Matteo Santo


No. of Players:
3 - 8



Gamebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

Sake & Samurai is only the second game from the Italian publisher ALBEPAVO. Their first game, Munera, a game about organizing gladiatorial games in old Rome, was a very promising debut. In Munera the author Matteo Santus has created a dense atmosphere and has adopted a historical theme to a well-balanced game. Something that whet my appetite for more.

The new game Sake & Samurai goes in a total other direction. In this game, each player takes the role of a Samurai, who sits in a bar and drinks Sake with all the Samurais of the other players. Unfortunately the bar is not equipped too well, and so, after the one or other glass of Sake, it comes to a showdown: only one last Sake is left and everybody wants to get it. Of course with up to eight drunken Samurais this has disastrous consequences. As is well known Samurais were well equipped with weapons like their famous Katana longsword. And so the struggle for the last drinks of Sake soon becomes violent....

Sake & Samurai is a pure card game without use of a board. At the beginning of the game, every player chooses one of the nicely designed big Samurai cards and puts it in front of him. The Samurais differ in their maximum life points and in their special abilities. Three small wooden cubes are placed between two neighbouring Samurai cards to determine the range between the players. During the game the players move their characters in the one or other direction by putting these cubes from the one to the other side. The range between two players is a very important detail in the game and determines which weapons a player can use to attack.


Of course a Samurai must have a weapon and so all players start with the Katana which is put as a card above the Samurai cards. The Katana can only be used in melee combat, so it has a range of 1 and you must only be one step (wooden cube) away from your opponent to use it. This is quite annoying, and so more weapons must come into the game. For this all players take four additional cards into their hands. Not all of these cards are weapons, there are event cards, armours and minions, who help the players fight against each other, too.

Every card can also be used for different actions. In the corner of the cards, you can find the values for attacking, defending, movement and drinking (the Samurais start the game sober and a lot of Sake must be tippled before it is time for the final showdown...). The other function of a card is explained in a text box in the middle of the card. So here you can find if you can use the card for an event, another weapon or item, a minion or an interrupt that allows to play the card even if it is not the player's turn. The crux of the matter is that you may only use either the values in the corner or the text of the card. So you often must take a card, e.g. as a defence, even though it is also a mighty weapon, that would be quite helpful for you. Finally in the setup phase, each player takes as many cards as there are life points indicated on the Samurai card. These cards are put face down on the left side of the Samurai. If a player is wounded he takes cards from this stack of life points to the right side of his Samurai where they indicate the player's wounds.


In a turn a player can play up to two cards from his hand. He can either use the card's values for attack, movement or drinking or he can use the special ability of the card that is described in the text box. Attacking other players is one of the most important things of the game, but it is not so easy to reach the other players. Each weapon has its characteristic range, and so that you must be at the exact distance from your opponent to use it. This requires you to plan your movements in advance to be at the right distance to attack. The result of an attack is determined quite easy: the attacker sums up his attacking value from the card he just played, and adds the value of a weapon with the right range that was played before and lies already in front of the player. The defender may also use a weapon that lies before him in the wielding area and adds this to the defence value of the card he plays as his defence. Note that the defence weapon can only be changed in the active phase of a player or if the actual defence weapon was destroyed. If however it becomes useless as the result from some special action or from drinking too much Sake, the player cannot use this weapon for the defence any more. The difference between the two sums is the loss of life points for the defender.

As explained before, you always must find the right distance from your opponents to use your weapons. So you also have to move. For this you again play a card and use the movement value of this card. It is only possible to move closer to your right or to your left adjacent opponent. If, for example, you play a card with a movement value of two you either can take two wooden cubes from your left or from your right side and put them on the opposite side. So by moving you always decrease the distant in the one and increase the distant in the other direction. Movement can also be used to get out of range of your opponent's weapons. But of course there are also some weapons for ranged attacks, most of these are weaker than weapons for melee combat, but in return they can also be used at players far away.

Drinking is the last possible action, a sensual one, but also an action you have to choose quite often to win the game. The reason for this is, that in the end the most drunken surviving Samurai wins the game. The fly in the ointment is that - as it is well known - alcohol lets you forget how to use your weapons and items. Whenever you choose to booze, you must take a Sake drink and put it on top of one of your weapon or item cards in front of you. The result is, that you cannot use this card any more. As an alternative you may also put it on your character or on your Life points, but then you loose your special ability respectivly the chance to take one or more of your life points as hand cards, which is otherwise possible as a sheet anchor.

If you want to use the special ability of a card, you announce it and use the card as described. Weapons and items are placed in front of a player and can be used from that moment on. Minions can be sent to attack other players, but they are not very powerful. Their main function is to prevent the other players from doing other things, because in spite of the weak attack values of the minions, it is always recommended to get rid of them. Events can influence a lot of things, e.g. destroy a weapon of an opponent or to do a special range attack.

So with progressing time, our Samurais become more and more drunken and wounded. But what happens with the poor fellows who do not survive an attack. In most games these people can serve drinks or go to the toilet until the game ends. Other in Sake & Samurai. Killed Samurais become Spirits of Enma and from then on they try to prevent the other players to win the game. They still have the chance to win the game together with other Spirits of Enma, but for this they must collect more Sake drinks on their characters as every surviving Samurai. When it is a turn of a Spirit he still can perform some actions. First of all he uses the power of Elation: The colour of the back of the top card of the draw pile shows whether the player can change step counters between some players, whether he may transfer Sake drinks from one card of an opponent to another or whether he may take cards from the hand of a player and give them to another. After this the player may either steal Sake from the supply or torment an opponent by stealing some of his Sake. Of course spirits can also be attacked by the living.

The game ends after the round, in which the last Sake from the supply is drunk. Then it comes to a final sudden death round. The drunkest surviving Samurai wins the game, if the Spirits could not collect more Sake on their character cards.

Like in their debut game JOCULARIS has given Sake & Samurai a great artwork. Consequently the game has already won the LUCCA COMICS AND GAMES 2011 - MIGLIOR PROFILO ARTISTICO prize (for best artistic profile), a prize that was given to games like Dixit and Kaleidos before. The concept and the game design, again from Matteo Santus, does not have to dodge behind the great artwork, although the rules leave you with some questions at the beginning and some players seemed to be puzzled for a moment after explaining the rules. I hope that there will be some revised rules soon, so you should check the publisher's homepage soon. But the game, after a first introduction round, is easy to understand, and can evolve into a pretty fast clash between the players, if the players do not take too much time for their turns. If all players are experienced, the game is at its best, because then you really will have a fast paced game. Especially with many players (up to eight players are allowed) you can never be sure that your Samurai is safe from ranged attacks from the other side of the table. If in that case, you do not have enough cards left for your defence, your Samurai will soon be one of the Spirits of Enma. Other than in comparable games like the Red Dragon Inn, I did not get the impression that the death of a Samurai was really felt as a defeat. Some players seemed literally yearning for their death only to try the other side as a Spirit of Enma. Maybe the only bigger criticism is that your abilities as a spirit seem to be limited too much, because you cannot use different weapons and items any more. But maybe the weaponry and the accoutrements of the Samurai is overrated by most players, after all we are in a pub to drink Sake, a detail a lot of player seem to forget during the game. Cheers!

[Gamebox Index]

Google Custom Search

Impressum / Contact Info / Disclaimer


Copyright © 2011 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany