Unboxing Small Samurai Empires when we received it, really made our day. We always like well made meeples, and this game has many of them. We found out that you have your own mini samurai army in this game. And they look quite adorable! We were also happy to receive this game from Archona Games, since we don’t have that many light games. We were curious to see how they created an area control game in a light version.
How to Play.
Before you can conquer your empire, place the board in the middle of the table. choose a color and take the corresponding mini samurai’s, castles, order tokens, two food and two bushido tokens, and your player screen. Place you army in front of your player screen, and everything else behind it. Next, shuffle the destiny cards and deal three cards to each player. Then place six food and six bushido tokens, randomly on the map. Each player then places two armies in each capital city, and on cube on each of the regions on the influence track. The last cube is placed on the zero on the score track. Lastly, place the player markers in the right order on the turn track and you are ready to begin.
The game is divided into three eras, and each era has two rounds. You begin with the planning phase. Choose one of your destiny cards and place it face down, if all players have chosen a card, reveal them simultaneously and place them under the same region under the influence track. For each card that is added to a region, scores will be higher for that region at the end scoring. Choose wisely as you are not the only one who can use that.
After that, each player will place their order tokens on at the time of their choice face down on the map. In a four player game each player places three tokens, if there are less players, each player can place four tokens. When you place a token, you can already use the ‘neutral’ action next to your token. This can be destroying one army from a player, or add one samurai from your army to gain more control, moving your army to another location or gaining recourses from area’s you control for example. Each icon is well explained in the rulebook, if you have any doubt, be sure to check the meaning of the icon you wish to place or execute.
After the planning phase, you get the resolution phase. Starting from the bottom of the map, reveal each order token one by one and resolve their actions. Do not return the used tokens to your supply after you have resolved them. Once all tokens are revealed and resolved, the second round of the era starts. You again start with the planning phase, but this time without cards. Players also place one order token less then in the previous round. When you place order tokens in the second round, you may cover a token of an opponent with your own token one time. This will prevent your opponent from using that token again this round. If you wish to cover a token from an opponent, this will cost one bushido token the first time, or two if it’s the second time this round, and so on. You can also cover your own token for free. In the resolution phase in the second round, you don’t start at the bottom of the map, but at the top. once all tokens are revealed and resolved, the era will end.
At the end of an era, each player will receive a recourses for recourse provinces they control. You can also take back all your order tokens and place them behind your screen. For each province you control and each castle you have placed, you gain one step on the influence track for the regions of the same color. If you control two areas and have place one castle in the orange region for example, you will advance three steps. Each region has region bonus points. At the end of an Era, give the most bonus points to the player who has most control of that region, and the least amount to the second player in control. Move the player cubes on the scoring tracks accordingly. For every shrine area you control, you gain one more point. Lastly, each player draws one new destiny card and reorder the turn track. the player with the least amount of points, will go first.
This will repeat itself three times. After the third era is finished, the final scoring will take place. Don’t forget to still resolve the ‘era steps’ before counting the final scores. Check where your player marker is placed on the scoring track and how many destiny cards are placed on that region. Then, take the value of that spot an multiply it with the amount of destiny cards. If you would have three final points in the orange region for example, and five destiny cards for that region would be placed there. You would have a total amount of (3 x 5) 15 points. For every three unspent resource, you also gain one point. The player with the highest amount of points wins the game!
The creators of this game also made a lot of variables. So if you would like to play a little different or just got bored from the main game, there are many possibility’s still available in the rulebook!
Playthrough of the game.
We were pleasantly surprised by this game, mostly because of the player screens. You have no idea what tokens your opponent has left or how many resources they might have. And because you play each token facedown on the board, you have to guess to make sure you are making the right move. This can bring many fun scenarios.
In one of our first games of Small Samurai Empires, I was actually winning and feeling quite confident. In the last round of the last era, I wanted to secure my win by placing my last castle. I was almost sure Tomasz wasn’t going to do anything to me since I thought he would focus on another region. You can imagine my surprise when not only did he cover my token in the planning phase, but also attacked my army in the resolution phase which caused him to gain control of the region! And so he won, with a big smile on his face.
The look of this game is very colorful and the more players, the more happy chaos you get. We also like it a lot that there are more versions to play, and since it’s also a very small box with a smart design. This game is just perfect to take with you wherever you want to go. It’s easy to learn and it doesn’t take much time. The components are also nice quality. We have received the deluxe tokens and we recommend to play with them if you can since we found it makes our game experience better.
Small Samurai Empires is an easy light strategy game where good planning can make all the difference. It’s a game that is easy to take with you for travels and is fun to play with more people. This game has many different variants you can play, so you won’t get bored easily since it has many possibility’s. Lastly the quality and look of the components are awesome and your mini samurai army will brighten up your table.