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Subject: A quick 3x3 review of Samurai Battles by a non-war gamer rss

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Alan Gerding
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I will preface this review with a quick explanation of who I am and my game preference. I'm not a war gamer. I couldn't really take learning the rules to Axis and Allies. I am a social gamer. Every Tuesday night I have a group of my friends come over. In the summer time, we swim, play volleyball, and play werewolf around a campfire. In the "off" seasons, we play quick and light party games.

So when I sat down in front of Samurai Battles, I was not expecting to have a good time. I really wanted to NOT be playing this game. Yet, at the end of the game, I found myself having had an amazing time. Samurai Battles truly reaches across the isle and connects casual/social gamers with war gamers.

I never played any of Richard Borg's previous Command and Color (C&C) games previously. Again, I never intended to play these games. Yet, the quality of the components found within Samurai Battles could not be denied. Tons of plastic miniatures. One half of me was thoroughly impressed with what I saw. The other half looked in dread at what must be the most complicated game ever designed. After playing the game, here were the 3 biggest complaints about Samurai Battles:

1.)The Alternate Game. Samurai Battles comes with 2 ways to play. They quite literally have two separate instruction manuals in how the game is played. On the box cover (which is beautiful, BTW) it says loud and proud, "2 Games in 1 Box." There is Richard Borg's C&C method, and there is another method I'm just going to call "Actual Samurai Battle Simulation 5000 Hell" (ASBS5kH). It's actually called "The Art of Tactic."

I'm sure this alternate game play is a dream come true for others. It involves preplanning each of your units moves on a dry erase board. This is suppose to simulate what it would be like as a squad-leader guy receiving specific orders from a general ordering dude. (You may notice that my lack of military terms reflects my lack of interest in military warfare). Unfortunately, I feel that an actual battle would be less complicated and would take much less time.

As a casual/social gamer, this game mode is my own personal nightmare. I'm sure it is AMAZING for some truly hardcore individuals. Yet, for me... hell.

2.)Assembly. When I opened the game with my friend, I had no idea that it would take me HOURS just to put the game together. 120 models is no joke. This game comes packed! Even worse, we needed tools to do it right. The miniatures come in plastic spools that need to be cut using an Exact-o knife (or risk damaging the minis). Then they must be glued. Since my (non-Tuesday night casual gamer) friend was more into maintaining the integrity of the minis, I was put in charge of labeling the dice. That alone took me 45 minutes. To be fair, I really didn't want to make a mistake and was trying really hard.

This complaint might be a compliment for those miniature gaming collector's out there. I, however, just want to look and touch the game parts. I don't want to have a birthing relationship with them.

3.)Repacking. So, the game pieces are assembled. You've played the game. Awesome. Good luck putting the game back into the box. If you can do it without damaging any pieces, you're a gaming god. Good work, you are better than me.

Now that I've given my complaints, allow me to provide what I like bout the game. Here are the 3 biggest compliments about Samurai Battles:

1.) Learn-ability. But wait! Didn't I tell you that this is a war game?!? How can this be easy to learn? Well, it is. You have simple to read and understand cards, easy to learn iconography for the dice, and then you are off like a prom dress. While the alternate game is a nightmare to learn, the C&C is as easy as Ticket to Ride. In fact, in the amount of time that it is taking you to read this review, you could have learned how to play the game. You still might have questions, but the answers to which would be easy to find in the rule book.

RECOMMENDATION for casual/social gamers: Learn as you play. Instead of trying to learn all the rules at once and jump into the game, simply follow the easy-to-use step by step guide for each stage of the game. When a question comes up, you'll find the answer to it.

2.) Visual Appeal. The quality of this game is phenomenal. The cards feel thick and durable, and there are a ton of minis. Sure, it will take you a long time to assemble them, but once you do... DAMN, you've got samurais battling in front of you. If the game was already set up, pieces essembled, it is near impossible to pass up this game without gawking.

3.) Gameplay. This is goes along with the learn-ability, but the gameplay is simple and stream-lined. The game simply plays in five phases per turn:
Phase 1: Play a Command card (yeah, it's explained on the cards)
Phase 2: Order Units and Leaders
Phase 3: Movement
Phase 4: Battle (roll some dice)
Phase 5: End of Turn
Rinse and repeat, and before you know it you are battling with Samurais as casually and as easily as though it was Connect Four.

In the end, Samurai Battles scratches many types of itches a gamer might have. By offering enough depth and strategy to satify the heavy war gamer and simultaneously enough simplicity for the casual dice roller, the game transcends gamer genres. You really can't lose with this game (after burning the alternate rules and assembling the pieces).
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Simon
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good review, interesting to hear another perspective. I like the AoT system, but i agree it probably gives you more control over your forces than a commander would actually have.
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"GAME OVER, MAN. GAME OVER!"
Denmark
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Thanks for the review!
As one of those slightly less casual gamers, (who mostly plays with very casual gamers anyway) with a couple of C&C games in the collection, it's nice to hear a newcomer's perspective.
By the way, those plastic frames the miniatures come attached to are usually referred to as sprues, not spools...
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Chris Roper
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Nice Review.

Most of us Commands and Colors fans started with BattleCry, by far the simplest of the Commands and Colors games and if you liked the game play of Samurai I highly recommend you try it, especially if your friends are not wargamers.

Keep Samurai for the times you feel like a more meaty game, Samurai is one of the more complex iterations of Commands and Colors, and Grab BattleCry when you want a quick to play, easy to setup historical flavored miniatures battle.

You won't regret it and once the bug bites there are a wide range of Historical periods to choose from in the Commands and Colors line. In order of complexity starting with BattleCry which is American Civil War you also have Memoir'44 (WWII) Ancients, BattleLore (Medieval / Fantasy), Napoleonic and as you know, Samurai.

All use the same card driven system but each truly brings out the flavor of the period represented.

Welcome to the Commands and Colors Addicts Support Group, it is a habit you will not want to kick.

Cheers
Chris


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Denmark
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Hi! My name is Jesper, and I'm a Command and Colors addict!
I have "Attack left flank" cards hidden all over the house, I need help!
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Pete Pariseau
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Excellent quick review! It's good to hear you (and I hope your friends) enjoyed C&C so much - I think it's a great little game system that gives a bit of historical feel along with a great deal of fun. My favorite in the family is Memoir '44, due mainly to the many bells and whistles that have been added over the years in the various expansions.

I'm really almost exclusively a wargamer, and C&C games are my preferred way of introducing people to hex-based wargames. I was really happy to see you write the following:

Doberman wrote:

RECOMMENDATION for casual/social gamers: Learn as you play. Instead of trying to learn all the rules at once and jump into the game, simply follow the easy-to-use step by step guide for each stage of the game. When a question comes up, you'll find the answer to it.


Spot on. This is almost always the best way to get into a wargame when you're starting out, and I hope your endorsement of it will encourage other social gamers to give simpler wargames a try.
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StevenE Smooth Sailing...
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Nice and to the point review.
I am glad you took the time to write it and agree with your assessment.

You are correct that the game is very learn-able if you read as you play.

I own all the C&C games (except Battle Lore) along with each titles associated expansions. All the games are good and I would play any of them at a given opportunity, but I think Samurai Battles is my favorite of the C&C games. The mechanics and card decks really capture the flavor of the period for me. As you noticed the assembly, setup and breakdown can take a while but the game play is well worth it.

I am hoping some how Zvezda will get a fire under its collective a** and start supporting this game as we C&C'ers are accustomed to... We want more unit classes and definitely need more scenarios.

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Alan Gerding
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jtspecial wrote:
By the way, those plastic frames the miniatures come attached to are usually referred to as sprues, not spools...


Ha! Let that be proof of how novice I am at mini assembly. I love it. To all, thanks for all the great support on my review.
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