Before I begin, I was sent a prototype and will receive a finished copy of the game in exchange for an honest preview. This is not a paid preview. If you would rather see a video of this review, check it out below. Learn how to get your own copy here.
I have played my share of competitive card games, both back in my days when I played magic, and then a lot more since I started reviewing games. Overall, they are not my favorite genre, but I am always on the lookout for ones that do something interesting. So the question is does Samurai Brothers do things interesting enough to make me interested?
A game of Samurai Brothers starts with a draft. A snake draft in fact. Players will go through and select their Sensai, the Samurai, their Heirlooms, and their Temple Guards. Then for the most part each turn will see you optionally use your heirloom power, use your Sensai’s power, then play two cards from your hand.
These cards are either ninjas which go into your dojo, or action cards which might attack another dojo, or steal an heirloom, and are “paid for” with the ninjas in your dojo. Ninjas in your dojo also operate as your health, you will be using them to absorb most of the attacks that come your way. To win you have to obtain all the heirlooms. You can do this by, either sending you ninjas to steal them, or knock out an opponent’s Samurai, and then take the heirlooms as the spoils of your victory.
Of course, I would be completely remiss if I did not point out that the artwork in the game is all chibi art. Your ninjas are even broken down into Elite, Baby, and Legendary which are all super apparent from the artwork.
So what do I think?
I really enjoy the draft at the beginning of the game. There is something quite satisfying about the game having begun even before the game has started. Out drafting your opponent can really give you a good head start. I also enjoy the tableau building aspect of the game, and how easy it is to do. One of my issues with games like Magic is that it is a slow starting game often, here that is not the case. When players start attacking each other, they are able to hit hard and fast.
I also enjoy the options you have once you have been attacked It is very satisfying as the defender to be able to parcel out the damage as you see fit, and toss ninjas that are more or less useful to you, while you absorb the attacks sent against you.
The artwork. I actually think that it looks quite good (especially once all the cards with white backgrounds get their full ones), but it really comes down to this. Do you like chibi art? If you do then it’s great, if you do not then you won’t like it much.
I also appreciate that this is a game that can be played two player or with more, and for the most part, it plays the same. Though I have a suspicion that it is stronger at higher player counts.
This is a game with player elimination, and it is possible that you are eliminated significantly before other players. Now, I did not experience this only playing two player games, but it is definitely possible. Additionally, I did find the two player game becomes more luck driven than strategic towards the end game. For example, the last time I played it was simply a race as to who would draw the card they needed first to win. That made the game less interesting.
Edit: the designers are working on a few solutions to this potential issue with the end game.
Bringing it all together
Samurai Brothers is a simple game that is definitely more than the sum of its parts. Turns are quick, but the amount of choice you have in how you do all of your actions allows you to develop the strategy you want. If you like chibi art then this game looks quite good. There is definitely the possibility to gang up on a player and there to be some pretty intense player elimination. The current rules make the end game feel a bit more lucky than strategic, though the designers have promised some changes there.
Thanks, while I was reading all that my rival stole my heirlooms
* If you like chibi, this is your jam
* Simple to play, though there are tons of options on how to proceed each round
* Very enjoyable tableau building
* Player elimination, and the end game can feel a bit luck driven