Takashi Ishida
Japan
Abiko
Chiba Prefecture
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Game Title : Road to Hon-nouji

Publisher : Game Journal issue #15

Game Designer : Yasutaka Ikeda

Game Thema : Battles around Hon-nouji

Game Scale
Period : 1576-1587
Map : from Kantou to Tyuugoku, central parts of Japan
Units : One large Daimyou is presented with several units

Game Components
1 map (half-size)
1 counter sheet (130 counters)

Game Sequences
Initiative determination
Card distribution
Petition
Player Alternate Action
End phase

Background of History
This game covers the climax battles of the end of Oda Nobunaga.
In 1576, the innovative and strong warlord Oda Nobunaga becomes the strongest candidate for reunification. But, he still has several big enemies around his territory, such as Mouri in the west, Uesugi in the North, Houjou in the East. Also, his subsidiary warlords might seek the chance of betrayal.

Characteristic game mechanics
I believe this is one of the most innovative simple but interesting multi-player game.
The innovation comes from the situation and the victory condition.
Every player acts as one of the important subsidiary warlords under Oda Nobunaga, such as Akechi, Shibata, Hashiba, Tokugawa.
They all must cooperate to fight the surrounding enemies. First of all, if they all beat their surrounding enemies totally, one player who has the highest VP wins. But, actually, each of the enemy is very strong and this looks almost impossible.
So that, the second condition is very important and radical. If Oda Nobunaga survives until the game end, all players lose the game. This second condition means that someone must kill their leader Nobunaga sooner or later.
In this third condition, if Nobunaga is dead, again the victory is determined by victory point.
The basic VPs are awarded for controlling each territory. Also, the player who killed Nobunaga or the player who killed this betrayer gains 1 VP. Since a number of areas are limited, it is very often to have a tie. In that case, this killing Nobunaga / betrayer point breaks the tie. So that, this VP is a very critical victory point.
The game usually goes quietly at the start to conquer areas one by one. During this quiet surface, every player seeks the timing of betrayal. Once betrayal happens, the betrayer will lead the situation and all other player would like to kill him to do Ada-uchi. This is very historical.
This mechanics makes this game unique and tense and exciting. Players will find the fresh excitement around the timing of betrayal.

Challenge for players
As described above, the timing of betrayal is very important.
Also, this game is card-driven game. And many cards enable the player to move / attack other player by one of the outside enemy. As I said before, these outside enemies are really powerful. So, if betrayal is too early and every player loses his force by internal fighting, all players as a group will be in danger by outside enemies. But, surviving Nobunaga is also the worst result for everyone. So that, someone must break the situation. You must analyze the situation carefully and decide what strategy is the your plan, becoming the betrayer? Or becoming Ada-uchi player? Or simply conquer adjacent areas and wait.
As always with card-driven games, there are many interesting event cards. Since this game has critical moment during the play, the critical card-combo at the right timing is really impressive.

Final words
I believe this game is one of the most innovative and successful multiplayer-wargame around age of warlords. This game is quite underrated and should be played more often. The only problem is this game is basically played well with only 4 players. 3 players scenario is included, but I don’t recommend it.
This game is unique and innovative but simple enough and easy to play. This is a very unusual combination. Please try this game, if you have 4 players who know the age of warlords in Japan. You can feel the dilemma around Hon-nou-ji.
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