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Game Review

Honor of the Samurai
"The Card Game of Intrigue, Honor, and Shame."

Ages 10 and up
Author: Scott Kimball
Game copyright 1996 Gamewright, Inc.
Honor of  the Samuria in play
Uncle's Games link

2-6 Players45+ minutes


You are a samurai in feudal Japan. In order to attain the title of "Most honored samurai," you must serve a Daimyo (General) and prove yourself in battle. Acting honorably is rewarded and leads to winning the game. Dishonorable actions are punished, but may help you eliminate your competition faster.


To start, each player is given a Samurai card and randomly picks a Daimyo card. Each player is dealt 7 cards from the deck, and play commences.

Turns are performed in the following fashion:

  1. If your samurai is currently serving a daiymo then collect your honor points.

  2. Total your "ki" points and calculate the number of card actions you have ("ki"/3).

  3. Perform your card actions (play a card, draw a card, etc.)

  4. Make a declaration (battle,claim the Shogun title, make/break alliance).

Cards consist of Armies (strength in battles), Ninja (stealing and assassinations), Daimyo (always good to have a spare), Okugata (honorable wives), castles, guards, special objects (sword smiths, Noh theatre, black powder guns) and two special actions: "Dishonor" and "Save Face."

Cards are displayed in a special fashion to display correct ownership of cards -- The Daimyo card is above the samurai card. Cards to the right of the Daimyo are in his "house," and similarly cards to the right of the samurai are in the samurai's house. this is important because should your Daimyo get killed in battle, all contents of his house are discarded, but the Samurai's house will be untouched. A similar affect occurs if your samurai is assassinated, the daimyo's house is safe, but the Samurai's is emptied.

Holding the title of "Shogun" will give you a lot of honor points, if you can keep it until your next turn.

Battles may only be declared against the Shogun or a player whose Daimyo possesses a castle.  Battles are fought by counting the total strength of the attacking forces then dividing that total by 3 to get the number of dice to be rolled for the attack. The defender also totals his/her forces strength an calculates the number of dice used for defense. The highest number rolled wins the battle.

When a battle is lost, the defeated Daimyo is killed unless a "save face" card is played. The "shogun" cannot "save face."

To replace a lost Daimyo, a player must draw a new one, be given one by another opponent or ally with an opponent and serve as second samurai.  If a player is the second samurai, and the first Samurai dies -- the Second is promoted and takes the Daimyo's house into their control.

 A closeup of game pieces... (as seen by an opponent)

Winning Conditions:

  • Attain 400 honor points to win.

Our Opinion:

Thumbs Up! As you can see by the description of the gameplay above, this is a complex game. It is not good for younger children for that reason alone. There are some distinct strategic nuances to playing this game that pre-teens may not catch.

This game is beautifully made in almost all aspects -- The custom dice are great. The artwork on the cards is beautiful. The cards are on good paper far from flimsy. The rules come with a historical description of each of the Daimyos depicted on the Daimyo cards which builds a new perspective on the "honor code" in feudal Japan. The rules not only describe game play, but also individually describe each card -- any questions that might come up during play can usually be found by glancing at the card descriptions.

The only exception to this well made game is the honor points. Honor point chits are used to track each player's honor; This works only so-so because the players must constantly exchange chits for bigger values and "make change" when giving honor back -- There needed to be more "25" chits as far as I'm concerned.

As for the gameplay, all of the zombies loved it -- we found that it works best with more players. The intrigue and tension just don't get there with only two players. One zombie commented that this game could degenerate into fights of "you took my stuff, so I'm taking yours!" -- This was especially apparent when one turn you could be in the lead and then one card play from any opponent could decimate your forces as you lost a daimyo or samurai's house.

When we bought this game for $25 a few years ago, we thought it was worth the price. I recently saw copies on amazon for about $12 -- an incredible price for this game. It is easily worth full price, the discount makes it even better. Buy this game.

Where to buy:

Any local game or hobby store -- Seen on recently.

Uncle's Games link

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