Reiner Knizia’s Samurai in Review – strategy gaming perfection

Splashing your name across a game’s title is a rarely defensible act of hubris. If the game rocks, you’ve got a plate full of whuffie to eat. But if it sucks rocks, you’ll be fed rotten tomatoes from angry critics. Sid Meier’s CIVILIZATION (and Civilization Revolution) is perhaps the best example of defensible hubris, and Reiner Knizia’s SAMURAI, while loads simpler in scope than Civilization, is another high flying strategy game worthy of pawn-pushing iDevice strategy fans. Of course, as one of Reiner Knizia’s genius games, Samurai’s biggest selling point is its point of hubris.

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Unlike EA’s Risk: The Official Game, Samurai is brilliant translation from its board game roots. It’s like a Japanese version of Settlers of Catan; you vie for control of a limited number of resources in old Japan. At your disposal is a number of key pieces: samurai, religious figures, peasants, ronin, and a strange exchange piece.

Your turns are split evenly between you and your partner or the CPU who just so happens to be Tokugawa, Japan’s most well-known shogun. You can place your pieces anywhere on the map but the objective is to fill Japan’s strategic points with your forces, thereby capturing Japan. This is where SAMURAI shares similarity with another classic strategy board game, Diplomacy. In order to control these spots, your adjacently placed units must outnumber that of your opponent. Each unit has a numerical value and the more around a certain place, the better.

There are no dice and there isn’t really luck. SAMURAI is all about your wits against those of your opponent. There are a number of reasons that SAMURAI rocks. Firstly, it looks great. Its graphics are stylised and uniform from menu to game board. And despite being translated to the iDevice, it makes no use of superfluous special effects.

But what really underlies SAMURAI’s genius is its simplicity. It takes the proven formulas of two legendary games and adds freaking samurai motif throughout. Movement is easy, the tutorial is easy to grasp, and you can continue from where you left off after forcibly exiting the game. Here’s the catch though: if you don’t like cinematic music, you’ll probably want to pass on SAMURAI because it is deep, moving, and a little out of place on the small screen. What it does though is impress upon you the depth of the game. SAMURAI may be all moving tiles here and there, but the more you play, the more you will find nooks and crannies of very strategic, very deep game play.

As very few pure strategy games exist at the App Store, Reiner Knizia’s SAMURAI is practically in a category all its own. Even if loads existed, I doubt that most would be as successful. If you love strategy and crave a simple, yet addictive formula that pays hommage to the greats of the genre, it’s time to give Reiner Knizia’s SAMURAI some lip service: this game gets a bonafied KISS.

*** Reiner Knizia’s Samurai will soon receive an update to run natively on the iPad. Guess what? It’ll be free for those who buy the iPhone version. In the words of Dr. Dre, Hell yeah!

App Summary
Title: Reiner Knizia’s SamuraiDeveloper: Conlan Rios
Reviewed Ver:1.0Min OS Req:3.0
Price:$4.99App Size:12.3 MB
  • Excellent graphics and sound
  • deep strategy game play
  • perfect integration of UI elements
  • coming soon to iPad
  • nothing to say here

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