You play a clan leader in Feudal Japan with 4 hidden territory cards laid in front of you in the order of your choice:
- Farm (1)
- Village (2)
- Fortress (3)
- Palace (4)
You setup the game by drawing 8 cards. In the Second edition, you may discard up to 4 of those cards to draw again, a definitive improvement.
The cards are of 4 types:
- Soldiers: Samurai, Ninja and Geisha
- Weapons: Kunai (1), Katana (2), Naginata (3) and Yumi (4)
On your turn, you may either:
- Restock (draw back to 8 years after discarding as many as you want), but not twice in a row
- Attack a single territory with a single soldier wearing a weapon or, attack dual wield with two weapons
- Attack with as many barrages as you want, on multiple territories or multiple barrages on a single, in any combination you want
If the total barrage power (each is worth 2 power) equals or exceeds the territory value, the defender of a barrage must defend each barrage with a wall, or the territory attacked is destroyed and added to the victory points of the attacker. For each walls played in exceess of the number of barrages, one barrage is returned to the attacker who must now defend.
In version 1, barrages were way too powerful since a single one was needed for any territories. Added the territory value to the defense against barrage helped a lot since Fortresses and Palaces now need 2 barages to be captured.
To defend against a Soldier, you must place as soldier as well with the same number of weapons, matching the value of the power of the soldiers (the sum of his weapon(s)), or play 3 soldiers to block the attack.
Each of the 3 soldier type has a special bonus: Samurai has +1 on weapon strength (max 4), Spies can assassinate by playing a hidden Kunai and Geisha can turn back a Samurai or a Spy against the attacker.
The first version was a mess. The game was seriously flawed as if you drew a hand of 4 barrages and knew that all of the walls were already played, you had just won the game since your opponent couldn’t stop your barrages. By slightly weakening the barrages, that aspect of the game improved.
But the fighting itself remains flawed: it often occurs that you have a single soldier or a single weapon after restocking which may force you to attack with it (since you just restocked) and leaving your completely defenseless.
You may have a ton of Kunai to assassinate, but no Ninjas, or all of the walls (4) reducing the size of your playable hand.
Adding powers to the territories when they are captured was a nice idea, but it only made the person with the upper hand in a better position already.
Clan powers, introduced in the 2nd edition, do make the game a little more fun but they are only used once (unless you capture the palace of an opponent).
Honestly, I kept Kamakura in my game bag because it is a very small game and it’s a simple enough filler, but sadly, it doesn’t match my expections.