The year is 1336. Japan’s emperor has lost all authority and is little more than a figurehead. Across the country, powerful lords called daimyo have risen up and begun to claim dominion over the land and its resources. But all true paths to power depend upon the service of the elite, noble warriors known as samurai.

Samurai, a beloved tile-placement game by Reiner Knizia set amid the turbulent times of feudal Japan is back at The Wandering Dragon!

In Samurai, two to four players assume the roles of ambitious daimyo competing for control of Japan. To rise above your rivals and influence the nation’s cities and villages to your cause, you must prove you can lead their people. Through the strategic placement of tiles, you can establish your sway over lesser lords, the production of rice, and the region’s religious leaders. Sometimes, though, even these won’t be enough to establish your dominance, and to cement your claim, you must send in your samurai.

This edition of Samurai maintains the game’s original mechanics while updating it with beautifully sculpted game pieces, new leader tokens to aid in scoring, and all-new art and graphic design that draw upon traditional Japanese styles.

The Art of War

In Samurai, your struggles for control of the four main islands of Japan take place on a game board divided into numerous hexgonal spaces, each of which belongs to one of three types: Settlement, Land, or Sea.

From left to right: settlement, land, and sea.

At the beginning of the game, each settlement is populated with one or more sculpted figure or caste piece which represents either the region’s religious influence, its commerce, or the military strength of its local lords. Throughout the game, you try to capture these pieces and win them to your cause by positioning your tiles so that you surround the settlements on which they’re placed with more matching influence than any of your opponents.

A Buddha tile adds its numerical value toward any attempt to influence a religion caste piece.

A rice tile adds its numerical value toward any attempt to influence a commerce caste piece.

A castle tile adds its numerical value toward any attempt to influence a military caste piece.

As an example, you and your opponent may be competing for the favors of the religious leaders in a settlement upon one of the nation’s remote peninsulas. After your opponent places a red two-influence Buddha tile in one of the two adjacent land spaces, you may then decide to place a three-influence Buddha tile in the other adjacent land space.

Because tiles have now been placed into all adjacent land spaces, the settlement is considered surrounded, and you determine who wins its caste piece by comparing the total value of matching influence in adjacent spaces. Here, your three religious influence outweigh your opponent’s two points of religious influence, so you capture the settlement’s sculpted Buddha piece, placing it behind your player screen.

Once all the sculpted figures for a given caste have been captured, the player with the most of those figures becomes the leader of that caste. At the end of the game, the player who leads the most castes wins the game.

The Way of the Samurai

It is easy to swing a sword. It takes a lifetime to master swordplay. Likewise, while the rules of Samurai are easy to learn and understand, the game permits myriad tactics and a great depth of strategy, much of which revolves around the game’s three wild tiles: Samurai, Ronin, and Ship.

From left to right: samurai, ronin, and ship tiles.

While basic tiles add their influence to one type of caste only, each of these tiles adds its influence to all the different castes within a settlement. Moreover, the ship tile is the only type of tile that can be placed in a sea space, and the ship and ronin tiles both bear the red “fast” symbol, meaning they don’t count against your limit of one tile placement per turn. Accordingly, you can use these tiles to catch your opponent by surprise. If you identity that your opponent has momentarily exposed a weakness, these tiles allow you to make swift and decisive strikes!

For example, in a four-player game, if your opponent places a three-influence Buddha tile next to a settlement that contains both a Buddha and rice caste piece, you can swoop in with a four-influence Buddha tile to win the Buddha caste piece. However, if you first place a Ronin tile below the settlement to the right of the space where you plan to place your Buddha tile, then both settlements are surrounded on the same move, and you can win two Buddha caste pieces with one clean blow!

After the green player places a Buddha tile worth three influence, the gold player can surround both nearby settlements by placing two tiles.

First, he places a Ronin tile worth one influence below the village with a single Buddha caste piece.

Then, because the Ronin tile is “fast” and doesn’t prevent him from playing another tile, he places a Buddha tile worth four influence between the two settlements, surrounding them both. He wins both Buddha cast pieces, but the red player wins the rice caste piece with her two rice influence.

Establish Your Strength in Feudal Japan

Travel back to a Japan being torn asunder by warring clans. Prove you have the wisdom to garner the esteem of the samurai, and you will unite a nation!