Based on the popular Western game Bang!, Samurai Sword is a team game of deception and strategic combat. Set in Feudal Japan, the Shogun and his Samurai fend off the Ninjas, while the Ronan tries to play both sides and come out ahead.
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Setup: (Note: for ease of instruction, this quick guide assumes a 5 player game. See complete rules for adjustments for more or fewer players)
Separate the Character cards, the Role cards and the play cards into separate decks. Take the Shogun, one Samurai, two Ninjas and the Ronin cards, shuffle them and give one, face down, to each player. Your role defines your objective and must be kept secret. That is not to say that you cannot verbalize your role, but you must never show your card. The only exception to this is the Shogun who must reveal their card and place it face up in front of them.
Then deal to each player a character card. The number in the heart on the character card is how many resilience points you get for that character. Place that many heart tokens next to your character card. The Shogun gets one more resilience token than is shown on their card. Each character also has a special ability that is written on their card.
Then the Shogun takes 5 Honor tokens (the flowers) and each other player takes 3 honor. The Shogun starts with 4 cards, the next two players to their left each start with 5 cards and the next two start with 6 cards.
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Play starts with the Shogun then moves to their left.
On your turn:
Recover all resilience points if you have none at the start of your turn. Unlike Bang!, if you are dropped to 0 resilience, you are not out of the game, you are merely “harmless” until your next turn.
Draw two cards.
Play as many cards as you wish or are able. You may play as many yellow border or blue border cards as you like during your turn. However, you may only play one Weapon (red border) card on your turn.
Discard down to your hand limit of 7 cards.
Difficulty rating: A player’s base difficulty rating (or DR) is dependent on physical location. For the active player, each player to their immediate left and right has a DR of 1. Each additional player to the left or right adds one to their DR. In a game of 5 players, the max base DR would be 2, since no other player is greater than one person away from the active player. An important note is that if a player is considered “harmless” (have either zero resilience or zero cards in their hand), they don’t count towards DR. So if the player to the left of the active player is “harmless,” then the next player to the left has a base DR of 1.
Weapons and Parries: The main way to deal damage to other players is to attack them with a weapon. Each weapon has two numbers, one with a semicircular arrow around it indicating attack rating, and one with a blood splatter behind it indicating damage. In order to attack another player with a weapon, its attack rating must be equal or greater than their DR. When you make an attack, that player has the choice to play a Parry card which prevents any and all damage from the weapon. If the player chooses not to (or cannot) defend, they lose as many resilience (heart tokens) as the weapon’s damage. If a player is dropped to 0 resilience, they give their attacker one of their Honor (flower) tokens.
Blue bordered cards are played in front of you during your turn and remain there indefinitely or until someone uses a card to remove them. They are handy, and their effects are cumulative.
Yellow bordered cards are played during your turn and have an immediate effect.
Once the deck runs out, reshuffle the discard pile to create a new deck. Ever player also must discard an honor token.
The game ends when one player has no honor tokens left.
Each player then counts how many honor tokens they have left. The Shogun and Samurai add their tokens together, the Ninjas add their tokens together and the Ronin multiplies his tokens by 2. Whichever team has the highest score wins. (Note: Scoring multipliers are highly dependent on number of players, so make sure the check the full rules if playing with more or fewer players)
Strategies: The Shogun is a clear target for the Ninjas as they directly oppose him and he starts with the most Honor tokens. However, in games with 4 or 6 players, the Samurai has a x2 honor multiplier when tallying points at the end, so identifying the Samurai and targeting him may end up being more profitable than focusing on the obvious target.
The Ronin has a tricky position as he doesn’t have a team. It is usually helpful to wait a round or two before making any overt acts of aggression in order to identify which team looks stronger and which side may be the most profitable to join. Pretending to be a Samurai should keep the Shogun off your back, but if there’s only one real Samurai, he’ll know your ruse and try to convince the Shogun of your treachery. The Ninjas may also be tempted to target you if the Shogun proves a difficult foe. Pretending to be a Ninja should keep them off your back, but it gives both the Shogun and the Samurai free license to wail on you. The biggest tip here is to pick a side and stick to it. Try to convince them that you are on their side so that when it comes to tally up the points, you have a hefty sack of honor and your multiplier will nudge you above the other teams.
The Shogun should always have at least one or two obvious targets (the ninjas) but it can be tricky to distinguish between the Ronin and the Samurai if the Ronin decides to pretend to be on your side. Only attacking players that attack you is generally a solid strategy.
For the Samurai, your strategy is probably the easiest (except in 7 player games with 2 Samurai). Attack anyone that isn’t the Shogun.
Additional Reminder- Any player may at any time say they are any role. That’s part of the game. But at no point can any player reveal their role card.
Player Limit Rule Changes: For 3 player game- There is one Shogun and two Ninjas. The Shogun draws 3 cards each turn and may play 2 weapons each turn. The Shogun also doubles his points at the end of the game and can never lose honor to the Bushido card. Otherwise, play as normal.
Common House Rules: Because there are so many characters and it is nice to have some agency regarding who you play as, we like to deal 2 character cards to each player at the beginning and allow them to choose between them.
Although not something that is addressed in the standard rules, you may wish to establish before starting the game whether or not an attacker must play their weapon face up or face down before a defender chooses to play a Parry card. A face down weapon forces the defender to make decision of whether to risk a serious wound or potentially “waste” a parry on a smaller wound.
Time to Play: 40 – 60 min.
Our Suggested Age: 12+