Sekigahara was a decisive battle that took place in the year 1600 and helped to establish the Tokugawa shogunate.
This is an interesting and seldom approached premise for a war game in a market that is often saturated with games about World War 1 and World War 2. No bad thing but change is good. I love Japanese themed games too but I will try not to litter this review with my biases!
At Bunyip Kingdom we try to avoid regurgitating rules. We just want to give you a very quick idea of what we thought of the game and usually if we recommend something, we are quite confident the title has longevity, is easily to moderately accessible, and is well presented and thematically rich (unless we’re dealing with purely abstract games). But is this one of those overall winners?
One might think that a game that has such a specific theme might not have much general appeal but let me nip that in the bud. Sekigahara is a fun and engaging 2 player game that doesn’t require an incredible amount of investment to enjoy and its ability to entertain is not reliant on whether you particularly like Japanese history.
This is a block game produced by GMT Games. GMT has a well respected run of war games but they can also be quite dense and demanding at times. Sekigahara categorises itself as only a lightly moderate game and I would say that is quite accurate. The rulebook is largely devoted to an historical account of the battle with about 8 pages dedicated to the rules.
It’s simplicity though is quite deceptive. Using number and icon driven blocks and cards, much of the games information is clear and at your fingertips. Cards display things like allegiances and on occasion special actions. The movement system (also derived from card management) is incredibly simple but still manages to create diverse strategic options that make this game easy to learn but…yep, we’re gonna say it…hard to master.
There is also a great loyalty system that can change enemy units into friendly units for battle. Very quickly, a near defeat can become a victory!
There are even rules that govern siege warfare and capturing supply points which adds to the tactical brilliance of this title!
There is some randomness with card draws and if you bemoan that then we suggest you look elsewhere but we feel (with our years of combat experience) that such randomness exists on the battlefield too!
Though it is never our goal to recreate rule books in our reviews we will say this is one of the finest rule books with the greatest clarity we have seen in a long time.
Regarding the quality of components: the blocks, board game, stickers (and yes that is my only gripe – I hate putting stickers on things, but that is the name of the game sometimes) right down to the rule book and box are of exceptionally high quality.
As with many GMT games the popular titles can quickly go out of print (at least for awhile) so Bunyip Kingdom suggests you get your copy in haste!
On a humanitarian note, if you purchase this game the author Matt Calkins will be donating his proceeds to assist Japan with ongoing relief from tsunami and earthquake damage. What a guy!
GMT kindly supplied a copy for review. That said, we keep it real!