The experience of two-player fighting games usually involves methodically chipping away at an opponent’s health, the crescendo of victory preceded by careful planning over several turns. Then in bursts Bushido and asks: how would you like it if you could kill your opponent in one go?
Your initial gut reaction to this suggestion is probably that the fight would feel unfair and unsatisfying. With Bushido that couldn’t be further from the truth. Here you appreciate the sudden resolution of each fight because it gives you the chance to go again, try a different approach and build up a new hand of cards. And if that doesn’t work? Go again. And again.
Every element of the game – cards, abilities, dice, tokens – has such a precise purpose that if a player manages to combine them all together for one swift and deadly attack, it never feels unjust but impressive – even if you are on the losing side. While dice-rolling is the core mechanic of the combat, a lot of thought and planning comes before it; luck in no way dominates the gameplay and is secondary to the strategic elements.
Setup in Bushido is a crucial part of the pre-combat phase. Players draft technique cards that each belong to different schools of combat, the styles of which range from attack and defence to dodging and focusing. While all the schools have a good mix of abilities and a variety of dice that can be drafted through the use of their cards, their specialisation has an effect on the flow of gameplay. For example, the fire school focuses on dealing a lot of damage and thus allows players to primarily draft attack dice.
A five-card draft is really not a lot, especially as there are both strategic advantages and disadvantages to focusing too much on a particular school. However, this is also what makes each turn count and adds weight to every decision.
Players choose a weapon that can enhance the abilities of the cards they have just picked up previously. The final step of setup is to choose a guard, which provides players with a base set of dice to draft. These vary in their offensive and defensive capabilities depending on how aggressive players want to be and also affects the bonus they gain from their chosen weapon.
Only after this does the actual fighting takes place. With the right combination of techniques, weapon, a little luck of the roll and a couple of bonus tokens, a match can be over in just a few turns. If a player can strike their opponent five times or more undefended in one round, they win immediately. This is not the only path available to players, so if they want to methodically chip away at their opponent’s health over a series of turns, there is absolutely a card build that will sustain that type of gameplay as well. Even then, a match will not last more than 30 minutes.
Bushido proves that being quick and thoughtful do not have to be antithetical to each other. It may be easy to play, but the options and combos built into all elements of the game will take several plays to master and take advantage of their full potential. Whether you prefer that step-by-step carefully planned combat or one fast finishing blow, Bushido will let you fight the way you want to.
PLAY IT? – YES
Bushido hits hard and fast in a flurry of satisfying combos that can leave you in awe. It is easy to be Bushido’s fighter but hard to be its master.
Designer: Pedro Mendoza
Artist: Catalá, Myatt, Wope
Time: 20-30 minutes
This review originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.