Bring honor to your clan in Samurai Brothers by Moon Rock Games. The fast-paced card game with a feudal Japanese theme is currently in Kickstarter. We’ve been sent a prototype version to review, so the components and rules in the final version may differ from our images and details here.
A game of Samurai Brothers always starts with a draft. Players each need to pick a samurai, sensei, heirloom, and temple guard out of the 6 of each available. In 2-player games, players pick 3 heirlooms each, as capturing all of them is a win condition. Each of these drafted cards offers a fixed ability which can be used each round. Your chosen samurai is one of the Samurai Brothers of the game’s name, and their card includes a hit point track that when it reaches zero, eliminates you from the game. The senseis and heirlooms have abilities that can be used each turn, and the temple guard offers a consistent way of preventing damage.
Once the draft is completed, each turn is a simple matter of using any abilities from the cards drafted and then playing 2 cards from your hand. Cards played from your hand come in 2 forms, ninjas and actions. Ninjas are played onto the table and can be used to play action cards, or sacrificed to take damage from opposing player's attacks. Action cards are played by paying the cost in ninjas, in play and offer effects like attacking an opposing player or stealing their fixed cards like senseis and heirlooms. Play continues until either 1 player has all the heirlooms, or only 1 samurai brother remains.
The core of the game is finding the balance between playing ninja cards onto the table and playing actions, combined with drawing the right balance of cards, as they are both drawn from different decks. Using all of your ninja in a powerful attack can leave you open to a devastating counter-attack if it fails, or your opponent has prepared well, but not attacking can let your opponent build-up for their own powerful attack.
The game is extremely simple to learn and play, and fast-paced when it gets going. The current rulebook is hard work as some symbols are not explained and it currently doesn’t feel like a flowing introduction to the game. But once you’re playing, everything is easy to grasp.
The artwork style used throughout makes the components really stand out on the tabletop. It’s eye-catching and full of detail. The chibi art style makes it appealing for a wide variety of ages.
As a 2-player game, it can feel very draw dependent and you can be punished early if your opponent has an optimized hand. The sweet spot of players appears to be 4, but it does play well with up to 6. 2-players is a direct head to head battle, and are generally aggressive games, with players being more cautious going all out with 3 or more players. Player elimination is very much a part of multiplayer games, and being taken out early in a 6 player game can leave eliminated players waiting for a while between games, which is another reason why 4-player games work slightly better.
The Bottom Line
Samurai Brothers is a simple to learn, straightforward to play game with a decent amount of tactical depth. The art style is bright and appealing, and with some polish to the rulebook and tweaking of 2-player games, and some interaction added for players eliminated early in larger player games, it could be a very rewarding game. If player elimination doesn’t bother you though, or the art-style and theme grab you, then is it well worth you backing Samurai Brothers on Kickstarter.
Get This Game If:
- You love the art style and theme.
- You want a fast and fun card game.
- You want a quick game for a variety of player counts.
Avoid This Game If:
- You don't want player elimination.
- You want a 2-player game that doesn't suffer from draw issues.
This copy of the Samurai Brothers prototype was provided by the publisher.