A board game
by WhySpire Games, a company based in Florida. Tenjo is a very abstract simulation
of warfare in feudal Japan
. It comes on strong from the get-go - it's very beautiful, even when it's still in its big, imposing
black-and-red box. Once its five-foot-square board is opened out, it will attract stares if played at a convention or larger game group
. In play, it looks like something the Emperor would hang on his wall. A tangled web of ochre waypoints and paths knits together thirteen white-bordered provinces. The outer provinces house castles, in the form of fat, broad white four-pointed stars.
The most common things on the board are Samurai chips, round cardboard tokens in four colors. They have holes in the middle so you can rack them up on the (included) nice beige plastic racks, and so you can make sure you're centered on the board's waypoints. These are your armies, your grunts. To give you some idea of the scale this game is played on, the smallest denomination of Samurai chip is 1,000 warriors. It goes up to 25,000. Hell, if you wanted to get serious, you could stop and turn to your computer every time you had a combat turn in Tenjo, and play it out in Shogun: Total War.
Your Samurai are dependent on your Daimyo - generals and leaders, represented on the board by emblems on slender three-inch-high plastic stands. Samurai can't move or attack in a province without their Daimyo, and Daimyo can't move into a new province unsupported by Samurai. This gives the game a tense rhythm. Your Daimyo can only move into a new province when a stack of your Samurai is sitting directly on the border - where they are considered to be in both provinces.
You can ally with other players, and they can support your Daimyo through their province, or join you in an attack. However, you can only lend this form of support to a player if you have one of their Family cards in one of your castles. Each player starts the game with three Family in their own castle - one Wife, one Son, one Daughter. Yes, to get any help from anyone, you must give them a hostage.
You can probably already see that this will not be over in an hour - even before I tell you about the yearly income from the resource sites (which are only located in the one central province), the management of income and special cards, the Fate cards every year, et cetera. In fact, with the winning condition as written, the game could theoretically never be over. It reads: "If you achieve military dominance at any time during the game, you can declare yourself Shogun. If all other players agree, you are Shogun and have won the game, If any players do not agree, the game continues. The opposing players must be convinced by force!" (Italics and exclamation point in the original.) This noder strongly suggests that you choose a fixed number of years before beginning, and then use the scoring system, but still: you've got to respect that.
Although it's a small press (and expensive) affair, Tenjo is highly recommended for those interested in serious multiplayer board games - say, those who'd like to take a step up from Risk, but aren't quite ready for the out-of-control complexity and time investment of something like Diplomacy or, God forbid, Civilization. Details are of course available at www.tenjo.com.