Theme and What is it?
“Gunkimono” in Japanese translates to the English phrase “war tales”, so welcome to the War Tales of feudal Japan, where the soldiers are restless and the daimyo (Japanese feudal Lords under the shogun) are growing more and more ambitious. Each player is a daimyo in this game, commanding her or his troops to lead to victory!
This is mostly a tile-laying game, with a nice twist that you can actually layer the tiles on top of one another.
Each player chooses a daimyo tile (“100” side down), then is given a set of five small army tiles. The large army tiles (double-wide tiles) are placed facedown and each player draws three. Each player takes the daimyo figure associated with their chosen color (see daimyo tile) and five honor markers, which are placed on the victory point track at 0 and the base of the honor track, respectively.
To play, players take turns laying tiles on the board following three placement rules:
- The troop type on the tile you lay CAN NOT match the troop type underneath on either side.
- You MAY NOT lay a tile if the two sides of the tile are at different levels.
- You MAY lay one of your five small army tiles facedown to correct a level difference.
You can gain victory points by connecting groups of troop types, regardless of what level they are vertically. So long as the troops are connected orthogonally, you gain one point per square. Victory points are rewarded immediately by moving your daimyo figure along the victory point track.
You can also gain honor points by choosing to move forward on the honor track one or two spaces, depending on how many stronghold symbols are on the tile you laid. The first person to reach the end of a troop type’s honor track is rewarded richly with victory points. Subsequent players to reach the finish line for that same troop type reap progressively smaller rewards.
You may choose to score each side of your tile the same way, or differently, but you may not score a single side more than one way. You must learn to balance immediate gain with future promise.
As your marker progresses along the honor track, you will gain access to your strongholds, which change the way the game works for you. By building a stronghold on a series of, say, eight cavalry units, any further cavalry units added to this formation will be added to YOUR victory points, and NOT awarded to the player who placed the tile. Your opponents, however, will try to disrupt your group by laying their own tiles in such a way as to thwart your efforts.
I haven’t studied much about the Japanese culture, but this game has me interested in learning more about feudal Japan right now. I think later tonight, I’ll be doing some research just to satisfy my own curiosity. I love games that challenge me like that, and games with a historical flair always pique my interest. I also love a good tile-laying game, so this made for a really awesome evening.
Game Build Quality
The components are the quality I’ve come to expect from Renegade Game Studios. Thick, sturdy cardboard tiles that will withstand repeated use (even by the nine-year-old) and neatly painted wooden meeples form all the pieces and the game board is high quality too.
The game’s artists went with a Japanese theme for the art, for some bizarre reason. (Hahaha!) Not like anime, but traditional Japanese art, almost like a brocade. The numbers on the board’s victory point track are drawn in the style of calligraphy and there’s a lovely sheathed sword in the upper left corner of the board. The numbers are easy to read and everything about the board is intuitive.
While we played this game, we started out pretty relaxed, just laying our tiles down and scoring our points, but as the game progressed, we each got a little more … involved, shall we say. Our competitive natures came out, but it was mostly in the form of good-natured ribbing.
Age Range & Weight
Players don’t need reading skills to play this game successfully, but they do need to be able to conceptualize short-term versus long-term gains. The game recommends ages 10+, but an enterprising younger player could take this game on.
My favorite part of this tile-laying game is being able to stack tiles on top of one another. This, in combination with the strongholds you can set up (and tear down your opponents’) make this game truly interesting. It’s not linear, like a lot of tile-laying games, it has literal and figurative depth that will make it consistently interesting over many, many play sessions. I can’t wait to share this one with my game night crew!