Last night we played Battle for Rokugan for the first time. I love how games get me excited, how I watch a video and want to get a game. How I get the game, read the rules, and now want to play. How I play the game, and get excited about writing about it. How I write about it, and reflect back on the game and how I want to play again. It's just a positive reaffirmation cycle of how much board games influence my life.
In any case, back to the game. Battle for Rokugan is a game all about planning your moves while watching others plan theirs. It's a game of action and reaction, as you watch your neighbor start planning an attack on one of your provinces....do you attempt to defend? Launch an attack on one of his own? Abandon ship and focus your efforts elsewhere? All your hard work may come together only to realize that it was a feint all along, and you've now spent your whole turning navigating around a fictional attack!
Players take turns placing 5 combat tokens on the board, primarily attack (by land or by sea), sometimes Shinobi, or perhaps diplomacy or raids, which change the entire state of the board and how to navigate the map. Or of course a bluff...nothing happened at all, and you just drew out your opponent. It's a game all about reading your opponents, getting into their minds, figuring out the optimal move and therefore what they just did...it's part Wine in Front of Me (google it), part tactical planning, and part hoping that you didn't assume your opponent is smarter than they are and you just outplayed yourself.
The game heavily reminds me of City of Spies, another incredible game in the same genre. And interestingly enough, both look almost equally uninteresting at first glance. But both are worth the minimal investment in rules, and medium length game time. If you like Coup, Sheriff of Nottingham, Citadels and the like...then Battle for Rokugan is something worth trying. Mind games have always been fun, but when combined with a good board and set of rules...they just get better.