Samurai Spirit is a cooperative game for 1-7 players from Funforge. If you hadn’t already figured it out before getting to the end of the rulebook, or even just the description, the Author’s Notes point out that this game was inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s brilliant movie Seven Samurai. The game allows players to take on the role of up to seven samurai defending a village from raiders. (See what I mean about that inspiration?) Each playable samurai has a unique talent and ability, as well as an Animal Spirit that makes them more powerful.
The village is a reasonably small board with tokens representing the families and farmsteads of the village and the protective barricades that surround it. The samurai are represented by oversized cards with their human and animal abilities each listed, as well as a support token (to allow another player to use your ability) and a samurai meeple to adjust the battle track that activates certain abilities. Finally, the raiders are represented by a deck of cards.
The makeup of the raider’s deck is interesting. There are 52 Plunderers (valued from 1-4), 7 Lieutenants (valued at 5), and 7 bosses (valued at 6). In the first round you shuffle and randomly select 7 Plunderer cards per player, so even if you play all 7 players, you won’t use every card. Similarly, you only use as many Lieutenant and Boss cards as you have players. Within all of these cards are a variety of features and penalties so, especially in smaller games, the outcomes can shift drastically each time you play.
As with most cooperative games, this isn’t an easy game to win. The group I played with got through the first round with ease, or so we thought. As we resolved the End of Round steps, we quickly realized how close to doom we truly were. We did (just barely) make it past the second round, but lost soon into the final round.
The rulebook was a bit hard to get through, not because it wasn’t well written, but more because there are several mechanics, strategies, and icons to deal with at any given time.
The art is great throughout. The card layouts are simple, but attractive. The numerous icons are functional, although not exactly intuitive, and there is a reference section at the back of the rulebook that explains them all. You can expect to have to go back and check the reference section again each round, as the Lieutenant and Boss cards are shuffled into the deck, since the Bosses, specifically, have different icons.
I’m a fan of the movie, and I really enjoyed playing Samurai Spirit. I expect that I’ll be playing this again, and eventually trying the harder difficulty options.
Originality: 3 / 5
Visual Appeal: 4 / 5
Ease of Play: 3 / 5
Strategic Challenge: 4 / 5
Total expressed as a percentage of the Ultimate Question: 33.3%