Publisher: Hans im Gluck / Rio Grande
The cutting edge of abstract strategy
The first Reiner Knizia game I bought was Euphrat & Tigris. Samurai was the second, mainly purchased because I liked the author's other game so much. I was not disappointed.
As usual, the game is beautiful. The pieces that make up Japan slot together perfectly into a long board. The three figures - high helmets, Buddhas and rice fields - are adorable and easily differentiated.
Since most of the influence tiles can only be laid down one at a time and only affect one type of figure, having the high-value tiles isn't always a great advantage, especially if someone unexpectedly switches the kind of figure you were trying to take with something else.
The scoring at the end of the game is quite complex and I still need the rules to figure it out. As a result of the scoring, a player who is clearly behind in collecting figures can still win the game. A novel twist.
(Only later did I find out that Samurai and Euphrat & Tigris were not typical of Reiner Knizia's games. That only came as a pleasant surprise some time later when I discovered games like Money!.)