An eight-page comic strip at the start of the instruction manual illustrates the background story for the game. This is the age of Sakura and you are a Mikoto – a human with the ability to call on the powers of a Megami, in order to battle your foe. Megami are supernatural warriors that dwell in the Sakura tree and are linked to you by the Sakura petals planted on your hands.
This is a two player battle-style game, which uses a combination of card-game play and strategic piece (petals) placement in order for you defeat your opponent.
You start the game by selecting two Megami to play with, from a selection of seven. Each Megami has two sets of cards with it – special cards and normal cards. From these cards you need to select yourself a deck to play with, that consists of seven normal cards and three special cards. These cards have one of three main abilities:
- Attack card – Used to do damage to your opponent.
- Action cards – Used to move petals round the board to gain a tactical advantage.
- Enhancement cards – Used to give you an added ability for a set number of turns.
It is best, in the long run, to ensure that your deck has a variety of these cards, but you can balance it in favour of attacking or defensive play to any degree you want – the more you play and get to know the cards, the better you will become at this.
In the rule book there is a recommended set-up for your first game, that dictates which Megami to play with and which of their cards to select. I highly recommend that you follow these guidelines as it’s what we used and it really did help us get to grips with the game. As one of the selected decks is attack focused and one is more defensive, I suggest you play a game with each of these decks before you move on and select your own.
You also need to set up the game boards, which interlink and contain five key area that your Sakura petal pieces will move between:
- Life – Starts containing 8 Sakura petals.
- Aura – Starts containing 5 Sakura petals.
- Flare – Contains no Sakura petals at the start of the game.
- Shadow – Contains no Sakura petals at the start of the game.
- Distance – This is a track between the two players sides of the board and starts as a line of ten petals. This indicates that the distance between the opponents is ten. This will vary throughout the game and will dictate what attacks you can use.
This is a pretty complex game with many different elements involved. I am not going to talk about every single one here. The purpose of this article is merely to give you an overview of game play rather than full instruction on how to play, so I am just going to talk about the main elements and give some tactical pointers that you might find useful.
Players take turns to take cards, play attack cards or make strategic movements of petals between the five areas of the board named above. There is a cost to each movement so your opportunities are limited so you need to think carefully about what moves to make and when. Here is a general overview of movement you may make and why:
- Move petals from Distance to Aura and vice versa – Doing this changes the distance between you and your opponent, so you are likely to want to do this to allow you to use different attacks. You may also use this action purely to get more petals into your aura.
- Move petals from Shadow to Aura – Petals have no value whilst in the Shadow so getting them back into your Aura can be beneficial as your Aura is basically your shield from damage and therefore the more petals in there the better.
- Move petals from Aura to Flare – Flare petals are used to pay for the use of Special cards. You will accumulate petals in your Flare through the game as any lost Life petals go into here. But you may want to top them up by moving Aura petals across to ensure you have enough to pay the specific cost for a particular Special card you want to use.
- Move petals from Flare to Shadow – In all honesty, I haven’t used this move at all whilst playing. The only potential reason I can see for doing it would be to get petals to your shadow in readiness to move them on to your Aura on a later turn.
Also, throughout the game, petals will be moved round the board when you take damage to one or both of two areas:
- Aura Damage: Tactically it is best to take damage to your Aura if you can, as the petals in this area can be replenished. Any petals lost from this area are moved into your shadow.
- Life Damage: If there are not enough petals in you Aura, or you don’t want to take damage there for a tactical reason, then you will need to take damage from your life. There is no way to replenish your Life and once this is down to zero you lose the game. Any petals lost from this area are moved to your Flare, so the up side of taking damage to Life is that these petals can then be used to pay for use of Special cards, which are the most powerful.
Here are a few tactical lessons I learned from our first few games:
- As I mentioned before, take damage to Aura as much as you can, and then replenish it on your next turn.
- Either Vigor or disposing of cards can be used to pay for actions. You gain Vigor at the start of each turn, but you can’t have more than two. So tactically it is best to make sure that you use this, if not every turn, at least once it reaches two.
- Make sure you are aware of the special power of your Megami – we forgot about this for our first few games, but found it useful once we remembered it was there!
- As your opponent is cycling through only 7 cards, get to know what cards they have and how powerful they are. That way you can choose to take damage from their weaker cards and save your Reaction cards (those that allow you to defend against an attack) for when they use their more powerful attacks.
- If you are really on the ball you can make a mental note of the distance required for their more powerful weapons so that you can try and take actions to try an avoid the distance reaching that value.
We really enjoyed the first few games that we played of this and we were using the recommended start up decks which did not include enhancement cards. I am really excited about going on to involved these cards, the additional rules for experienced players (detailed in the rule book) and then look at selecting different Megami and experimenting with different decks.
There is so much variety here, that I think it will give many hours of exciting play going forward. There are also three different expansions that each add two additional Megami for you to choose from.
I’ll be completely honest, when I first set this game up and went through the rules I was baffled and really didn’t get it. I looked for instructional videos on YouTube and could only find two in English, neither of which was very helpful (and one was done by a man with no top on, which was hugely distracting and not in a good way). But I persevered, re-read the rules and we ended up figuring it out as we played. It only took a few games before I got to grips with it and fell in love with this game.
I have previously played card fighting games, but found this much more enjoyable than those I’ve played before because of the petal movement, strategic element. This means the game isn’t just dependent on building a good deck, but also on understanding the gameplay, developing good strategy and analyzing your opponent’s play.
The graphics, as you can see from the box are awesome, and a real selling point for this game.
The only down-side to this game is that the set only contains the exact number of ‘Sakura petal’ pieces you need to set up the game. This means that if you happen to lose one or more pieces you have no replacements.
I would definitely recommend this game to anyone who is a big fan of two player battle style games. Also, if you love strategy heavy games, but usually only have one person to play with, then this game is perfect for you. With variation in the characters in the original set, as well as available expansions this game also offers a lot of variation and longevity.