Shogunate Board Game Review (Action Phase Games)


Shogunate is a fast-paced, friendly, but competitive card game that can't be taken too seriously. In Shogunate, six powers are competing for the title of Shogun. You are not these powers. Instead, you have two hidden allegiance cards -- these cards declare your loyalty. Your goal is to make sure that your two allegiance cards have the most honor by the end of the game. Once someone gets to 12 honor, it triggers the end, points are counted up, and presumably the losers die in shame by their own swords.

Shogunate Board Game Details

Players: 3 to 6

Game Time: 20 Minutes

Age: 14+

Genre: Strategy / Action Selection

How is Shogunate Played?

Shogunate gives each person a small deck of action cards. At the beginning of a round, one person becomes the leader (leadership passes to the left each round). Every other player must play a card from their deck face down. Cards are revealed all at once, and the leader decides the order in which the cards are played.

You only get a certain numbe of one use actions ,so the game goes quite quickly.

Cards may do things such as:

  • Change the position of the leaders.
  • Add honor to specific leaders.
  • Look at allegiance cards. 
  • Swap allegiance cards.

In addition to this, a "plot" card is pulled. The plot card shows which cards on the line up are going to get honor. A plot card could show that the top and bottom positions are going to get honor. If so, it's in your best interest to move your allegiances up or down. There is also a special token which can take honor from factions and which is usually moved by the plot card. 

The faction's position on the line, along with the plot card, controls how honor is distributed.

Cards do not come back into your hand, and someone will win before you've gotten through your deck. Consequently, you need to play your cards carefully.

A Game as Unfair as the Historical Japanese System of Government

Shogunate is not a meritocracy. In fact, it's insanely unfair. This is because the allegiance that you get in the beginning really, really matters. It's possible for two people to have the same allegiance card, which means two people will be trying to boost the same clan. That doesn't seem that bad, except that it's possible to get two cards that no one else has, which means you need to score 12 points all on your own. It's also possible that you could get two identical cards, in which case you just need to get 6 points on your own. 

Though you're helping these factions rise to power, you can't become a Shogun -- and that feels unfair.

You might think there's a mitigating factor; that two people trying to boost the same clan are going to be helping each other. And that's true, but it also means that one player who has no help is going to be invariably left behind. Hence why the game can be extremely random.

That being said, it's twenty minutes of your life, and the game allows you to do some horribly underhanded things. In our game, one player made sure that one faction had no honor, and then traded that faction to another player, effectively tanking the progress that they had made. It's a game made for bickering, silliness, and a little roleplaying, and in that respect it does quite well.

Shogunate Board Game Review
  • PRO: A fast game with pretty art and an appealing theme. 
  • CON: Feels a little too random to be a truly strategic game.