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Archive for April, 2012

I have never been a big fan of card games. My expectations for Dominion were therefore quite low, also considering all the great reviews this game had received.

Dominion was supposed to be a warm-up game. A quick 30 minutes before continuing to the highlight of the evening: Shogun. Three hours later we were still at it with heaps of Supply cards left. Either something was wrong or we were extremely slow learners. After reading the rulebook it was clear that we had made three rookie mistakes: 1) We had used all 25 Kingdom cards, 2) all the Supply cards (4p game), 3) and hadn’t figured out that the Copper cards were free. Now the three hours made sense.

Despite the misinterpretation of the rules we could all agree on one thing: this was a great game, possibly replacing Shogun as our new favourite (ratings will be given in the near future).

Like any first gaming session strategic play was more or less absent and replaced by random tactics. Actually I would say we played pretty poorly. All of us, some more than others, were competing in obtaining as many action cards as possible (or so it seemed) meanwhile neglecting to collect Treasure and Victory cards. In retrospect this was really stupid (but fun) since the amount of Victory cards will determine the winner. One of us, Svendsen, played pretty decent and won the game even though I suspect he has spent his previous evenings reading up on strategy moves on the internet (something I always refrain from doing since it is unfair to the other players).

The take-home message from this first session is obviously: read the rulebook thoroughly before playing!

Author SwedishViking

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Within the board game community I often overhear outrageous comments about how to play Shogun. It is as if some of these urban myths have become acknowledged as simple truths. I feel it is my duty as a dedicated Shogun enthusiast to deal with these myths once and for all.

 

 – If you rule Awa Boso you will always win the game

FALSE

First time I heard about this rumour was on a gaming trip to southern Jutland. Apparently some newbie had been teaching this nonsense to people who were new to the game. At that time I did not think more of it since it was obviously not true. Coming back to Copenhagen however I frequently stumbled in to people who implemented this strategy in their game. Obviously the “Awa Boso Strategy” (ABS as it is often referred as) has spread throughout the country now and for some reason people don’t question its source. I would urge people to stop glorifying the Awa Boso Strategy as there is no well documented evidence that this strategy actually works (even though it can be a nice province to have).

 

– A cosy second place is worth fighting for

FALSE

I do not know who came up with this ridiculous idea but clearly it is looser talk. There is no glory in being second. Either you rule Japan or you don’t, there is no in-between.

 

Listening to old Japanese music while playing will increase some peoples chances of winning

TRUE

Even though most people would discard this as pure nonsense, I have recently discovered that having the right atmosphere can be quite crucial. I am not saying that listening to Japanese music (preferably old flute music) will make me play better, but I have experienced that I play much worse in its absence. I guess this has to do with something about me playing poorly and taking all the wrong decisions if not in the right mood. I have experienced the same with other games like CoN. In this case the Lord of the Rings soundtrack really does it for me.

 

– Mind games never work

FALSE

I just can’t understand why some people won’t acknowledge the power of mind games. I really do believe that mastering mind games is an underappreciated part of board games. It is well documented that you can psyche an individual by repeatedly telling him that he is worthless. The same applies in Shogun. One of the secrets to my success in Shogun is my mind games. I often keep telling my opponents that they are taking the wrong decisions and eventually they will believe it themselves. While undermining their game I will suddenly attack an unexpected province which will often be the winning move. I can certainly understand why people won’t acknowledge mind games given that most people are not mastering this strategy and are therefore a bit jealous. Nonetheless, mind games will always be my main approach to winning a board game.

Author SwedishViking

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I am not trying to say that there is only ONE single strategy that works in Shogun, clearly this will depend on circumstances (i.e. position, winters, etc.). However, I do believe that if you follow some guidelines it will significantly increase your chances of winning. Some people will probably disagree on some of the guidelines that I propose below (obviously people that never win in Shogun), but I have certainly found these useful myself throughout the years:

 

  • The victorious Dynamo will often be predominant in 2-3 regions (Building-wise)

–          Trying to achieve dominance in only one region is the recipe of failure. Dominating two regions can be sufficient in some cases, depending on how well positioned your adversaries are. Dominating three regions will almost always guarantee your victory, but will at the same time be much more difficult to protect. Everything above three regions is pure suicide. So the trick is to consider whether having most buildings of all types in two regions would suffice or if you have to dominate a third one. Needless to say you never know how many regions you need to dominate when you pick your provinces at the beginning of the game which makes it hard to strategically deploy your samurais.  Personally I prefer to deploy my samurais in a way that enables me to dominate three regions if necessary, i.e. close to borders.

 

  • Abandon provinces that are not adjacent to enemy territory and protect your fronts

–          This strategy will necessitate that you keep you peasants satisfied, primarily by giving them enough food. So before you conquer a dozen of provinces make sure you will have enough rice for the winter. A revolt can have disastrous consequences if you only have one samurai protecting a province.

 

  • Deploy your samurais in corners and close to borders and keep enemies as far away as possible

–          When choosing your starting-provinces you should try to minimize the number of provinces positioned adjacent to enemies. This can be achieved by keeping close to corners.  Also try to place your samurais close to the borders; this will give you the opportunity to dominate three regions if necessary.

 

  • Have your strategy planned out from the beginning

–          You only have six rounds to achieve victory so it is of utmost importance that you have a plan figured out from the start.

 

  • Always try to secure a couple of provinces that are unreachable to your opponents

–          These provinces should be used for buildings, especially the expensive fortresses. I have often been unable to build anything in fear of losing the provinces.

 

  • Always choose your provinces wisely

–          When picking province cards you should try to get: 1-2 provinces that provide you with 6-7 gold, 1-2 provinces providing you with 4-5 rice, and 4-5 provinces with 2-3 building spaces. Of course this is not a rigid rule. For example, there is no point in picking a province that is surrounded by three other enemies. However, possessing the mentioned provinces will let you build what you want and at the same time supply you with enough rice for the winter. These provinces should preferably be situated far away from enemy land.

 

  • Keep low profile in the first year

–          This strategy does not apply if you can get a strong head start (8-10 point) in the first year. If this is not the case, however, one strategy that I often use is to divert player’s attention by not getting too many points in the first year and at the same time do the groundwork that will enable me to claim victory in the second year.

 

  • Play it safe

–          Taking chances in Shogun are rarely rewarded. If attacking an opponent be sure that you have the upper hand.

良いゲーム

Author SwedishViking

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“Oh it’s my turn already? Okay let me think….ah no, that wouldn’t work, perhaps if I…..no that wouldn’t work either….hmmm….”

I am not a man of patience and easily get agitated by players that act as if their turn came as a complete surprise to them, every time. It is okay once or twice, but each round – Come on!  You all known these slow players – there are always at least one in every crew. Our crew is no exception. Since CoN is a game with quite a lot of downtime compared to other games I feared this would ruin the experience for me. After our first session, which lasted 4 rounds and 3 hours, people was pretty disappointed about spending most of the time waiting for their turn. However, after having played CoN for several months now, the downtime seems to play a minor role. This is why:

  • Obviously people play faster once they’ve learned the rules and have played the game a couple of times (even though I at one point suggested that we should use an egg-timer to speed things up. This was, to my disappointment, rejected)
  • All experienced gamers know that strategic planning should take place while waiting for one’s turn. Of course the other players can mess things up, but then you should have thought of a plan B (the really experienced gamer would also have a plan C or even a plan D). After getting a hang of the rules it becomes much easier focusing on the strategy.
  •  Even though you may not be able to anticipate your opponents move on your right hand, you can always start planning your battles against your left hand enemy as soon as he has deployed new troops. Then you only have to focus on your actions against one enemy when it’s your turn.
  • In a 4p game you team up with an ally and therefore your victory will depend on his success as well. Naturally you would be interested in participating in his moves and battles and give him the best advice you can. When playing CoN the first couple of times you are pretty much consumed by your own actions. When you get more experienced it becomes easier to take part in your ally’s actions as well.

There are also a lot of cool game mechanics that make up for the downtime and I can’t see how it could be avoided in a wargame like this. Therefore my advice would be to give this game a chance despite the initial downtime since this will be minimized with time.

Author SwedishViking

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In Shogun, before waging war against your opponents you should think twice.

Some people would say that you learn from your mistakes – I disagree.  At least not when it comes to leading samurais into battle in Shogun. You would think that attacking an adjacent province with 4 samurais against a single defender would be a obvious win. I have proved this to be wrong many times. Why is this?

Needless to say, the predictability of the old Japanese tower cannot be compared to die rolling. Using the former example, if each samurai were to contribute to the battle with one die, the probability that the defender would win would be very slim. Obviously there are a lot more factors that have to be considered in Shogun:

  • Will the peasants fight against you? If they will, how many are there in the tower.
  • How many opponent samurais (returning war heroes) are lying around in the tower.
  • Based on previous battles how likely is it that enemy-cubes will assist in the battle (if no blue cubes have come out the last 3-4 battles the chances are that they are stuck in some corner or up against the wall)
  • How many allied samurais are there in the tower and are these likely to come out and fight in the battle.

Because you have to take all these factors into account the decision to go into war can be quite difficult and even when you are outnumbering your enemy it is far from a certain victory.

Author SwedishViking

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So, after playing the game a few times, I have found that the balance really tends to depend on how many rounds you chose to play.
And specifically that the balance doesn´t seem that good for short games (at least not as good as in the longer game).

Playing less than 30 point-games tips the scale in favor of the Karkoth/Iron Circle.
The evil forces are quite dominant in the early game, due to a favorable starting position.

The reason for this is partly due the strength of Karkoth, which is really dominant in the early rounds – but eventually the undead hordes will be driven back into their domain.

It might be early in our Nerath days, but it seems that the humans and the elves are typically trailing, until we reach around 15-20 gamepoints (first 3-4 rounds).
From that point the tides change, and the evil forces scatter, just trying to collect enough points to end the game.

We have not yet tried the domination-game, but I have a feeling the forces of good stand the best chance here.
So my advice – even if this is a long game for beginners (lot of rule-book reading): play the 30p game, it´s much more balanced and fun.

Dragons! Different sculpted pieces for each faction

 

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