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Posted on Apr 26, 2018 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

“Dice Me Like a Samurai!” Age of War – Samurai Dice Game Review

“Dice Me Like a Samurai!” Age of War – Samurai Dice Game Review

By Rick Martin

Age of War Game Review. Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games Designer: Reiner Knizia Price $12.95

Rick Martin

Passed Inspection: Easy to learn, fast to play, beautiful graphics

Failed Basic: Rules for Special Daimyo Battle Line are lacking and confusing, very abstract, no solo rules

The Japanese “Age of War” (Sengoku Jidai) lasted from 1467 until 1603. During this turbulent period, Japanese feudal lords called Daimyo fought for control of neighboring kingdoms and, eventually, for control of Japan, itself. This was the golden age of the Samurai and the Ninja. Fantasy Flight’s Age of War is a highly abstract dice throwing game which allows from 2 to 6 players to take control of warriors, cavalry and bowmen in order to conquer castles and take control of Japan.

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The game is attractively packaged in a small box with gorgeous artwork. The components are 7 custom dice, 14 double sided castle cards and a one page, double sided rule sheet. The game is perfectly sized to take on trips.

Age of War is an abstraction of the Sengoku Jidai battles in the same tradition as chess is an abstraction of ancient warfare. This is a game about dice rolling with some strategy about going for castles with high points or stealing previously conquered castles. As long as you understand that, you’ll probably have fun with this game.

The rules are contained on one double sided page and are attractively illustrated.

To set up the game takes under a minute. Take the 14 castle cards (each one showing the name and picture of a real castle in Japan) and put them in the center of the table with the castle picture side up. Each castle shows pictures of swords, bows, cavalry, a Daimyo war mask and a Special Daimyo battle line. Also each one shows how many points the castle is worth. The color of the castle card and the mon (Japanese clan symbol) on the back of the card show what clan owns the castle. The pictures of swords, bows, etc. are called “Battle Lines”. They show how many of these types of units you need to roll on the dice in order to “fill in” the Battle Line. Once all the Battle Lines are filled in by the dice of one player, that player conquers the castle. If the player conquers all the castles of a specific clan, the player gets bonus points shown on the back of a clan card.

Pick a player to start and give them the 7 dice. Each side of the dice show either a daimyo war mask, cavalry, archers or from 1 to three swords representing infantry formations. The player rolls the dice and then tries to match up the dice rolls with the Battle Lines on the castle cards. A player can only try and fill up one Battle Line at a time so, for example, Takahashi castle (as seen in the picture) has three battle lines of 2 cavalry, 5 swords or infantry and then another showing 2 swords or infantry. There is also a Special Daimyo symbol which forms a special Battle Line that will only be used if you try and take this castle from a player who has already conquered it. A player rolls 7 dice and gets the following results – 4 swords, 1 cavalry and 2 Daimyo. The player can put two of the swords on the 2 sword Battle Line but doesn’t have enough to fill in the 5 sword battle line. He rolls again and gets 3 swords, 2 cavalry and one bow. Since 3 swords are not enough to fill up the 5 sword Battle Line and there are no archery symbols on Takahashi castle, he uses the 2 cavalry to fill up Takahashi’s two cavalry battle line. He’s now very close to taking the castle. He rolls again and gets 1 daimyo, 2 cavalry and 1 swords. He can’t use any of these as he needs 5 swords. He discards one die since he couldn’t use any of what he rolled and rolls again. This time he is only rolling 3 dice as he’s used three to fill in the battle lines and discarded 1. This time he gets five swords and conquers the castle by putting it in front of him. He gets 2 points for conquering the castle. He then passes all 7 dice to the next player who tries to capture a castle also. But, this time the other player tries to take Takahashi from the player who just won it. That’s where the Special Daimyo symbol on Takahashi comes in. Not only does the other player have to roll the 2 cavalry, 5 swords and 2 swords but he has to roll a daimyo war mask and put it on the Special Daimyo Battle Line on the castle.

After all the castles are taken or conquered by the players, the game ends. Total up the points and whoever has the most points worth of castles in front of him wins!

An average game can be played in half an hour or 45 minutes.

Age of War is both fun and addictive. My only complaints are that the Special Daimyo Battle Line Rules are confusing and have to be pieced together from two different rule sections. It took a couple of plays before our review group figured out how to steal castles from other players using the Special Daimyo Rules. This should have been corrected before the game went to print.

The abstract nature of the game may keep more traditional war gamers away from it.

In addition, the game is screaming out for a solo play variant. One is already bumping around in my head. Let’s see if I can house rule that before some other samurai cuts in and takes my head!

For an inexpensive and fun family game or trip friendly game, Age of War is a good choice and for under $15, you really can’t go wrong.

Armchair General Rating: 85 %

Solitaire Rating: 2 (1 is not suitable, 5 is perfect for solo play)

About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!

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