Review by: Jillian Schmett
Hey everyone! This week I wanted to talk about a game I've been playing a lot of the past few days, Sakura. Designed by Reiner Knizia and published by Osprey Games, Sakura is an abstract card game for 2-6 players. In this game you will be taking on the role of a painter, following the Emperor on his yearly walk through the gardens, and creating art inspired by the beautiful scenery. However, you must be careful! If you are not paying attention, and bump into the Emperor as he stops to admire one of his trees, you will bring dishonor upon yourself (and probably also your cow)!
Sakura comes with 60 cards, 7 figures, point tokens, and a game board. The artwork on the box, board, and cards is gorgeous. The figures are made of wood, which is nice. The board, while beautiful, does not lay flat on the table. I plan on putting it under a heavy box to try to see if that will help it stay flat when it's laid out, but I haven't had a chance to try it yet so I'm not sure if that will work. The cards have some sort of finish on them, which caused them to stick together. The first time we played, I actually had a hard time shuffling, dealing, and even managing the cards in my hand because they were sticking so badly. I have noticed that with more plays that has been getting better, and shuffling/handling the cards has not been nearly as inconvenient as it was at first.
To setup, players will place their figure on the starting space. The Emperor figure will be placed on it's designated starting spot (either the 5th or 7th space from the start, depending on the player count). Players will each be dealt a hand of 5 cards and given 5 point tokens.
Each turn, players will select a card, which has an initiative number and various actions. Actions on cards will do things such as move the Emperor forward or backward, move the player that is furthest in front or back, or move the player who played the card. Cards are revealed simultaneously, and resolve according to the initiative order, starting with the lowest. In order to win, players will be trying to score points by being the closest to the Emperor when he stops at one of the 3 scoring-triggering spaces placed throughout the board. However, if a player ever bumps into the Emperor, they will immediately move backward 3 spaces and lose a point token. Players can never occupy the same space, so they will be leap frogging each other as they move.
Reiner Knizia is known for making amazing board games, and this is no exception in my opinion. There is not much I don't like about this game. It plays quickly, and is easy to teach and learn.
There is some take-that, which is not usually one of my favorite mechanics, but I don't mind it too much here. The game is quick enough and it isn't necessarily a huge factor.
There is some randomness as well, because as much as you can try to plan your turn, whether you will be able to successfully carry out your plan depends on cards played by other players, and you will be working with whatever hand of cards you have drawn.
The initiative order on the cards is an interesting mechanic, which I think adds a lot of strategy to the pre-programming feel of choosing which card to play. If you're playing the card with the initiative of 1, since every card has a different initiative number, you know it will be resolving first, so you can plan accordingly. Most of the time, however, you are playing the odds and taking into consideration whether you think your initiative value is low or high enough to be resolving earlier or later in the turn. This uncertainty is an excellent addition to the rest of the simple mechanics, which I think sets it apart from a lot of other pre-programmed movement games.
Sakura is a welcome addition to my collection, and I think it will be getting a lot of play time in the future. If you've played it, or have any questions, leave me a comment and let me know!
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