Friday August 22, 2014

Flexible system for samurai battles

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I have said it before, sometimes fate deals interesting moments in our lives, even for game reviewers.

It had been on my list to review Kensei for the Dec. 25 edition of the newspaper for weeks now.

But when I saw a recent television advertisement for the new movie 47 Ronin, I couldn't help but smile.

The movie, the story of 47 medieval ronin taking on a massive force of evil, I had to smile.

The theme of the movie, which I will note went straight to my 'must-see' list, is a pretty fair match with Kensei as a miniature game.

Kensei is another mini game that like Ronin, reviewed here recently, hits a sweet spot for my own interest in the era of Japan when samurai and ronin walked the land.

"Kensei is a wargame for two or more players … What you have in your hands is only a summary of what is going to be a larger game," notes the rulebook. "Since the very beginning, it has been an exciting adventure of investigation and development, and we hope this is to your liking. There is still a long way to go, and this is just the first step in a game we hope to develop thanks to your opinions and collaboration; to that end we have at your disposal a forum at the Kensei web (

"Characters, stories and miniatures in Kensei "War at Hymukai" are inspired by the history and mythology of Feudal Japan. This is expected to be the first set of rules of a greater world of oriental fantasy, the frontiers of which are still to be defined.

"In this game you will be able to develop from small skirmishes to huge battles with a great number of miniatures, thus representing the armies of the most powerful clans. It solely depends on you and your friends and what you decide to bring to the Dragon's Islands, and ask the Kami to bless your acts."

That the game is expandable is a definite draw. Skirmish games work for smaller tables, limited time and constrained budgets, but there are those who relish grand battles covering hours of time and dozens of miniatures, and Kensei suits for both.

"I have very much fun with 60 miniatures for each side," said Javier Kensei, one of the developers of the game. "But in this game you have different levels to choose so you can play with less miniatures."

Javier talks about its growth from the Spanish-based company.

"Our inspiration comes from our passion for the tabletop wargames and the world of Samurai," said Javier. "As we have been playing role games and wargames since we have a early age. We can say that we have grown at the same time of this games."

Javier said the theme of the game came first, with everything built from there.

"The theme always comes first," he said, noting English was not his first language. "Once you have the theme you have to think in how can you put it on the table and what kind of rules are the best for this theme. The theme make you think if you want a skirmish or massive battle game as an example."

Even with the theme well-established, Kensei took time to develop, a process which is never really complete.

"Between one year and two," said Javier. "But we have to say that you always find something that you haven't seen. There's always new players that find elements not clear. So you will always think that the game can still be better."

Kensei takes a realistic approach to the miniatures. While there are three initial factions in the game. Most miniature units can be used by any factions, with only a few specific to a given faction.

Javier noted the cross-over units are "because in the samurai world there's not a very big difference between one army and the opposite."

While the core units might be the same for the three factions, a change in paint scheme still offers gamers a way to be unique.

Gamers will also find Kensei miniatures nicely detailed, so that is a bonus in terms of creative paint schemes.

And the special units do tend to push game play style in specific directions, so each faction does have its own appeal.

Javier then added uniqueness will build as more units are released.

"Don't worry we will make more special and elite units, the game is still in progress, so you will see more difference in near future," he said.

And game growth is part of the plan.

"We will release new rules, new units in the actual factions and new factions," said Javier. "We have a lot of ideas and I have to say that this game is a little baby with only two-years. So you can expect a lot of new things and changes."

Overall, the Feudal Japan theme is a winner for me, and Kensei's expandable nature a real bonus for gamers with budget. A definite game to look at mini fans.

Check out the game at

If anyone is interested feel free to contact



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