Backpack Pick – Samurai Spirit by Antoine Bauza
Passport Game Studios, in partnership with Funforge brings us this BACKPACK PICK from famed game designer Antoine Bauza.
Samurai Spirit is a cooperative game for 1-7 players, where you and your fellow Samurai must work together to protect a village from a horde of raiders. You must work hard to protect the village and it’s families, and during the heat of the battle, you may awaken the animal inside! Over the course of three rounds, the horde gets progressively stronger as the plunderers also have their lieutenants and bosses coming with them. The game plays in about 30-45 minutes.
The village game board set up with barricade, farmhouse, and family tokens
HOW TO PLAY
The is very compact, measuring an 8″ square. This is the place where we will resolve many of the attacks from the raiders over the course of the game. At the start of the game, place all 6 farmsteads on their spaces on the board, along with the family members, represented by doll tokens, and then barricades around the board. The number of barricades will vary depending on the number of players and the difficulty level.
Each player will then take a Samurai board, either by choosing or having one dealt randomly. Each Samurai has a different talent, battle track, and special power called a Kiai. Kiai is a Japanese term used in martial arts for the short yell or shout uttered when performing an attacking move.
The raider stack is constructed and shuffled. The raider stack is placed to the right of the village game board. The first round will only include plunderers with values 1-4 on them. The second round adds the lieutenants (value 5), and then the third round the bosses (value 6).
During the round there are steps that are carried out in order:
1. Apply the battle penalty. In the picture above, the card on the right of the Samurai board has a symbol in the lower left of the card. This is the battle penalty that must be applied. Some cards do not have symbols; in those cases nothing happens. The penalty for the raider card above is that the top card of the raider stack is placed face-down on the intruder stack. The intruder stack is formed on the left side of the village game board.
2. Carry out an action:
One option is to FIGHT. Turn over the top card of the raider stack. This card becomes your opponent and you must choose to either Confront or Defend against the raider. If you Confront the raider, place the card on the right side of your samurai board and adjust your battle track to reflect the sum of the raider cards you are engaged with. If your battle track reached your Kiai value on your samurai board, you can use your Kiai power. If the battle track exceeds your Kiai value, remove a barricade from the village board.
The Battle Track is set to 6
If you defend, you place the card on the left side of the Samurai board. There are three symbols on the left of the Samurai boards. You can only have one defended card next to each symbol for each round. So be wise in your decisions defend.
No more raiders with a doll icon can be defended against this round.
Each character also has a talent they can use each turn. The talent icon in on the upper left of the Samurai boards and there is a talent token than is placed on the board.
Character abilities are in the upper left of the Samurai boards.
Another action that can be taken is to SUPPORT. Take your talent token and hand it to any samurai of your choice. On their turn they also share your talent and can use it.
The third action that can be taken is to PASS. You lay your Samurai token down and the rest of the round it is as if you were not in the game.
During the game when your battle track reaches the Kiai value exactly, you activate your Kiai power. Each Samurai has a different power and it is optional to use. Whether you use your Kiai’s effect or not, remove the first card laid down in the combat line and adjust your battle track accordingly. You may possibly trigger your Kiai ability more than once per round.
During the course of a round, a Samurai may sustain one or more wounds. The first wound, place a wound on the Samurai board. With the second wound, remove the wound token and flip the Samurai board over. Set the meeple on the battle track accordingly. You have now awakened the fighting spirit inside you and your combat ability and Kiai have improved. Your battle track extends and your Kiai ability becomes stronger!!
Unleash the animal inside
A 3rd wound you place the wound token on the animal side of the Samurai board. The 4th wound, the Samurai dies, the group loses faith. The village and the game are lost.
The end of the round is triggered by two things:
1. The last card of the raider stack is drawn and played
2. All players pass. IF all players pass, and remaining cards in the raider stack are placed onto the intruder stack.
At the end of the round, any players who do not defend against a raider with a hat symbol on it takes a wound. Each samurai who did not defend against a raider with a farm symbol removes one farmstead from the village. IF you are playing at higher difficulty levels, apply any penalties shown on the backs of the farmstead cards. Every Samurai who did not defend against a raider with a family symbol removes a random family token from the village. Afterwards, the corresponding bonus is given for each family token remaining in the village.
Finally reveal cards one-by-one from the intruder stack. For each card showing flames, remove a barricade. IF there are no barricades to remove, destroy a farmstead instead and if you are playing at higher difficulty levels resolve any penalties.
At the end of the first round, if at least one farmstead AND one family remain, begin the next round. Collect all raider cards, add one randomly drawn lieutenant, shuffle to form the raider stack. Set all Samurai battle track meeples to 0. Any would tokens are retained. At the end of the second round, if at least one farmstead AND one family remain, add in one randomly drawn boss card. At the end of the third round, if at least one Farmstead AND one family remain in the village, the players win.
Samurai Spirit is a very fun, tense game. The action revolves around managing the cards in front of you coupled with luck of the draw, good decision-making skills, and teamwork. The bit of anticipation prior to every draw of the raider stack adds to the excitement of the game. Choosing when to defend against raiders is key as to avoid too many confrontations. Making sure to use talents is important in the game so don’t forget that. The game is quite challenging and it is not easy to win, which is a good thing. It is very important to work as a team in this game in order to win. Like other co-op games, depending on the players, this one can be prone to alpha player syndrome.
I like the differing abilities for each Samurai; it adds to the team aspect of the game and gives the game flavor with each samurai in play. Penalties from battle add to the ongoing struggle against the raiders. It makes the decision to defend important. Awesome artwork on the village board as well as the Samurai boards look great. The colors are not real bold. I would have liked to see the colors really pop more.
I really like the ability to change the difficulty level of the game, adding to the replayability of the game. I also like the player count for this one. 1 to 7 players, with variations for two-player and solo games.
I chose this one as a BACKPACK PICK because this game packs a lot into an 8″ square box. At lower player counts, the game does not take up a lot of real estate and for a game that can play 7 players, the box fits easily into a backpack or tote. This game is a great one to take with on the go to play somewhere. It can play well in a bar or cafe. A restaurant would not work so well since the game play time is over 30 minutes, making it difficult to get a game in before the main dish arrives. I like the solo option for the game. There are many combinations of Samurai to use in an attempt to win this game.
From a family perspective, this game is teachable to kids, and it is also quite an experience for adults to play as well. The game works to challenge and improve decision-making, and also shows the results of pressing one’s luck. The game also teaches teamwork in a fun and exciting way.
I really like Samurai Spirit and I recommend you picking up a copy to throw in your backpack to take it with you.