Thoughts on: Shitenno

Posted by James (admin) on October 7th, 2012

Recently, I reviewed Shitenno and mentioned I thought it would work well as a 2-player game.  Since then, I had the chance to try this out and I’m pleased to say it does work well with 2 players as there are fewer combinations of cards and outcomes to try to consider so you can make a more informed decision.  Rather than having to make one offer of cards at a time, with two players it is a simple one-player-splits-whilst-the-other-chooses process.

Compared to the 4-player game, I found I could better work out which cards I wanted, plus I had more insight into which cards I didn’t want my opponent to have too.  Even with this knowledge, creating a balanced offer of cards/role so that my opponent didn’t automatically take the offer I that really wanted still remained enjoyably difficult.  Also, selecting which role is offered with each group of cards is made more interesting because the person making the offer only uses 2 of the 4 roles each turn – in fact, I think I had more difficulty choosing which roles to offer than splitting the cards (in a good way as it was an interesting choice to make).

The inherent downside to a directly competitive 2-player game is that what you lose the other player gains and vice versa (a kind of ‘tug-of’war’ play pattern), and you only need to watch a single opponent.  I was thinking that an invisible 3rd player would be good to make things a bit more ‘lumpy’ – I’ve noticed over the years, I like an invisible 3rd player in 2-player game (Alhambra was my first experience of it) but just so long as it is slightly predictable and not purely random.  If it’s totally random, one player can suffer through no fault of their own just because they had no way to include the 3rd player’s actions into their plans, and this unbalances the game.

For example, in Shitenno, the cards being split between the players would remain the same but the invisible 3rd player would be dealt two or three visible troop/money cards at the start of a round (before the splitting and choosing) for both players to see.  After players claim their cards, the 3rd player is dealt one or two more cards and then claims the location where they will score the most points.  If there are no locations to claim they get one more card and try again.  If there are several possible locations they could claim, then a tie-break system is used such as first they claim the location that scores the most points, then the one where they would have control of that area, then the one where they have a control marker already, etc.  This sort of system means players have some knowledge about the 3rd player’s potential targets on their own turn which allows them to make informed decisions (which is something I feel is critical to all good games).  Potentially, players could also give one of their cards to the 3rd player to try and ensure they interfere with their opponent (like in Alhambra).

Anyway, invisible 3rd player thoughts aside, Shitenno works well as 2-player game – it plays very quickly and is an enjoyably tactical affair.


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