Sekigahara, by GMT Games, is a game that gained a lot of traction and hype through the P500 system, and I was one of those that were fully on board. I had heard buzz that the game was very simple and yet deep and engaging, and it’s a CDG style game [but not really in the Mark Herman vein] so the boxes were quickly being checked. The idea of a block game with the fog of war excited me, as I hadn’t ever played one at the time I signed up for the P500 months and months ago. Since then I’ve play Richard III by Columbia games, I can say with a surety that I love the style of game and the different challenges that these games provide. So when it finally showed up on my door I couldn’t wait to tear it open and dive into the box. The components themselves are off the charts, but what about the actual game?
The theme and the historical period of the game was something that I knew very little about. I’ve played my fair share of Total War: Shogun 2, is a video game turn based game that also has RTS strategic combat. That’s about the extent of my 17th Century Japanese knowledge. Luckily, as is with most GMT games, the last half of the rules book is a lot of historical information from the designer that really helps to bring the game alive, and shed light on the one or two special pieces in the game.
This game is extremely popular [in my eyes] for two reasons, and simplicity is one of those reasons. What I mean by that is the mechanics themselves are relatively easy to grasp. The actual rules of the game are actually quite short, something like 8 actual pages of rules. There are excellent examples for movement, combat etc. to illustrate the game to new players. The back of the box has the complexity rating set as 2, and I would say that’s a fair assumption. Although Mark Herman’s Empire of the Sun is rated a 7, and somehow not a 9, so take that for what you will. But having read the rules and actually played the game, I can happily say that yes, this game is mechanically simple.
The cards display a number and an allegiance, and sometimes a special action icon. You just match the icons to the pieces on the board in order to deploy them in battle, and in doing so you keep a running combat total of all deployed pieces. Losses are inflicted on both sides of battle and the player with the lower overall score retreats. Movement is divided into four categories and you just pay a number of cards [0-2] in order to buy into that category, so to speak: 0 cards – move 1 stack, 1 card – move 3 stacks, 2 cards – move all your stacks. That’s really the crux of the game. The simplicity of the mechanics allows for diverse tactics and strategy, but also make it really accessible for new, or even non-wargamers.
Sekigahara is fun. And not in the way that Combat Commander is fun, because that’s a game I can’t help but really get in to and I end up investing a lot into it. This game is a different type of animal, and you just have to understand that if you draw a bad hand, you can’t do a lot effectively, or you have to pray that your opponent doesn’t do combats in areas that you don’t have loyalty for. This is where the bluffing comes in to play. You might have a terrible hand, but putting a bunch of stuff together can look very scary and might turn your opponent off, just the threat of a large force can sometimes be enough.
The loyalty challenge cards are a blast. They totally swing a battle and make you really weigh up the risk of going into battle with ‘just enough’ loyalty cards. I love this game because there’s no number crunching and there’s few minutia to get hung up on, you just kind of have to be gutsy and go out there and fight, and run across the board to capture the resource points. Turtling does you nothing, because you will not have enough points at the end to win. I know this one from experience.
This game is 100% awesome. It’s light enough, really fun, but also still gives you feel of a much deeper complex strategy game. Even if you have no connection to the theme there’s plenty in the rule book to bring that alive, if that’s a hang up for you. The game pieces and stickers are top notch and the players’ aids are in typical excellent GMT fashion.
The only concern I have with the game, and concern is a bit of a stretch, is the layout of the board, some of the spaces are quite close together and lots of stacks in those areas can get a bit congested. Then going through and figuring out if those things are castles, between weeks, are a bit fiddly. I’m going to look for some aftermarket pieces to denote those for ease of use in the future.
But get this game whilst it’s hot, because like all GMT popular P500’s I guarantee you it’ll be OOS before you know it, so don’t miss out on this print run!