Review: Bushido – loyalty and honor are the most important

Bushido - packaging

Only twelve months. Just enough time is left before Japan will fully disintegrate. Its famous cohesion is on the brink. The current ruler is weak and gets even more weakened by disease day by day. In one of his brighter days, when the Emperor rose from bed and invited counselor into his chambers, he decided, that his successor must be the most honest man in his palace. Mentor carefully listened and agreed. But how to measure such an honor?

We are fortunately able to do it using board game Bushido. It is here, that you will try to improve your „way of the warrior“ (literal translation of the title of the game). This is a unique game, whose design was created by and . Graphics for issuing companies Gameheads and was prepared by .

We will not hide it in any way – man on the lid of the box bows to his Emperor, and so should you – start to worship this game, even before you open it. While men in Japan needed a lot of meditation and concentration to master the necessary skills, you can enjoy a long way in mastering this game. Bushido is anything but simple and quickly accessible. It is also linked very careful with testing, because the game has come a long way in development, before it finally got to store shelves.

Bushido - game is ready

You’ll find a huge flood of components in the box. We leisurely start with rules booklet (in English) and a cloth bag to draw support from. Below them is a common board, where are four section full of empty squares. There is largest gold route in the center, designed for monitoring of honor. Not nearly last in the line is military forces counter and income of your clan. In the upper right corner is round indicator.

There are 32 Japanese provinces represented by larger hexagonal tiles, easily divided into seven species. Each division has value of honor, which comes from controlling this area, rice bowl showing the number of troops supplied by the province and economic power in form of katanas. These weapons are a little bit confusing at first, because you would expect, they will represent military force instead of income.

Furthermore, you get piles of tokens of various shapes and effects. There is a 102 square pieces of katana, but also 35 tokens representing intrigues. To influence the outcome of battles, you will use 33 circular discs of tactic, which have different capabilities.

Bushido - game is ready

Players role will change during the game. For each profession one card is ready: its Daimyo (active player), Samurai, Bushi, Sensei and Hatamoto. For each of five players is waiting one screen, color tokens of 30 soldiers (it is the maximum power of your army), three other military tokens used by players to monitor their income, samurai honor and bowls of rice. Last round token in player color is used to watch Daimyo honor, which provides way to victory.

Right now we have learned, that there are two different kinds of honor in the game. While the first – samurai – has no direct influence on the victory, but it can later be exchanged, Daimyo honor is exactly what you need to become new shogun.

At the beginning of the game, each of the players takes a screen, behind which is he able to hide his assets. Everybody takes also all thirty soldier tokens along with trio prepared to monitor status and situation of your army. On top of that, players get four tactics chips.

Bushido - game is ready

Now we must prepare a game board of provinces depending on the number of players, which vary in size from 18 in three players to a maximum of thirty in five opponents. It is always a multiple of six, therefore it is clear, that each player begins a game with precisely six provinces, and one of those will represent stronghold of his clan. All are put on table randomly to form a designated shape.

First of all you choose location for your fort. There is not special tile for this, because back all provinces corresponds to the appearance of stronghold and therefore you just do not turn it around like the other. All other hexes are gradually rotated by players and occupied with part of their troops. It is only up to players, which province they choose, as their territory does not need to be contiguous.

As a result of this deployment of troops, it is necessary to record the initial states on the common game board. And because we know, that each province gives its owner rice, soldiers and honor, simply sum them up and get starting values for each of opponents on all three available scales. Moreover, players put one token of turn counter.

Bushido - game is ready

Players can now send out other soldiers into their province, until they reach limit of rice supply they have from all their provinces – a soldier needs one bowl of rice. All effect pieces and katana tiles are put into the bag. Players will draw from there ten random tokens, which are secretly placed behind screen and serve like an initial support for your troops. Then you place bag with remaining tiles next to created board, where it will wait for the next event. Starting player gets all character cards (yes, all of them!) and the game can begin.

Player, who starts everything, becomes a Daimyo, whose portrait he lays ahead on the table. In the first part of turn, he alone gets new reinforcements of troops according to indicators, replace unwanted tactic tokens, buy katana and above all organize a tea party. Only here is possible to transform Samurai honor to the much more important Daimyo honor in ratio two to one.

But he needs also one other player to be willing to participate. He is payed for attendance five points of samurai honor. He can also reject, which will cost him samurai honor – a deduction of ten points, but will cause damage to actual Daimyo, who loses two points of Daimyo honor. Player, who has samurai honor lower than ten cannot refuse to join tea ceremony!

Bushido - game is ready

Another pleasant duty of active player is dealing of roles to other players. This will determine development of remainder of his turn and this is also starting point, where Bushido starts being totally unique. Other players will conquer territories for their Daimyo (Samurai role), while someone must be subject to that assault (Bushi role). Sensei and Hatamoto (last one is present only in five players) have chance to influence the course of turn and outcome of battle.

First comes a chance for Sensei to influence future struggle using playing of effect tokens. But he does not yet know, which area will be target of attack and knows only defender – therefore a several provinces and each of them can be the final target. He can strengthen any province by sending ronin there. But above all, he will go on his own account, due to Shinobi spies (it brings insight behind enemy screens) and chanoyu, which allows him to transform samurai honor to Daimyo honor.

The latest, but not the least, is geisha. She has largest power, because her seductive actions can terminate the round immediately – after playing her, no player can take any further actions! But if Sensei does not play thsi Japanese beauty, other players have a chance to activate same actions as Sensei. But to achieve the desired effect, they have to spend not one token, but two of the same kind. Therefore they do so only in cases of genuine emergency.

Bushido - game is ready

Hatamoto phase takes place only in five players and includes the possibility of uprising. Only then we will see Daimyo select his destination province, he wants to attack. At the same time, he can also move his units between all connected provinces under his control..

In this point in the game, two other roles remain – Samurai and Bushi. They become attacker and defender and fight in the name of the Daimyo. Battle takes place in three stages – the first of each involves preparing any number of katana tokens, which are a symbol of strength. They stack them on top of each other, so only the value of the upper chip is visible.

Players show their pile to each other, but they only know its height. But because each of tokens can contain one or two katanas, you do not always have an accurate idea of the strength of your opponent. Now is the time to play tactics discs, that significantly affect loss on the defeated side. Winner of the battle is player with more katanas after accounting effects of tactics. Resulting pair of played tactic discs result in loss of some units in defeated territory, based on combination of these two icons. Province changes owner only, if there are no defender units there left.

Bushido - roles

What is therefore motivation for player taking the place of Daimyo in fight (Samurai)? If he wins, he can get a lot of samurai honor, which can then be converted to victory honor later. Same goes for defense, if they win. Points are earned for units slain, but also for used katanas.

Samurai has yet another motivation not to lose. If this happens, player in role of Sensei has opportunity to convene a meeting of the Council to punish him for his clumsiness. It can cost failed attacker up to ten points of samurai honor, but also life, because Sensei or other players may require him to commit seppuku. But in this matter, Daimyo has always final word, who may or may not accept the proposal. Depending on how wisely advises Sensei, he may gain or lose honor points.

After a few minor other ways to affect the game comes end of the round. The role of Daimyo moves by one place clockwise. Exception happens, when one of the players earns fifty points of Daimyo honor or players survive twelve rounds. In both cases, game ends and warrior with highest profit of Daimyo honor becomes the winner.

Bushido - tokens

Bushido builds on the great ideas of continuous player interaction, but also on their motivation to attack each other. Because of this, players really do not get even a piece of space for free and must be constantly trying to gain advantage at expense of others. Just as it’s happening in a real power struggle.

Here is, where a perfectly known motto is suited: keep your friends close, but your enemies closer! Nothing is ever certain, and although there is not actually any real negotiation, in fact there is plenty of it in a hidden manner.

It is important to estimate, what will opponent do, in many situations. Without it, you can very quickly be doomed. Any decision, betrayal or bad behavior towards your enemies can come back on you during gameplay. Beyond this eye for eye, tooth for a tooth wrath, there is primarily distribution of roles hidden. Player has an incredible responsibility and options in his turn. Once you realize that, you understand the power of gaming mechanism around which is Bushido built.

Bushido - board detail

The first game is unfortunately also moment, when Bushido loses many of its possible players. Due to their unique ideas and detailed rules and specialties is not easy to play everything correctly from the start. Learning the rules is very time consuming and first game is full of searching in manual. The only true luck remains, that most important rules are abbreviated in bold on the side. So the search for relevant information later is really faster.

Once you learn and know the game, you manage to squeeze time at least around 90 minutes. These are full of action. All players are fully involved in every turn, and there is no waiting for the opponent, perhaps except battles, which involvs always mainly two players. But others are more interested in results, than it might seem.

The battle is not only rock-scissors-paper, as would many think, when looking through the rules. You have really a very good influence about the results. Again, except for the luck on tactic disks, psychology comes into play.

Bushido - tokens

The game is excellent in three, four and also five players. There are always possibilities to combine and appreciate roles to the fullest. No province is without an owner, so the game continually spills over and forces players to steal from each other. And then there are two types of credit, both of which are important to acquire (don’t forget Samurai honor is needed for you to evade tea party).

Processing is excellent. Although game is not illustrated in the normal ordinary way and walks on its own road. But its doing great in creating atmosphere of true Japanese environment. Everything to the last token is really stylish.

To play Bushido: Der Weg des Krieger is a unique experience. Do not be discouraged by first demanding games, because these battles will reward you with their unique way. The only way to express our feelings about this game is: something you did not come play any other way..

DesignerMichael Nietzer, Oliver Wolf
ArtistHans-Jörg Brehm
PublisherFantasy Flight Games, GameHeads, Heidelberger Spieleverlag
Year Published
# of Players3 - 5
User Suggested # of Players Best with 5 players
Recommended with 3, 4 players
(11 voters)
Playing Time90
Mfg Suggested Ages12 and up
User Suggested Ages14 and up
(2 voters)
Language DependenceNo necessary in-game text
(4 voters)
CategoryBluffing, Fighting, Medieval, Political
MechanicHand Management, Modular Board, Rock-Paper-Scissors, Role Playing, Simultaneous Action Selection, Turn Order: Progressive, Turn Order: Role Order, Variable Player Powers
ExpansionBushido: Tanin the Stranger
FamilyComponents: Miniatures, Country: Japan
Primary Name

Infos courtesy of More Infos.

Review: Bushido – loyalty and honor are the most important
Final word
Bushido: Der Weg des Kriegers tells a story of a power struggle. And not in such an ordinary way, we are used to, when you control your own private army. This is a place and time, when you keep this actions to others. They will wage your war in your own turn! Yes, you have heard correctly. You split the roles based on your wishes and then you just watch, how it all ends. Reward is waiting not only for you, but also for your agent (samurai). This is also reason, why there are two types of honor: one daimyo equal to victory point and then second one called samurai and can be converted. Battles are kind of a rock-paper-scissors type, but it is also possible to influence them tactically. Each of players step by step affect the fight, each with specific tasks based on his role, but always keeping his profit in mind. This is also reason, why players will never get bored and are always immersed in the game. Bushido: Der Weg des Kriegers is not easy to learn, but once you get past the principles and beginnings, you will be welcomed by a tremendous amoung of psychological battles and fun. Its an excellent game, which will enchant many demanding players..
Reader Rating0 Votes
original gameplay
role distribution gives match new level of thinking
interesting battles
each game is unique
everybody is involved at all times
two types of honor
battle may seem like rock
paper scissors (according to some players)
more difficult to learn
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