Monday, September 22, 2014

Unboxing: Samurai Spirit

For my second unboxing post I have chosen the brand new game (technically still “unreleased” until Essen Spiel 2014) by the fantastic Antoine Bauza entitled Samurai SpiritBauza is known for such games as 7 Wonders, Hanabi, Takenoko, Tokaido, and Ghost Stories.  These are all very different games which really show the range of Bauza’s design.  

Samurai Spirit is a co-operative adventure where you take one of seven samurai and fight off a horde of bandits as they attempt to loot and raze a small village.  You are trying to fend off the bandits over three rounds and you want to save at least one house, one family, and stay alive.  This is no easy task, as Bauza is well known for his difficult co-operative games!

A good friend of mine was able to pick this game up for me at Gen Con 2014 as Funforge (the game’s publisher) brought 300 copies for early sale.  Along with the game they included a promo card that was an eighth boss for the final round of play.  This card is an especially mean card that has some nasty penalties for those samurai that don’t deal with him quickly!

The first thing I noticed as I picked the game up from my buddy was that it was much smaller than the typical game on my shelf.  This box is less than half the size of a “normal” sized game such as 7 Wonders.  This made me a little nervous at first but I pushed that aside as I know that Funforge is well known for their excellent component quality.  When I opened up the box it was obvious that my hesitations held no weight.  There weren't tons of components, but each and every one of them were beautiful and of great quality.  The box came with cards, game boards, an unpunched token board, and a rule book.

To begin with, the game has seven player boards (above).  This is where the “majority” of the game will be played as they hold all the information you need about your character.  Each of the seven samurai (yes, this game is a nod to the exceptional 1954 movie by Akira Kurosawa entitled Seven Samurai) has their own power that they may unleash and/or share during the game.  Each of these boards may then be turned over to show the “beast mode” of each of the samurai.  This is a more powerful version of the samurai that may be unleashed during the game.

Then, you have the village board (above).  This is a simple village picture where you have six house tokens, three family tokens, and a certain amount of barricade tokens depending on the amount of players.  The tokens will be removed as families are killed by the bandits or as houses/barricades are burned.  Then, on the right side of the board you will place your bandit card deck.  Above the village is a place for your bandit cards that have snuck by the samurai.  Finally, there is a spot of the left side of the board where you place the bandit discards which represent defeated bandits.

Speaking of cards, there is a large deck of beautifully rendered bandit cards (above).  Each of these cards is numbered 1-6 and contains different icons which represent penalties that the samurai can take during certain conditions.  The cards that are numbered 1-4 are regular bandit cards are the samurai start out by fighting them in the first round of play.  The cards that are numbered 5 come into play during the second round and are considered lieutenants of the bandit clan.  Finally, if you are able to make it that far, the cards that are numbered with 6’s are the big, bad bosses.  These nasty cards have some bad penalties and often have two of them!

Lastly, I should mention that this game has an excellent box insert designed for storing all of the components of the game. It is a well-molded plastic that holds everything perfectly.  My wife knows how much I love this simple idea in gaming.  Come on publishers, make good inserts for your games, it isn’t hard and it makes for happier gamers!  That being said, this game is the perfect example of a well-done box insert!  Bravo Funforge, you’ve done well!

Oh my gosh, I almost forgot to mention the amazing samurai-shaped meeples that are included with the game!  They are an awesome addition!

So, needless to say at this point, the components and the box insert in this game are spot on!  This is definitely a game that screams quality over quantity.  While there aren’t many components, they are all so well thought out and well crafted that you don’t miss the ridiculous amounts that are in other games.  Also, after a few plays and really getting the rules down, I am loving this game!  Well, I suppose that’s all for now, until next time, game on!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Family Game Night #4: AKA "Unofficial" Family Game Night #1: AKA Antoine Bauza Day

This past Thursday (9/11), our friends Becks and Chris came to see us.  They live in England and are only able to come to the states once or twice a year, so whenever they're able make it “across the pond” we try very hard to get together and just hang out for a little while.  Em and Becks celebrated their 21st anniversary of being best friends while they were here...I don’t really how this affects family game night, but at least you know how we all know each other!

They arrived in the afternoon while Baby Knives (our child’s middle name is Knives so Baby Knives became an early nickname, just FYI) was taking  her nap (although not sleeping - welcome to the world of 2 year olds).  They arrived, had some lunch and Em decided she wanted to teach them Takenoko by the fabulous Antoine Bauza.  Just as an aside, I love that my wife now suggests we play games instead of it just being my idea!

As I’ve explained before, Takenoko is a simple modern board game where you take control of a panda who wants to eat bamboo and a gardener who wants to grow bamboo in order to please his emperor.  It is a simple and brightly colored game that uses game mechanics such as tile placement, set collection, and pattern building in order to obtain your objectives.  This makes for a super-fun, entry-level game that is easy to teach and fun to play.  Becks and Chris had a ton of fun playing and then even wanted to go for a second round.  Becks took the first (teaching) round and Em won the second.

After we had dinner we decided to play a few more games (of course). For our second, I wanted to pull out Hanabi (also by the great Antoine Bauza) and teach it to them.  This is a favorite of mine as it is totally different from any game I’ve ever played.  This game’s mechanics include memory, co-operative play, hand management, and set collection.  What makes this game totally different from any other game I’ve played is that you take your hand of cards and instead of looking at them you face them out towards your fellow players.  

You then take turns giving hints and attempting to score the most possible points (25 being the best) and creating a “crowd-pleasing” fireworks event.  While the theme is thinly pasted on, the game itself is a ton of fun.  Beware though, there is a certain level of frustration that players can have during this game as you never see your own cards.  I love pulling out this game whenever I can because it isn’t a great two player game and my wife isn’t a huge fan of it.  Becks and Chris seemed very entertained and I think if we had played a few rounds we may have hit a very high score!  As it is, we had a perfectly respectable score of 18.

Lastly, we ended up pulling out our third Antoine Bauza game of the day: 7 Wonders.  This is quickly becoming one of my favorite games as it is so quick and easy to teach and everyone who has played it really seems to enjoy the mechanisms and gameplay.  This game uses set collection, variable player powers, and my personal favorite, card drafting as its gameplay mechanisms.  Becks and Chris figured out the game relatively quickly during our teaching game (where Becks won again!) and then settled in nicely for another round before they had to leave for the evening.  Em took the final game, edging me out when Becks played a card I needed to finish a science set!

Happy Antoine Bauza Day!

As usual, we had a ton of fun playing games with our friends and teaching them a whole new side to the boardgaming world.  As both Becks and Chris enjoy gaming they both seemed to have a great time and I look forward to the time they're back in the states so we can have another prolonged gaming day!  Even though this wasn’t a planned “Family Game Night,” it was just as fun and I hope to have many more “Unofficial Family Game Nights!”  As always, it’s been a pleasure.  Until next time, game on!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Family Game Night #3

On August 31st Em and I had our third “family game night” and they seem to be going really, really well.  For our third night we had three other people join us.  Dave, Lydia, and Leigh all came over to eat delicious appetizers and have fun gaming.  This was the first time Dave met Leigh and Lydia and they all hit it off as we had a great night gaming!

Let’s start off with the food that Em served us this time.  While the last game night had a “theme” of Italian style appetizers, this time Em passed on a theme and just made some stuff that sounded good.  It ended up being a very “cheese-centric” night and as usual her food went off with a bang! 

The first thing she chose to make for our third game night was a puff pastry tomato tart recipe that consisted of a puff pastry crust, sour cream, cream cheese, and tomatoes all baked in the oven.  The next recipe chosen were mini crab cakes with red pepper sauce.  These were as good as any crab cake you’d find in a restaurant!  The third savory appetizer Em went for were mini cheese ball bites with pretzels for serving.  Lastly, for a dessert appetizer, she chose to go with chocolate chip cheesecake swirl brownie bites.  By the end of the night I think we had finished off all of the appetizers before everyone left, that's how you know the cook is great!  If you are curious about the recipes, just hop over to Em’s blog, Tasty Mess.  You can find the post at

Onto the gaming!  This particular evening I chose to go with another game by Antoine Bauza entitled 7Wonders.  This may be his most popular work as it has been featured on Tabletop with Wil Wheaton.  7 Wonders is a fantastic “card-drafting” game where all of the players are trying to create their civilization and win the most victory points in doing so.  There are many different routes to victory including building civilian structures, science structures, military structures, guild structures, and your specific wonder.  Some of the wonders include the Babylonian Hanging Gardens, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Pyramid at Giza just to name a few.  A player receives their starting hand of seven cards, chooses one they are able to build (using resources acquired), and then turns the rest of their hand over to the player to their left or right.  The game consists of three very quick ages and then you score at the end.

I had just received this game earlier in the week and decided that it was the game that we HAD to play as I’d heard nothing but great things about it!  I was SUPER happy that I went with this game as everyone had a blast playing!  It didn’t take long for everyone to pick the game up and by the second playthrough everyone had developed their own strategy for winning.  After three games, Em won one, Lydia won the second, and I won the third.  Dave came in second every time thus becoming our “bridesmaid” for the evening.  “Always the bridesmaid, never the bride...”

Another great night in the bag as Em and I are having a blast having these get-togethers!  I’m not sure what our next game will be but I have a few I’d like to break out.  As usual, I’ll let you know then!  Until next time, game on!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Family Game Night #2

Unfortunately I am late on this post, but in the end I‘m okay with it as long as my readers are!  On August 10th, Em and I had our second “family game night” and it was just as successful as the first!  This time Em chose to cook even more delicious “appetizer-style” foods that we were able to enjoy along with our gaming.  This game night consisted of Em and I as well as our friends Leigh and Lydia.  They were brand new to our game night although Lydia enjoys good “designer” board games already.  Leigh is brand new to the hobby but she took quickly to the game we chose for the night and definitely enjoyed the gaming and fun!

To begin with, I feel as though I should talk a little about the delicious food that Em cooked up for the evening.  She began her planning by realizing she wanted to do a cannoli dip recipe for a sweet, Italian-inspired appetizer.  This consisted of the cannoli dip along with strawberries and both chocolate and original graham crackers on the side to dip.  This made her go with an “Italian” theme for the night and from there she went with three savory style appetizers.  

First she made some delicious marinara sauce and put it in a crock-pot with some small meatballs, a simple but delightful food.  She then went on to make some stuffed mini peppers with a fresh pesto for dipping or spreading on top of the peppers.  Lastly she went with a potted cheese spread that we were able to spread on crackers.  It was all delicious and you can find the recipes and more about them at Em’s blog: Tasty Mess.  You can find the specific post at

Photo courtesy of

Following some delicious appetizers from my wonderful wife, we went on to the game.  For this night we chose a fantastic “gateway” game by one of my favorite (perhaps my very favorite!) game designers, Antoine Bauza.  The game we chose for the night is called Takenoko.  This is a beautiful game distributed by Matagot/Bombyx/Asmodee and it is known for its beautiful components and simple but fun gameplay.  We only had time for one full game, as it can take a little while with four players.  This was actually the first time that Em and I have played this game with more than three players and we found it to be just as fun!  I ended up winning but don’t really count it as a victory since both Leigh and Lydia were brand new to the game.  Even though they hadn’t played before, both of our new players did an excellent job and picked up the gameplay very quickly and vied for the lead the entire way through the game.

After Leigh and Lydia left for the night, Em and I decided to pull out Quarriors (a “dice-building” game) and played through a round of that.  All in all it was a great night of fun, “family,” and gaming.

As a side note, the picture that I’ve included of the four of us was “technically” from our most recent family game night, but we figured the addition of the hats would make it stand out and fake everyone out!  Perhaps it didn’t work, but it’s the thought that counts, right?  Until next time, game on!