Author: Scott Kimball

Publisher: AMIGO 2002

G@mebox Star



Well, let me start the review of the new AMIGO-game Ehre der Samurai with a somewhat unusual statement: "Small box, great game!" To be honest, Ehre der Samurai is one of the most remarkable games which I have seen over the last years, and it is one of those rare occasions that a game seems to perfectly match the criteria which I demand of a good game. But let's get into the details...

Ehre der Samurai actually is no real boardgame, but instead a cardgame in which the players have to place their cards in front of them. Each player takes up the role of a Samurai who is serving the house of a Daimyo (Lord, Noble), and the players try to win the game by being the first player who succeeds in collecting 400 honour-points.

At the beginning of the game, each player possesses his own Samurai card and a randomly drawn Daimyo card, which he both places openly in front of him. Behind those cards, other cards will be placed during the game, so that both the Daimyo and the player's Samurai will collect their own House (of cards). All Samurai possess the same attributes of Honour, Ki (Craft) and Strength, but with all other cards (including the Daimyos) those attributes will vary. Furthermore, each player receives a hand of 7 randomly drawn cards as his starting equipment.

The game then is played in turns, and each player's turn is split into three phases: first a player can collect honour points for the cards in front of him, then he may do some card-related actions, and finally he may possibly make a declaration to the other players.

The collection of honour points is fairly simple. The player just adds up the honour values of all cards in both his Samurai's and his Daimyo's Houses, and then he will receive this value of honour points which he adds to his score.

Next, the player may do a number of card actions. For each three Ki points available from his Houses, he may chose to do one of the following actions: He may draw a new card for his hand, he may play a card or he may discard a card without any results. Thus, the number of actions a player may do actually depends on the number of Ki points he has available from his Houses, with the limitations that he may never do more than 5 actions or hold ore than 7 cards in his hand.

If the player has decided to play a card, such a card may be a possession (troops, weapons etc) which may be added to either of his houses, or it may be an action card which can be used to hinder other players. As far as possessions are concerned, there only exist a few limitations concerning the possessions a House may possess. So there may never be more than 5 troop cards assigned to a house, and furthermore only one wife and castle may be assigned to a House. The cards played on a House add to the players total Honour, Ki and Strength values. If on the other hand the player play an action card, such a card may either be a Ninja or a Loss of Honour card. A player has to pay some honour points if he wants to use a Ninja but he then may use him to either steal possessions of other players or to assassinate another player's Daimyo or Samurai. If the assassination is successful, the Daimyo will be discarded together with his House, whereas a Samurai will only lose his House.

Once a player has made all his actions, he may decide in the final phase to make a declaration. One option is to declare his Daimyo to be the new Shogun, and he may then align the Shogun card with his Daimyo. This card will bring additional honour points to the player in his next turn, but this declaration may only be made if the Shogun card IS NOT in the possession of another player. If the Shogun card is in possession of another player, a player may try to take it by force and declare an attack upon that player.

An attack may only be declared upon the current Shogun or upon a player whose Daimyo possesses a castle. To perform the battle, each player now adds up the strength points from both of his houses and divides the number by 3. For each 3 strength points a player possesses, he may roll one dice in battle (up to a maximum of 6 dice). However, the strength of a castle can only be taken into consideration on the defender's side. Once the number of dice has been determined, each player rolls his dice and the totals are compared. The player with the higher total will win the battle, and he may take either the Shogun card or a castle card from the loser, while the loser will have to discard his Daimyo together with his house. The only way to prevent the death of a Daimyo is to play a card which allows the loser to remain honourable and thus to remain alive. The third kind of declaration may be made if a player does not have a Daimyo anymore. His Samurai will then become a Ronin, meaning that he has no liege and forbidding him to collect honour points until he has found a new Daimyo. A new Daimyo may be gained through playing cards. but a player may also declare an alliance with another player's Daimyo. His Ronin then once again will be a Samurai, and he can collect honour points fully for his Samurai's house and half of the points due from the Daimyo's house to whom he is allied. The player in possession of the allied Daimyo may not refuse such an alliance, but he will profit from the alliance as well, since the strength value of the house of the allied Samurai can be added in battle. However, there always is a bit of a danger in such a constellation, since the allied player may try to send an assassin to the other player's Samurai, and if the assassination is successful, he will be able to steal that player's Daimyo together with his house. The only ways to end such an alliance are such an assassination, a loss of honour cards or a declaration disbanding the alliance made by the allied player.

I have tried to give a precise description of the game rules here, since only by presenting a full overview of the rules their complexity and the inter-connections between the different kinds of cards can be fully understood. To my mind, the author succeeded in creating a rather unique set of rules which offers for much variation in gameplay without actually needing too many special action cards or rules exceptions. This criterion actually can be used to qualify the class of a cardgame, since a lot of variety always can be introduced by adding 500 different cards to a collectible card game, whereas it is much more difficult to create a game with in-depth gameplay with just a fixed deck of 110 cards of which many cards are of the same kinds.

The rules are even more outstanding since they actually succeed in capturing the background story of the game rather well, and this impression is rounded up by some rather fitting and skilful artwork. To come back to what I have said at the beginning, I must confess that I cannot think of much more a game could possibly possess. For me, the game certainly has the potential to become an all-time classic.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany