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Sengoku: The Warring States Kickstarter Preview



Quick Look: Sengoku: The Warring States
Designer: Michael Cofer
Artist: Hatuey Diaz
Publisher: Concrete Canoe Games
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 2
Ages: 12+
Playing Time: 10-20 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

Sengoku: The Warring States Review Board Card Game; Concrete Canoe Games; Photo by Benjamin Kocher

Review:
Sengoku: The Warring States is an 18-card game that comes in a hook box with no instruction manual. The neat thing about these hook box games in Concrete Canoe’s FLOAT series is that the rules are printed inside the hook box, so when it opens up, there it all is. The game itself is small (obviously, with just 18 cards), and yet it provides a good amount of strategy with a hidden unit deployment mechanic.

Going into games like these, I never expect a whole lot, mostly due to the nature of the 18-card game. What I’ve been experiencing, however, is that game designers are finding new and unique ways of packing an intricate game in just 18 cards (and a hook box). I found Sengoku: The Warring States to be a good game of misdirection with enough strategy to warrant a number of games back to back (to back).

Each player has three villages. On the back of one of each set of villages is that player’s shogun. Players deploy troops face down in order to defend their own villages, and attack their opponent’s. When an attack makes it through a defender, that village card is flipped over, revealing either a burning hut, or the shogun. A player wins if they defeat the shogun (same way as flipping over the village initially) or destroying two villages.

My Experience
The first game I played fell a little flat, but that’s because I realized I had explained the game wrong. When we played again—with the correct rule this time—it felt much tighter and more smooth. I highly recommend playing it correctly. What I had got wrong (or, rather, forgotten) was that each troop next to a village attacks or defends one time per round only. We were playing that the troops combined numbers, and that sum was pitted against the defending troops’ combined numbers. This is all kinds of wrong. Instead, it’s one for one. Meaning, one of my cards/troops attacks one defending troop. After that, if I have another attacking troop, it then attacks the other defending troop. Since the defender picks which troop attacks and which troop defends, this makes for a much more interesting game than simply combining values and seeing who wins.

There’s quite a bit of trying to out-think your opponent, especially since some cards have various abilities that can either be good for you, or good for your opponent. There’s misdirection, as players try to lure their opponents away from their shogun…or are they only pretending to lure you away, and in fact they are actually heavily guarding their shogun? There’s a good bit of mind games here, and it’s wonderful.

I really enjoyed playing Sengoku: The Warring States. It was quick to play, easy to learn, and a good battle of wits. It plays fast enough that multiple games in a row are more of a rule rather than an exception. It’s 18 cards, which isn’t a lot to work with, but designer Michael Cofer did a good job at adding an element of depth to the game.

Setup:

You'll want to set this up with the villages further apart from the other player. (This just fit better in the frame.)

Each player takes three villages each, one with the Shogun on the back and two with a burning house. Each player places those three village cards in front of them, face-down, remembering (hopefully) which one has the Shogun. Each player takes a deck of troop cards (six of the same cards in each deck).

Gameplay:

In this example, the defender (bottom player) would most likely choose to have their farmer defend against the attacking (top) farmer. Because it's a tie (both have a strength of 2), the defending player wins that battle, and the village remains as it is. Unfortunately for the defender, that leave the ashigaru to go up against the yamabushi, and the yamabushi loses, so the village card is flipped over, revealing the burning-hut (or shogun) side. One more defeat and that village is a goner!

Each round, players both play a troop card face down (simultaneously) in front of one of their villages as a Defender. Next, each player plays another troop card face down in front of an opponent’s village as an Attacker. This is repeated two more times until both players have played three Attackers. Finally, each player plays one last Defender face down in front of one of their villages. Once all the troops have been assigned, reveal all troops and proceed to combat. Note that you may only play a maximum of two troops on any one village each round.

The goal is for each player to have their Attackers’ powers exceed that of the opposing Defenders, and vice versa. If the Attacker is stronger than the Defender at the village, then the village card is flipped over to the Exposed side. If the village is already Exposed, it is destroyed. Only one troop attacks at a time, and the Defender chooses which troop is attacked. Because each troop attacks separately, this makes it possible to both Expose and destroy a village in a single round.

If a player managers to destroy the village where the opponent’s Shogun is, that player wins the game. If neither player wins after a round, begin a new round, leaving all exposed and destroyed villages as such. The tie breaker goes to the player who had the most successful attacks, so be sure to keep track.

Theme and Mechanics:


The theme follows that of feudal Japan. The artwork looks great and helps add to the theme.

The mechanics revolve around secret unit deployment and uncovering where the Shogun is by attacking villages. I’m not sure why the Shogun is hiding rather than fighting, but I suppose defeating the “Commander-in-Chief of the Expeditionary Force Against the Barbarians” (as defined by the all-knowing Wikipedia) would be a good way to assert dominance over one’s opponent.

Artwork and Components:


The artwork is a callback to the old Japanese artwork from feudal Japan, and I really like it. It’s nothing fancy, but neither was the artwork back in the day. It looks good, and I think the artist Hatuey Diaz did a great job.

The hook box is the usual quality, as are the cards. Actually, it’s the same material used in Magic: The Gathering, so if you’re fine with those, you’re fine with these. When open, the box turns into a “+” shape, with the rules inside. It’s great, because there’s no wasted space, and you know you won’t have too much to read and understand when getting into it. The rules really make things approachable.

The Good:
  • Easy to learn
  • Quick to play
  • Pocket sized
  • Gameplay has a good amount of depth
  • Art is pretty dang neat
The Meh:
Playing against the same person over and over may make this game one that doesn’t have a whole lot of replayability. But, that does depend on who you play with, too. If who you would normally play this with tends to get stuck in a system or pattern and doesn’t vary in tactics, this game might fall flat. Follow your heart on that one.

Final Thoughts:


Sengoku: The Warring States is a solid pocket/wallet-sized game. In fact, just the other day I had three of them games from Concrete Canoe in the pocket of my button-up shirt. They’re super to port around, that’s for sure. And with the mind games, the bluffing, and the hidden unit deployment, there’s more game here than you might think upon first glance. Not much to disagree with in this game.

Players Who Like:
If you’re a fan of hidden unit deployment, games of misdirection, feudal Japan, or two-player battle games that fit in your pocket, give Sengoku a look.


Check out Sengoku: The Warring States on:

                 

On KICKSTARTER now. Campaign ends April 11, 2019.




Benjamin Kocher - Editor and Reviewer

Benjamin hails from Canada but now lives in Kentucky with his wife and kids. He's a certified copyeditor through UC San Diego's Copyediting Extension program. He's a freelance writer and editor, and covers everything from board game rule books to novels. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with rich, engaging themes. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and Instagram @Kocherb, and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

See Benjamin's reviews HERE.

Sengoku: The Warring States Kickstarter Preview Sengoku: The Warring States Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on March 29, 2019 Rating: 5

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