25th Jul2018

‘Daimyo’s Fall’ Deck Building Game Review

by Matthew Smail

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I’m a huge fan of deck building games and I always have been, from the very first time that I tentatively put together a Magic: The Gathering starter deck to the moment that I began to invest my time and effort into the Game of Thrones LCG. Few, however, are as unique and well constructed as the relatively unheard of Daimyo’s Fall. This single box experience contains two distinct sets of cards (Ninja and Samurai) as well as more than twenty hero cards that align to the two factions.

The aim of the game (which is playable by one to five players) is to purchase heroes and reinforcements from the shared pools that form the “domain” and to build a deck that is ultimately capable of collecting more victory points that the opposing decks over the course of a variable number of rounds. What makes the game so ingenious is that every hero (and every card in the domain) is available to any player who can pay for it, so the vast majority of available resources are shared, which adds a considerable element of competitiveness to the actual deck building elements of the game.

Every player begins the game with the same set of ten cards, which are split between Ninja, Samurai and Mon (money) cards. They also draw one of the hero cards at random and place it face up on the table with their activation token on it. Over the course of the game, players may acquire and place up to three total heroes in front of them, but only one can be activated each turn – which means that only one hero ability is available to the active player and, more importantly, only one loot condition (based on the active hero) can be used.

Looting is a very important feature in Daimyo’s Fall, because it is the only way to acquire Treasure Cards, which are perhaps the single most important way of obtaining victory points as well as powerful additional effects. Each hero has a different loot condition, but one example might be a hero that requires a player to discard four cards in a single turn. There are several ways to achieve this loot condition (basically anything that the rules consider to be discarding) but perhaps the most efficient way to use that hero would be to find a way to discard cards, redraw them and repeat the process more than once in a single turn.

Aside from the hero and treasure cards, the main bulk of each deck will be made up of both Ninja and Samurai reinforcement cards. There are no penalties for mixing cards of each kind into your deck, but some abilities can only be activated as the result of using cards from a specific faction. I really like the fact that Daimyo’s Fall allows this level of flexibility – it ensures that even in the majority of two player games, the competition for cards of each kind remains high, without players falling into a boring rut.

During the main phase of the player turn, she may play once reinforcement card. In doing so, she will gain access to up to four benefits, as shown along the bottom of the card. These benefits include additional card draws, additional card deployments, additional money or additional trade points. Sequencing of cards is important, because if the player puts a card that gives one Mon and one additional deployment down first, she will be able to place another card, but will hold that additional Mon until the end of this phase of the turn. In this way, the players will place runs of three, four or more cards down in sequence to gain additional resources without ending their deployment phase.

With these additional Mon in hand, they may then obtain as many new hero or reinforcement cards from the Domain as they can afford, with heroes placed directly in front of them (up to the maximum of three) and reinforcements placed directly into their discard pile. Only at the beginning of the next turn will cards placed in front of a player be moved into the discard pile, which gives their opponent the chance to exhaust one or more of them, which prevents them from being cleared to the discard pile – slowing the affected player down and often, disrupting their combo engine. Hero cards can also be exhausted, which prevents them from being activated during the next turn.

As I mentioned earlier, each hero has a different loot condition and these may be activated by any number of different methods – each of which is clearly described. Based on the hero(s) a player has and the cards in their hand and/or available in the Domain, Daimyo’s Fall offers very nearly limitless immediate tactical options, as well as a huge number of different strategies, all within the core game box. The game is variable in length, with the value of each revealed hero reducing a collection of petals by its buy price. With a starting number of between forty and fifty petals depending on player count, the game is quite time efficient, at around an hour per game on average.

I’ve usually mentioned component quality by this stage in a review but as Daimyo’s Fall is a card game, it comes with relatively few physical features to talk about, although there is one big selling point. If you haven’t already guessed what I mean, just look at that art work! I do appreciate that the highly sexualised art work of anime products isn’t for everyone (and in this case the women are exclusively buxom and scantily clad) but at a purely artistic level, Daimyo’s Fall is an incredible looking game, with creative and individual artwork that is literally second to no other game that I’ve ever seen. Hero cards are full art right up to the border, whilst reinforcement and treasure cards feature a comic strip border and a clear to ensure ease of reading.

If you’re looking for a highly original, unusually strategic deck building game that is entirely self contained (I don’t even think there are expansions available for it) then you really need to look no further. Axis Mundi have created a system that is arguably just outright better than most of the more convoluted and less strategically interesting LCG’s and TCG’s that come from other, larger publishers at a much higher price tag. The lack of a popular IP to underpin the game is entirely mitigated by the spectacular artwork, which creates a real sense of drama and a mythos of its own once the players get to know the cards and choose their favourite heroes and tactics.

****½ 4.5/5

A copy of Daimyo’s Fall was provided by Axis Mundi for review

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