Game Length: 45-90mins
The Grand Master of Wulin has mysteriously disappeared, throwing the Jianghu (realm) into chaos. Tensions are building between the leaders of the various sects that inhabit the Jianghu, as they vie to take the coveted title of Grand Master for themselves.
You take on the role of one sect leader. You must travel the Jianghu, train in order to improve your martial arts prowess and dual opponents in order to gain renown and improve your status.
There is quite a bit to set up for this game, not to mention a 40-page rule book to read through. Don’t let that put you off, it’s definitely worth it!
- Lay out the game board, placing the 5 sect guardian cards on the top row of the board (face up) and the 5 ‘Travel Jianghu’ cards on the bottom row (face down).
- Each player selects their sect and takes the corresponding card, marker and trained skill cards.
- Items cards are shuffled to form a deck next to the board.
- Each player is given six Qi tokens to represent their Life Force.
- Stratagem cards are shuffled, three dealt to each player and the rest of the deck placed next to the board.
- Reward cards are placed to the left of the tracker on the game board and markers for each of the sects in the game are placed onto the starting space of the tracker.
- Poison, Xie (Evil) and Win/Draw tokens are placed to one side until needed.
I’m going to give you a really general overview of how the game plays here, to give you a feel for it, but there is a lot more to it:
You are aiming to become the Grand Master of Wulin by increasing your renown. As you gain renown, you work your way across the board becoming an Adventurer, a Hero, a Legend and finally the Grand Master. At the point that one player reaches the end of the board, all remaining players have one turn to catch up and force a final battle, otherwise they are the outright winner.
Turns proceed as follows:
- Card Draw – Take an item and stratagem card and select one of the two to keep in your hand.
- Complete Training – Any training started on the previous turn in completed making the trained skill usable.
- Card Action – Players can play as many cards from their hand as they wish.
- Main Action – You have a choice of three main actions:
- Train a Skill – Choose one of your sects special skills and pay the Qi cost to start training.
- Dual another player – Take on an opponent in a dual to try and win renown.
- Travel the Jianghu – Visit the Sect Guardians or Wulin Masters or take your chances at visiting the other characters at inhabiting the Jianghu to gain rewards.
- End Turn – Discard to 3 items and 7 stratagems max and remove a Qi if you are poisoned.
Duelling other players is one of the best ways to gain renown. Trained skills are used to battle and so it’s a good idea to get a couple of these in place before making a challenge. Each character has a base ‘wugong’ (skill) score and each trained skill has a further score. Weapons and special artefacts also have wugong scores that can be used to duals.
A dual is made up of three rounds. For each round you secretly select cards to play before revealing and drawing a card from the item deck to attempt to boost your score. Obviously, the best score wins each round! After the three rounds the dual can either be a draw or there is an outright winner. Only winning a dual get you renown point and if you lose a dual you lose Qi points for every round lost.
Any player that beats you in a dual becomes your nemesis. This means that they can’t win renown from defeating you again until either forgive them or you turn the tables and beat them in another contest.
Other than duelling your opponents you can also gain renown through certain stratagem cards, finding the ‘Hero’s Meeting’ card in the Jianghu or by duelling wulin masters (although these tend to have a very high skill level so you need to be tough to win). It is key to explore all of these different avenues, particularly if you are playing the two-player game as the ‘nemesis dynamic’ prevents you gaining renown from beating the same player over and over.
You do not have to win the title of Grand Master in a virtuous fashion. If the opportunity arises you can gain an advantage by carrying out evil deeds (strategy cards showing the Xie [Evil] mark). Each time you use an evil strategy you gain a Xie token and once you have four tokens your character becomes ‘Evil Scum’. Once you have turned evil, many of the rules change and you must kill a virtuous player in order to win (it is not possible to kill another player in a dual unless you are ‘Evil Scum’).
As I said, there is a lot to learn here! However, the instructions are really well put together and the game is definitely worth the time it takes to learn. Although learning the game from the rule book is a lengthy process, the game is actually really easy to play once you know how. If you are graced with the advantage of being able to learn fist hand from someone who already knows what they are doing you will be up and running in no time.
This game was originally a kick-starter project and it is definitely of the high quality that we have learned to expect from such projects. The artwork is excellent and the design of everything down to the storage box is well thought through.
There are many different elements to the strategy of this game, which makes you want to play over and over to test different elements such as ‘how does the dynamic change when you turn evil scum?’ or ‘how do you actually get enough skill to defeat the Wulin Masters?’ Although the two-player game is enjoyable, the ‘nemesis’ factor that prevents frequent attacks on the same player, means that three players or more is a much more enjoyable concept.
The complexity of the game means that this isn’t one for youngsters – I would say 12+ at least. It will definitely appeal to anyone who likes heavily tactical games and the duelling element adds a great extra dynamic. This is definitely one that I’ll be getting out again and again!