Kenjin – A Winning Strategy Game reviews a fantastic game distributed by IELLO USA LLC.

kenjin 1When we first read about “Kenjin,” we thought it sounded like a good solid strategy driven card game. However, after playing “Kenjin” multiple times, we quickly discovered that this was one of the most entertaining and fun game experiences of 2016.

“Kenjin” as a name means someone with a very restless, but inquisitive nature. That is a great description of this game, which pits the grand lords of feudal Japan against each other as players attempt to gain total control by leading their army to victory.

The game contents include 52 Army cards, 10 Battlefield tiles and an easy to follow set of rules. “Kenjin” can be played by 2-4 players and is suggested for ages 12 years old and up. To get things started, each player chooses one of four available clans, Kamiwashi Clan (white), Jozu Clan (blue), Yasei Clan (green) or Hondo Clan (red). Once chosen, the player adds all of the Army cards of the same color for a total of 13 cards. All Clans are of equal ability. The Battlefield tiles are separated into two piles based on victory point value (4 or 6) as shown on the bottom right of the cards.

kenjin 2Depending on the number of players, two or four Battlefield cards, with alternating victory point values, are positioned between the players. There are two phases during the game, Army Deployment and Combat Resolution. Players basically alternate turns deploying two Army cards (some face down and some face up) on their side of the Battlefields, activating special abilities during play or at the end of the game. This type of deployment happens over 7 rounds. The Army cards include the following cards, Scout, Shugenja, General, Assassin, Ashigaru, Lord, Peasant (4), Archer, Samurai and Brute.

The key to the Army Deployment portion of the game are those special abilities. Depending on the Army cards deployed, players may be able to turn an opponents face down cards to the face up position, secretly peek at a player’s face down card, move a card or even eliminate an opponent’s card. Since there is more than one battlefield, cards will be positioned on top of each other as more Army cards are placed each round.

Once seven rounds of Army Deployment and back and forth actions have taken place based on special abilities, it is time for Combat Resolution and the end of the war. Now, the battlefields come into focus, as outcomes may vary depending on the battlefield in play. Generally, it does not matter which battlefield is resolved first. All face down Army cards are revealed and they each have a special Combat Resolution ability as well as a strength rating. Cards may be eliminated, certain abilities may precede others, Peasant placement can be a key, winning a battlefield where a Lord is present is a smart move and the Samurai can wipe out everyone on a battlefield, but must beware of an opponent’s Archer.

Once the Combat phase of the game has been resolved, the strength ratings of the remaining Army cards of each player are summed up with the higher total conquering the battlefield. Victory Points are earned based on those battlefields conquered, with various bonuses and penalties taken into consideration. The Clan with the highest Victory Point total is declared the winner.

kenjin 3“Kenjin” is grand fun from start to finish, full of rich colorful cards, unique battlefields and loads of strategy. “Kenjin” does require a player to pay close attention to what your opponents are doing and then plan counter moves that take away their advantage and put them on the defensive. Because there are no dice, no random draws and each Clan is of the same strength, there is virtually no luck involved in a game of “Kenjin.” Instead it is simply a head to head battle on equal terms. Players may develop their own set of strategic moves (ie. cards played in a certain order on certain battlefields) and dare another to counter their card play, and certainly experienced players will have an advantage over those just learning the intricacies of the game. But best of all, a typical game lasts only about 30 minutes.

The Toys Bulletin staff recommends “Kenjin” as a must own game. Buy it now from the IELLO on line store for just $19.99.

–RJ Cullen


Posted in Card Games

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