The battle of Sekigahara, fought in 1600 at a crossroads in Japan, unified that nation under the Tokugawa family for more than 250 years.
Sekigahara is designed to offer an historically authentic experience within an intuitive game mechanic that can be played in one sitting. Great effort has been taken to preserve a clean game mechanism. (Despite a healthy amount of historical detail, the ruleset is a brief 6 pages.) Chance takes the form of uncertainty and not luck.
No dice are used; combat is decided with cards. Blocks = armies and cards = motivation. The combination of army and motivation produces impact on the battlefield. Armies without matching cards don't fight. Battles resolve quickly, but with suspense, tactical participation, and a wide range of possible outcomes.
Legitimacy is represented by hand size, which fluctuates each week according to the number of castles a player holds. Certain events deplete legitimacy, like force marches and lost battles. Recruitment, meanwhile, is a function of a daimyo's control over key production areas. Objectives (enemy units, castles, resources) exist all over the map.
The initial setup is variable, so the situation is always fresh. Concealed information (blocks and cards) lends additional uncertainty. In this way the game feels like the actual campaign.
Blocks are large and stackable. Every unit on the board is visible at once, and the strategic situation is comprehensible at a glance. Components use authentic clan designations and colors, and have a Japanese feel.
True to history, the objectives (castles and economic centers) and forces (armies of allied daimyo) are dispersed. Support for one front means neglect for another. The player is pulled between competing priorities. Each side wonders where his opponent wants to fight, and where he is unready. There is a great deal of bluff in the game.
Each player must rally the several daimyo of his coalition, managing the morale and motivation of each clan. The forces are dispersed, and while there are reasons to unify them, the objectives are also dispersed, and the timeframe compact, so skirmishing will occur all over the island.
Designer's Synopsis of How This Game is Different from Others on Feudal Japan:"Sekigahara is a simple 3-hour block game based on the campaign in 1600 that unified Japan. Hidden information on blocks & cards, but no dice. Cards are not events (this isn’t a typical “card-driven wargame”) but rather motivation (suited by clan). Units fight only when a matching card is produced."
(1) A lot of ‘game’ in 3 hours: many decisions, historical feel. The mechanics are really simple. Feels more like the event in question than most 3-hour wargames. Doesn’t bog down.
(2) Elegant graphical design. Japanese kanji and symbology; minimalism in blocks, board and cards. Mark Mahaffey has done amazing work.
(3) ‘Randomization’ subordinated to uncertainty. Plays like poker sometimes. You know how strong you’ll be in a hypothetical battle, and your opponent knows how strong he/she will be, so you read each others’ actions to gauge whether you want to initiate it.
(4) Double game being played: (a) units in position, (b) units motivated enough to fight. Most games would be all about (a) and leave (b) to the dice, but here you know in advance the effectiveness of your troops, by looking at your cards. The game is true to history in this regard (the campaign turned on defections & abstentions). Unit combat performance was too essential to the outcome of this campaign to leave to the dice.
(5) The combat system, with hidden forces and sequential deployments, is novel. Christophe Sancy made a great graphical illustration of a climactic combat sequence. It’s posted on Boardgame Geek.
|TIME SCALE||2 weeks per turn|
Point to point
|UNIT SCALE||One block = 5000 soldiers|
|NUMBER OF PLAYERS||2|