Thursday, 6 September 2012

Shadows over Japan (title pending)

In the interest of publishing some original content on the internet, I have decided to publish one of my own works this week. After agonizing which would be appropriate in length, content, and theme, I have settled on a board game that I have prototyped: Shadows over Japan (title pending).

It is an information management game, as far as I know, a largely untapped genre. To describe it as simply as possible - it is like a competitive version of Pandemic, with Ninjas thrown in. Each player is a Ninja clan who secretly supports one of the four Nobles of the time, and vies to make them the most powerful Noble in the land.

I have chosen this largely because it is one of the projects in which I have involved other people the most. This is the game in its current state, after many rounds of playtesting, with many more to go.

Starting off with the physical components:

  • The board. It is divided between the four nobles:
    • Oda Nobunaga (yellow)
    • Takeda Shingen (red)
    • Tokugawa Ieyasu (purple) [ This being a prototype, you will occasionally have to substitute black or green for the Tokugawa clan.]
    • Da'te Masamune (blue)
  • 6 Ninja Markers per player (24)
    • Each player gets 2 of each fighting style. Markers are made from a nickel with a coloured sticker on each side, with the style marked on one side only.
  • 8 of each fighting style Samurai (24)
    • Same as Ninja markers, except white stickers
  • 4 Noble Cards
    • One for each noble, these indicate which Noble you are secretly supporting; revealed only at end game
  • 5 Armies per Noble
    • These are just their respective clan symbol printed and glued onto bristol board then cut out
  • 20 development tokens per Noble
    • You can use the disease cubes from Pandemic; I am using Pennygems
    • The exact number isn't important, but it is good to have the same number of each colour, as it helps keep track of how many are on the board by how many are left in the supply
  • 72 territory cards
    • Hand made cards, more detail to follow
  • 25 gold tokens
    • Pennies - I am pretty sure that almost every prototyped game I have made involves pennies in some way
  • Month Marker
    • Something to indicate whether it is summer or winter; can be basically anything as long as it is obvious which side is which; colour a card red on one side and blue on the other
  • 12 Intelligence cards
    • Same backing as territory cards, again, hand made
  • 12 Honour cards
    • Different backing, hand made
I mentioned the fighting styles above, and should probably explain them at this time. There are three styles, Paper Crane, Stone Fist, and Scissor Kick. Rock beats scissors beats paper beats rock. Combat is deterministic, but because their types are hidden, it becomes extremely important to figure out what they are and keep your own hidden. Hence, information management.

What follows is the rules:

Setting up a new game:

Board Set Up:
  1. Put all capital cards in the discard pile. Put 2 developments on them, plus a random samurai face down and an army of the appropriate noble.
  2. Deal out 12 territory cards, then put development markers on each of those territories. Put the cards in the discard pile
  3. Deal out 4 territory cards, then put 2 development markers and a random samurai face down on them. Put the cards in the discard pile.
  4. Give 3 Intelligence cards to each Noble.
  5. Put the Honour deck out; the number of cards is based on the number of players:
  • 2 Players: 12 cards
  • 3 Players: 9 cards
  • 4 Players: 6 cards

Player Set Up:
Each player is randomly given (keep all cards hidden):
  • A Noble Card
  • 3 Territory Cards; put a ninja face down on these locations, then discard those cards
  • Once Ninjas are placed, an additional 3 Territory Cards
  • A turn marker (public, randomize who gets which)

Reveal all samurai. The game starts in Summer of Year 1.

A player turn:
Players go in order of their turn markers.

  1. (first player only) Change the season marker, reveal an honour card if one is not revealed already.
  2. Perform actions with your ninjas. A player gets six actions with his Ninjas for his turn. Actions are described in the next section.
  3. (last player only) Award the honour card if it is the end of the year
  4. Spend any gold as desired
  5. Draw a card
  6. Develop 3 territories

A full round of player turns (i.e. 1 turn for each player) corresponds to one season. Two seasons corresponds to a year; the game starts in Summer, and the year increases after Winter.

Ending the Game:
After the final Honour card has been awarded the game ends. At that point, the point totals are added up. Each player reveals his Noble card, along with any Intelligence cards he is holding.
Total up the Political Power of each Noble; the player whose Noble has the highest Political Power is the winner. Ties are broken by Military Power, and Economic Power, and then Gold.


You may either:
  • Move to an adjacent province on land
  • Cross a region of water to any other province bordering it
Note that Ninjas cannot stack, even friendly ones.

If you move into an enemy ninja or samurai, you must fight it. If you move into any army (even that of your own lord), you must infiltrate it; you cannot infiltrate if your ninja is revealed. You do not have to infiltrate occupying forces (see below). Either or both interactions costs an additional action to do.

Combat works as follows: ninja reveal their combat style; Stone Fist beast Scissor Kick, which beats Paper Crane, which in turn beats Stone Fist. If neither side is defeated, nothing happens (move back to whence ye came). Ninja remain revealed until they use a Substitution Technique.

Special Actions:
  • Move an Infiltrated Army (costs 1 gold, limit 1 move per season)
    • This allows you to conquer territories in the name of the Noble who owns the army; if the army moves into any enemy territory, it is considered an occupying force – it cannot move any more, and does not count as an army for development or army movement purposes (another army can move into this territory). In addition, it removes any developments. The territory itself counts as belonging to the army's noble.
    • Armies moving into territories will kill any Ninja and Samurai there; they cannot move into enemy armies
    • Can move into occupying forces, to either liberate the country if it is the original owner, or occupy it in its place.
    • The infiltrated Ninja must move along with the Army
    • Armies moving through water can only move along the lines dividing water regions.
  • Steal Intelligence from an undefended Noble Capital
    • Cannot be performed by a revealed Ninja
    • Reveals the Ninja in the process
    • See Intelligence (below)
  • Sabotage an undefended development
    • Remove one development from the province.
  • Substitution Technique: Requires you to move into an adjacent allied Ninja; conceal them if they are revealed, then swap their tokens if you wish.
  • Seppuku: A ninja may choose to take his own life. This is generally a last resort.

A player can spend gold in one of the following ways:
  • Recruit a Ninja (max of 6)
  • Move an Army that you have Infiltrated (as above)
  • Draw 3 territory cards (max of 6 in hand, immediately discard any extras)
  • Take the Initiative: switch turn markers with another player with a lower number
  • Make an additional action this turn

Recruiting Ninja:
You must have territory cards in hand to spawn a new Ninja; choose one of your territory cards and discard it; place the Ninja there.

New Ninjas spawn in the spending phase; such that they cannot move or act the turn that they are spawned.

At the end of each player's turn, he draws three Territory cards, and develops those provinces.
Basically, it goes:
From: To:
Undeveloped Single Development
Single Development Double Development + Samurai
Double Development Double Development + Samurai
Double Development + Samurai Double Development + Samurai + Army
Double Development + Army Double Development + Samurai + Army
Double Development + Samurai + Army Double Development + Samurai + Army
(no additional progress)
Note that if there are not enough of something to complete the development, complete what you can, and any other progress is not made. Note that an Occupying force does not count as an army for development purposes.

Mission Cards:
Every card in your hand has a mission associated with it. Discard a card when you complete that mission to gain 1 gold. A single action can only contribute to ONE mission. Note that you CANNOT complete missions against your Noble. Such cards are usually used to spawn new ninjas instead.


Economic Power:
Fairly straight-forward, the number of developments on the Noble's territory.

Military Power:
The sum of the following:
  • Per Army: +2 (includes occupying forces)
  • Per Samurai: +1

Political Power:
Not quite as straight-forward, it is the sum of one's Honours, less the sum of his Shames.
  • Honours:
    • Per Honour Card: +1
    • Greatest Military: +3
      • Second Best: +1 (or tied for first or second)
    • Greatest Economy: +3
      • Second Best: +1 (or tied for first or second)
    • Per Conquered Territory: +1
    • Per Intelligence: +1
  • Shames:
    • Per Territory Lost: -1
      • If a Capital is lost, it is worth -3 instead

Honour Cards:
Honour cards are revealed at the beginning of the year and awarded at the end.
  • Safe Roads – fewest Ninjas in their counties
  • Scholarship – most Intelligence
  • Imperialist – most Armies
  • Bushido – most Samurai
  • Economic Boom – strongest Economy; Develop 1 extra territory each turn while this is revealed
  • Arms Race – strongest Military
  • Master of Craft – most double-development provinces
  • Princess' Hand – greatest sum of Economy and Military
  • Champion of Light – most cards in discard pile; Shuffle discard pile on revealing
  • Humble – weakest economy
  • Show of Force – most conquered provinces, tie breaker: fewest territories lost
  • Monk's Favour – weakest Military

In the event of a tie, it goes to the Noble with less economic power. If that is tied as well, randomize its distribution between top contenders. If there are no eligible contenders, bury it.

A Ninja that captures Intelligence draws that card into his hand. Any intelligence in hand at game-end is counted towards your Noble (+1 political power each).  

Photos of actual components:
The board. Note the many revisions it has undertaken to reach its current state.
The honour deck.
The turn markers. Simple is good.
The Ninja tokens. The Samurai ones are the same, except white.
The X is scissors, the circle is rock, and the paper is paper.
The army tokens. Printed, glued onto bristol board, and then cut out.
The territory cards. Each has a sticker to easily identify its Noble, a mission, territory name, as well as the region and number of that region. Capitals are starred, intelligence cards have a white sticker. 
My Token case. Tackle boxes are often very convenient for holding your gaming bits and pieces. 
The noble and season cards.
There it is. All in all, there is the board, the cards, and the token case. 

It is not a finished product yet, as I have a couple more changes I am considering:
  • Adding a 'Rival' system to the cards; right now, a card for your noble can be either good for you (if developed for your noble) or bad for you (if drawn as a mission) - this would change it to be good for you (if developed) or bad for someone else (by making the mission against your Rival noble instead of yourself) - which will hopefully take out some of the luck factor to the game
  • Additional rebalancing of the map - I have noticed that the game feels more strategic and less random the more clustered a Noble's provinces are. Additional testing is needed, but I might redo the map to further clump them up
  • Rebalancing for 3 players - this is a tricky one, as often players figure out who is who very early, and the neutral noble with no ninjas gets ahead as all the players try and kill each other. I don't know exactly what to do to fix this, but it seems that the game plays best with 4 players for now.
  • Enlarging Settsu - it is just too small on the map to fit the required tokens on it very well, which is why I have a large marker circle to put components that can't fit properly on it. (note that the other marker circle territory has since been removed)
  • The Title - I have tried experimenting with names involving 'Ninja', 'Sengoku', and 'Feudal'; but haven't found anything that I am satisfied with yet.
Anyone interested in playing can contact me for print resolution images of the board and a full list of territory cards and their respective missions. Who knows, there may even be a kickstarter one day for it.

But more on that later.


No comments:

Post a Comment