I got my very first chance to play Shogun last weekend, so this might be just a minor expertise, but I’m almost sure that I can say something about the game anyway.
We’ve played it three times in a row with three (the same) players and here are my observations.
First of all, I was about to understand the game mechanics and one of my friends did well job to clarify them to me, although it occured that this game isn’t really so complexed and gives an opportunity to learn the basics quick enough (and through the gameplay as well). And my first game of Shogun wasn’t really a tutorial one, we’ve decided to play it rough at the very beginning and this was the best thing to start with – I do recommend that when you want to encourage people to get into the game (as long as they're into such theme and/or game type and/or any other stuff that makes them wanna play it ).
So we’ve tried to do our best, but the player who knew the game the most scored quite a number of points, it was something just a bit less than both other players (including myself of course) summed up together. Our next game was from the very beginning as a cooperative one between our two and we’ve decided not to attack each other. And the third one was just like the first one – everyone was responsible only for himself.
So what are the conclusions?
Well, I gotta say it is quite difficult (I mean: a bit inconvenient) to play this game with three players. It is fine yet narrow, but not because of the board itself of course. There are ten actions to take per player in a round, and a lot of them seems to be quite obvious. For instance, one of the players took some region at the edge of the map, then he set up some buildings and put a lot of armies there to defend it. I myself had an adjacent area with not so many cubes there. So even if I would like to dwindle his army (sacrificing my own, except for one cube that supposed to be left), the third player either would take the first player's area (since it was weakened) or he would attack me and take something as well. So much of our gameplay was to attack neutral areas or – as one of us accurately called it – make some kind of ‘japanese cold war’, just to put more and more cubes on the board but not to make use of them against each other (there was pretty amount of A&B fights where there were ‘pass’ cards revealed). This probably doesn’t go along with the basic idea of the game; I gotta admit it was really tensed but yet with no resolute moves, much like collecting money/rice and putting some armies right next to the area in which another player just did in his previous turn.
This cube tower is really neat but results are quite predictable, maybe if there are +/- 1 or 2 armies in difference, but when it comes to resist the attack against two times greater one, it is really hard to stay at your place.
Following the example of game number two we’ve played, it is soooo obvious that the third player had no chance at all to do anything with two others playing against him. So it might be a little confusing and even annoying; my friend said it was rather challenging, but then again, if we would play against him over and over again, he’d definitely suggest he would like to play something else. Luckily we did it to him just once.
As you can see, this is not a typical review, I’m not pretty sure if I could write one with so little time I spent on Shogun. This is just an outline of three players’ game. I gotta say that I play any game to have fun in the first place. And I really had fun with Shogun. I also consider winning the game, that’s for sure, but to be honest, I’d never appreciate the game that I won just because my opponent didn’t have a chance to know the game better and the victory was achieved simply by the better knowledge of some details that might be useful.
And Shogun is not like that. You can enjoy it right from the beginning and that’s what makes me want to play it again. I’ll do my best, as I always do, and try to become a winner next time! But since it is a quite accesible game even for new players, it is way much better to start the game with minimum four players. I myself had a great time with three of us, but if you’d like to beat the hell out of it right from the very beginning – try to have it with at least one more! I'm almost sure you won't be disappoined.