and rather than Europe, this game puts the action into Sengoku period Japan. To be honest, if you weren’t aware of it’s previous incarnation, then it would make scant difference to the current game.

I’ve been itching to get this game to the table for a couple of months – it was a Christmas present – and despite interest from several club members in playing the game, we simply haven’t been able to get it to the table until now due to ongoing campaign battles etc (there seems to be much more wargaming than boardgaming going on at the moment…not a bad thing at all!)

So, we sat down – Bob, Tony, Dave, Pete and myself – all newbies to the game. I’d distributed a PDF of the rules the previous week, so hopefully we wouldn’t be starting completely from scratch, but it’s always different reading a rulebook to having the game arrayed in front of you in all it’s glory.

And I do mean glory.

The game production is excellent. To start with, the game board is double-sided, and has very nice artwork of a slightly stylised map of Japan, with the land divided into different regions and provinces. There are a multitude of cards for the game, giving details of provinces, turn actions, special events etc. There is a player board for each player, on which they can plan their actions for the turn – this has artwork on each relating to a different Daiymo of the period. There are over 400 wooden bits, which denote both the armies of each player, plus their money. There are also various card chits representing buildings and indicators of farmer unrest. finally there is the famous cube tower, which is used for battle resolution.

The idea of the game is to gain the most victory points of the course of 8 seasons (2 years) and thus become Shogun. Victory points are gained by controlling provinces and building Castles, Temples and No-Theatres in the provinces that are under your influence.

Whilst doing this, you must also be mindful of trying to keep the population of your provinces fed with rice, but also of gathering enough taxes to accomplish all your goals. Gather too much tax and rice, or do not have enough food in store to feed your provinces in Winter, and you will have a revolt on your hands!

I will not go into anything in depth now – I’m hoping to give a full review of this game in Episode 32 of the Podcast – but suffice it to say that the game play is absorbing. Not complex, but it gives a myriad of options which are all finely balanced.

Given that we were all pretty much novices, by the end of the first year (half way through the game) we’d pretty much got the mechanics sorted out, and after that the game went along at a swift pace – although we just failed to finish. We scored after only 2 turns of the second year, and this definitely showed a slightly skewed result, which shows how finely tuned the game mechanics are.

The verdict? Everyone really enjoyed the game. So much so that we have another session planned in a week or so.

An excellent game, and at £30, its worth every penny. Very highly recommended.

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