Samurai Spirit: Finding Seven Samurai and a Great Game

Sep 15, 2023 | Sessions | 2 comments

Protect a village from invading bandits with a team of unique samurai and animal transformations in Samurai Spirit.

Ask my husband about one of the board games he regrets trading, and Samurai Spirit always tops the list! I never had a chance to play it, although the premise has always intrigued me. When a new copy popped up at a very reasonable price, it was time to fix that regret and explore the solo mode! I eagerly dug into this one, excited by the theme and artwork.

Game Overview

Game Name: Samurai Spirit
Publication Year:
2014
Designer:
Antoine Bauza
Artist:
Víctor Pérez Corbella
Publisher: Funforge
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game (Cooperative)

Samurai battle bandits as they try to reach their special value to trigger abilities. Families and farms must be protected, while barriers fend off many attacks. With the right amount of wounds at the right time, each samurai can change into animal form to be even more powerful!

A Very Reasonably Sized Play Area to Battle It Out with Samurai Spirit
R

First Play

September 11, 2023

Complexity

2

Latest Play

September 12, 2023

Expansions

0

Setup Time

Almost None

Lifetime Plays

4

Play Time

15 Minutes

:

High Score

5

1

Game Area

28" x 20"

;

Low Score

0

A Village in Trouble

Bandit attacks threaten everything about this small village of farmers. The difficulty level helps set the maximum number of barriers, which may eventually fall in battle.

The end of the rulebook made mention of the movie Seven Samurai… Which I somehow never heard of. This inspired me to finally watch it, and it was a wonderful story!

The movie is not without its issues, but it was nice to see where some of the game’s theme originated from.

This isn’t exactly a tower defense sort of solo game, though, as it’s more about card choices and power values.

A Small but Important Village in Need of Protection in Samurai Spirit

Unique Samurai

A total of 7 different samurai may be chosen to form a team. For solo, this can be any number of characters, but I decided to use a trio to start with. Not too difficult!

Each samurai has a unique ability and power. For Daisuke, he could pass odd-valued bandit cards left or right.

If he could hit exactly 8 power in his combat line, he then had a special ability that triggered. Very helpful!

In some ways, one might compare certain elements of gameplay to Blackjack with the idea of trying to reach a specific value. However, there’s a lot more strategy!

Daisuke and a Unique Set of Abilities in Samurai Spirit

Monkey Form!

Many bandits inflict wounds, which might not seem all that great, but actually help out. With 2 wounds, a samurai transforms into his animal form. Look at the new Daisuke!

Admittedly, I started watching One Piece recently and wondered why one of these weapons wasn’t being wielded via mouth. Blame that fever I had for a day. Ha ha!

Changing forms allows more damage to be taken, but most bandit cards contain symbols to save the village.

It becomes a challenge of collecting the right symbols for each samurai and getting power with limited wounds.

The Neat Transformation Ability in Samurai Spirit

Barely a Victory

Even at the easy difficulty level, my first play resulted in the narrowest victory. Only a single family and farm remained, which was the bare minimum. I did it!

This was still a lot harder than I anticipated, though, and I could see a lot of the strategic depth with the deck.

Bandits consist of a randomized deck that only uses a fraction of the available cards. In this way, the spread of symbols and power values can vary greatly.

I also wanted to try out some more samurai to see how they might work together a little differently.

A Lot of Destruction and a Narrow Victory in Samurai Spirit

Discovering the Newness of Older Titles

This hobby is certainly one that’s very focused on constant new releases, and I struggle to keep up with playing all of my new arrivals! Yet there’s still something to be said about tracking down older solo games to enjoy that new feeling. Maybe they all don’t have the most modern mechanics, but many of these don’t deserve to go forgotten.

In particular, I figured this one might just be mediocre and feel a bit dated. Perhaps it’s not the best game ever made, yet it inspired me to watch a classic movie and appreciate more of its gameplay. I got interested in it more than I have with some other new arrivals, and that feeling was awesome! Board games should be about fun and positive emotions.

Part of me always questions what it would be like to simply stop buying new board games. Could I still be happy with a collection that slowly gets older and older? Honestly, I think it might work! Of course, my husband is very much into picking up new games, so that may never happen. But… What if I went a year not playing any new releases? Hmm…

My experience with this one definitely made me think! I believe it might be neat to set a sort of older game challenge for myself, even if it’s only for a short time. New games are amazing and I don’t mean to take anything away from them. It’s just easy to lose sight of the fact that older games from 5+ years ago offer a lot, and shouldn’t be overshadowed.

The Right Timing

Gorobei was a pretty awesome samurai, particularly since he could ignore the effects of even-valued bandits. That made this boss useless in many ways, which was great!

Timing the activation of abilities was a rather interesting experience. I ran into some situations where I was so excited to trigger an ability… Only for it to do nothing.

Some samurai work a little better when adjacent, too. Passing an even-valued bandit to Gorobei was great!

But balancing the defensive line with the symbols was a challenge, and plenty of wounds and losses piled up.

Tricky Decisions About How to Use Cards in Samurai Spirit

Kikuchiyo the Mighty

Each samurai is great in his own way, yet I found myself drawn to Kikychiyo quite a lot. His ongoing ability to deal with 2 bandit cards per turn was really awesome.

This mostly worked out since I knew the deck had a lot of lower value bandits. Had it been the other way around, this tiger samurai probably wouldn’t have been as good.

I continued to play at the easy difficulty level, and suffered a few losses along the way. Quite the challenging game!

There is also the option of playing with more samurai, although I rather liked how it all worked with a trio.

Interesting Powers of Kikuchiyo and Managing Damage in Samurai Spirit

Fall of the Samurai

My worst outing consisted of Heihachi, Katsushiro, and Kyozo. For whatever reason, the bandits didn’t want to cooperate and their animal forms came out very early.

Kyozo’s ability allows him to discard a bandit card that matches the value of another card in his combat line… Guess what kind of deck I had? No synergies for him!

Despite the losses, I still had a great time figuring out how to find samurai who worked the best together.

Watching Seven Samurai also gave me a few recognizable moments with the featured names and fighting styles.

More Abilities to Discover with Transforming Samurai in Samurai Spirit

An Improved Village

My few losses at the easy difficulty level still gave me a lot to learn from, and my final play was an excellent victory!

The entire village wasn’t saved, but I was much happier with this outcome than my win with the bare minimum.

Higher difficulty levels impose more penalties for losing farms, and limit the number of barriers. More bandits also show up in a larger, more challenging deck.

Such a great experience, though! I loved the quick play time and how I felt tied to the theme, even though a lot of gameplay came down to numbers and symbols.

A Much Better Outcome for the Surviving Village in Samurai Spirit

Session Overview

Play Number: 1-4
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game (Cooperative)
Play Details: Easy Difficulty Level with 3 Samurai
Outcome: 2 Wins & 2 Losses

Kikuchiyo showed up during another loss, but with so few hat symbols in the deck, he took too many wounds. A fearless warrior, but drawing so many bandits took its toll! I had a great time with this one, and rather surprised myself by getting into the theme so much with my first viewing of Seven Samurai. This one is nearly a decade old, but provides a really fun solo experience I didn’t expect!

Losing with Too Many Wounds for Kikuchiyo in Samurai Spirit

%

1 Play

Affordability

Price & Value

9

Functionality

Challenges & Mechanics

9

Originality

Design & Theme

7

Quality

Components & Rules

8

Reusability

Achievement & Enjoyment

9

Variability

Distinctness & Randomness

7

+ Pros (Positives)

  • Deciding how to use bandit cards offers a lot of interesting decisions that require balancing defense and attack.
  • Each samurai plays a little differently with unique abilities, and the various combinations add to the fun.
  • Wounds must be managed, yet the way these help power up the animal transformations is a great element.
  • Gameplay moves quickly through 3 rounds and takes around 15 minutes with setup and practically no downtime.
  • The board provides a visual depiction of how well the village is doing, which helps cement the theme and danger.
  • Even the easiest difficulty level is hard to win, as there is a lot more strategic depth available than meets the eye.

– Cons (Negatives)

  • Not everything in the rulebook is as clear as it could be, and with the tiniest font, it can be hard to find details.
  • There is a certain degree of luck with the way the bandit deck is constructed that can make it very difficult to win.
  • Some samurai work better with a certain assortment of bandits, but this isn’t known until later during a play.
  • A fair amount of iconography is present on the samurai and bandits, yet these are not particularly intuitive.

More Samurai Spirit

Explore related posts about Samurai Spirit!

Victory Conditions

Survive Through 3 Rounds

  • Overall Goal Progress 100% 100%

Goals and Milestones

R

Score at least 5 points.

R

Win at least 1 game at the easy difficulty level.

Continue the Conversation

Have you played Samurai Spirit? What other solo games from about a decade ago are you still enjoying? I knew I was going to have some fun with the idea of animal transformations, yet this game was really great! There are more challenges ahead as I increase the difficulty level and continue to find the synergies between the samurai. Awesome!

2 Comments

  1. How many samurai did you play with?

    Reply
    • I played with 3 samurai each time. Lots of different combinations! It looks like a lot of solo players will use somewhere from 2-4 samurai, although more is still possible. Just lots more upkeep! I may try with more in the future, yet the trio seems to be a pretty good spot for the sort of challenge I’m looking for.

      Reply

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