Thursday, January 21, 2010

Where are the Vikings? and Samurai?

I play a lot of Commands & Colors: Ancients. It's very addicting: games are fast, and the gameplay is very tense as you decide what cards to play. However, the game needs to progress out of the classical era; C&CA Expansion 4 was about Imperial Rome, giving us a third Roman army. I personally think the two we already had (Grey and Red) were fine; a third one in Purple was completely unnecessary. But maybe GMT will at last get Rome out of their system.

I recently posted a poll on BoardGameGeek on what era people would like to see next in the CCA series (not that I have any control over what Richard Borg and GMT do). Some of the most popular periods in this poll were Vikings and Samurai. Now, how many grand-tactical games do you know of in these periods? For Vikings, almost none that I can think of. There are a couple of battles in the Ancient Battles Deluxe series from Victory Point games, e.g., Ashdown, and of course, there's the old SPI PRESTAGS game Viking, but that's about it. The same with Samurai. Besides the Great Battles of History games Samurai and Ran, there aren't very many battle level games available in this era either. There are a few magazine games covering Samurai battles that are long out of print, but again, there's a big shortage in what should be a popular period.

But, there's a new kid on the block: Kawanakajima 1561 from Hexasim games, the first game in their "Sengoku Jidai" series, covering the epic battle on the Kawanakajima plains between the Uesugi and Takeda clans. I've resisted buying game up to now because there was no US distributor and Hexasim wanted 24 Euros for it. Now, GMT has started importing it; they're selling it for $25 US. So, I immediately snatched up a copy.

The game looks really interesting. Counter density is small (each clan is only a couple of counters), and it looks like you could play the game in 2-3 hours. The rules are online at the Hexasim website. They actually attempt to implement the various exotic Samurai battle plans like "Birds in Flight", "Keyhole", "Arrowhead", etc. Basically, the general can invest some of his command points attempting to activate his battle plan. When activated, he gains additional capabilities for his army. The combat system is very odd: many games have CRTs with column shifts for benefits and penalties, but this game has both columns and lines each with their own modifiers and random rolls. Eventually, I may do a review of the game for BGG.

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