Thursday, April 13, 2017

Programmed Actions and the magnificence that is Shogun

I've written about how RoboRally really turned me off from the programmed action mechanic. And I have discussed Piranha Pedro redeemed the mechanic for me. But Piranha Pedro is a very light game. Is it a mechanic that heavier game could sustain for me?

Shogan showed me that the answer is a definite yes.

Here's the elevator pitch. Everyone is playing a Japanese lord (okay, a Daimyo, if you want to be specific) during the Sengoku period. (History buffs I've played with love that period in Japanese history) Over the course of the game, you strive to expand your lands, crush your enemies, and build up your infrastructure. 

I'm not even going to try to go into detail about how Shogun works. Each turn, the twelve actions you can perform are randomly shuffled and dealt out to show the order they will happen. The players chose which provinces under their control will perform an action, which could be none of their provinces.

Special note has to go to combat, which takes place via the famous cube tower. That's a tower that has baffles in it to catch cubes that get poured into it. When there is a battle, you collect all the cubes (troops) involved and pour them into the tower. The cubes that come out determine who wins the battle. It's fast and simple and really acts as the summary of rolling a whole bunch of dice.

But there's a lot more going on that just combat. You have to juggle money and food, with the peasants potentially revolting when you tax them. You have to keep expanding your lands in the name of supplies and options and points. You have to build castles and temples and theaters to strengthen your hold (and get more points)

Really, Shogun had three four of the four X's in 4X. You need to expand and exploit and exterminate. Sorry, really no exploring. And if you play Shogun like it was a Risk, you are going to lose. Just like in the real world, fighting is only one piece of what makes up war.

I'm normally an advocate for shorter games because, well, time is precious and I don't have a lot of gaming time. Shogun, at around two hours, counts as a long game for me. However, it fills that time with so many rich and difficult decisions. It has a sweeping, epic feel that makes it seem greater (not longer) than two hours.

I've been playing Shogun off and on again for years. (Basically, when I'm visiting friends who own it) Every time, I learn more twists and turns and I am still pretty much a beginner at it. Shogun took programmed actions and showed me how they could be magnificent.

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