June 29th, 2003

Me 2012

Reiner Knizia's Samurai

Lut found a new game last weekend, Reiner Knizia's Samurai. (Oh, go on, try it. It's free.)

He enjoyed it, so I opted to give it a try. It's a neat little game. Lut likened it to Go; which is sort of accurate, but Samurai involves more luck and isn't nearly as strategically complex. (Ironically, the rules are a bit more complicated. Go is an amazingly simple game to play -- as long as you don't mind playing badly).

"Samurai" is a turn-based game adapted from a board game. It comes with a short, 4-step tutorial. Very easy to learn. The flavor is intended to simulate a power struggle in feudal Japan. The board is a vaguely-Japan-shaped map, divided into hexagons. The hexes on it are either blank, or have one, two, or three of the castes on them. The castes are: Priests (represented by Buddhas), Nobles (Helmets) and Peasants (Rice). Each player has a deck of tiles, drawn at random to fill a hand of five. (In the full version, you can pick your starting hand, if you choose to set the game up that way, but you still draw new tiles at random). The players then take turns placing their tiles on the board, trying to control the representatives of the castes. I'm not going to get detailed here because it would be easier for you to read the website itself, or by just grabbing the game and running through the tutorial. (It really is easy. I mean, I've got a strong aversion to learning new games but even I could tell this one was not going to be a struggle.)

Anyway, one of the neat things about the game is the scoring. The object of the game isn't to control the most hexes, but to control the right hexes. Imagine an electoral-college style voting system. If you win a bare majority in two out of the three castes, you win the game. In a two-player game, it's possible for you to control 8 out of 21 total "votes" from all the castes -- and still win. They just have to be the right 8 votes -- 4 from each of two of the castes. With ties, the declaration of victor is a bit more intricate.

Some of the people from the Natural Selection forum (a totally unrelated FPS/RTS hybrid game) decided to organize a tournament for Samurai. (Apparently, the NS playerbase has gotten a bit bored waiting for the latest version of NS to be released, so they're wandering around looking at other games. Lut found out about Samurai through this forum.) They even offered prizes for the first through fourth place winners.

Lut and I signed up for the tournament. It was supposed to start yesterday, but was postponed due to technical difficulties. It wound up starting today, more or less on time.

Initially, Lut and I were matched against each other in the first round, but Lut asked for a reassignment and the organizers kindly obliged.

There were 18 or 20 people in the first round. Each match was played best 2 out of 3 games. Most of the games ran between 20-40 minutes (some players were faster than others). My first opponent was quite good, though I managed to squeak out a win in each of the first two games. In fact, I think he should have won in the second game; I was keeping track of what pieces he had left at the end, and I'm pretty sure he had a combination that, applied correctly, could beat me. But either I had miscalculated what he had left, or he missed the winning sequence. Just as well -- the organizers were trying to move on to the next set of matches, and we didn't have time for a third game.

Lut defeated his first opponent, too, but was knocked out by Kalias in the second round.

I went on to defeat my second and third round opponents, again 2 for 2 and 3 for 3 (we played the third game because they were tallying the points of losers for wildcard slots in the next round). Then I met Kalias in the semi-finals, and lost 2-1. So I got either 3rd or 4th place. Probably 3rd place -- I got 32 total points in the three games. (For comparison, Kalias, who actually won, only scored 28.) I won't know which until the other two people in the semi-finals finish.

My prize is a copy of the game. I've already bought the full version ... so, if any of you out there decide you like the free version of the game and would like the full game, let me know. :)