Samurai (1998) – Meeple Like Us
There’s a sparseness to the design of Samurai that is typical of Reiner Knizia games – a mathematically inspired elegance in a game that wears its theme as lightly as an easily discarded cloak. It purports to be a game of feudal conquest – of bringing a recalcitrant Japan to heel after the failure of the Kenmu restoration in the 14th century. As if often the case with this particular designer, this is a framing rather than a genuine attempt to marry the mechanisms to the setting. Knizia games are fetishistically reverent of mechanisms, and that often leads to an experience that is profoundly disconnected from the emotional centre of play. The best I can say about Samurai in this regard is that it feels like the theme is a disinterested afterthought rather than actively at odds with the design. Like the largest majority of Knizia games though you don’t play it for the theme. You’re opening the box for the graceful interlocking of systems that mesh together with all the frictionless accuracy of a swiss watch. You’ll get plenty of that here.