25/11/2021

Mon: Emblems from Sengoku, a card game about clan symbols [Review]

Japanese culture has always been fascinating for me. Feudal Japan’s long history of struggle with all its samurai stories is interesting, no wonder many games have brought it up. Mon: Emblems from Sengoku depicts all the factions and mentions most of the prominent characters, bringing it into a 15-minute card game. Mon (紋, もん) means family crest, and it was borne with pride by the samurai during the 16th century’s Sengoku Jidai.

Disclaimer: I am an avid euro gamer and a hardcore Legend of the Five Rings LCG player. I am not a fan of solo game/variant. This statement will give you an overview of what kind of bias I might have while writing.

I couldn’t find any resource which could be more helpful to explain how to play Mon: Emblems from Sengoku than its BGG entry. They already added the rulebook into the file section, too. Please read it beforehand to understand what I’m actually writing here.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Mon: Emblems from Sengoku is a mini-game, stuffed inside a compact packaging. Besides the numbers printed on the card, they portray beautiful emblems and the historical names who bore it during the war, too. It never hurts to get accompanied by great artworks during gameplay. The names are purely for flavour purpose, and what matters for the game is just the set of numbers.

The first time I saw these numbers on the cards, I initially expected a trick-taking mechanic implemented. We have to admit, that mechanic has become popular recently.

We also have some game reviews with this implementation that may be interesting for you. Fortunately, Osami Okano decided to do something else with the game.

WHAT I LIKE FROM MON: EMBLEMS FROM SENGOKU

Games with small box capture my heart easily, and Mon: Emblems from Sengoku is not an exception. It saves storage at home and space when I travel. As mentioned, it is a mini-game, but you can host a ‘big’ gaming party with it. Thanks to its player count, I had fun with five other players easily with this game.

Does it belong to the party game category? Well, I don’t really think so. Definitely, players need to relay on luck a bit for the cards in hands and the ones they draw. However, it’s not a parlour game that you can play without involving any thoughts.

Surely, Mon: Emblems from Sengoku is not a strategy game. For me, the situation changes a tad too much on the board to plan something ahead. This game is more about deciding what’s the most efficient to do in the present situation with the cards in hands. Hence, to say that it’s a tactical kind of game is not too far-fetched.

A simple mechanic & SCORING

The game makes use of a straightforward one: the layering mechanic. With this simple mechanic, players layer a card on top of the other cards present on the table.

The layering is limited by some set of rules and implemented further with melding and splaying. This is the sole way to score points in Mon: Emblems from Sengoku.

Scoring depends on whether the numbers get sorted in ascending or descending order. It changes how points are calculated later on. It may sound elementary for some, but Studium Mundi really taught me to go back to the gaming basic: to be a good game, it doesn’t always have to be complex.

Simply put, players will play a card into one out of three possible colours. These cards make a line of number in either ascending or descending order. We don’t get the points directly after playing the cards, and it makes the game more interesting. The potential points and to whom it will be rewarded later are marked with the scoring token. But then again, they are just potential points. Not only we have to score the points from this line, we also have to defend from other players stealing the points we potentially make at the end of the game.

DESCENDING Layer to steal opponents’ potential point

Placing cards of higher numbers into the line provides more points at the end of the game. This mechanic potentially drives players to be greedy, but if not carefully executed, can cost them the points they have gathered for the scoring. As long as that lower card belongs to the range between the smallest and highest number in this order and colour, it can shift the order to descend. Another player can layer the last card with a lower number from that range.

When that happens, the points previously gathered from the ascending order do not count in the final scoring for the player who initially made that line. That’s what I meant with defending your potential points before.

Nevertheless, it is not an all-almighty mechanic that breaks the game. This descending order can also be continued by other players, as long as the requirements are fulfilled (the lower number still belongs to the range). The tweak is as follows: whoever places the last lower number cannot place another one on their following turns into that exact line. The player who lastly places the lowest number in this descending order will gain the point later on.

HIGH PLAYER COUNT

Up to six players can play Mon: Emblems of Sengoku, and the game has a nice way to scale the player count. The sweet spot is four players and above. It doesn't mean that duel and trio gaming are not fun, though. This is merely personal. More things happen on the board with more players, and it opens more possibilities during one session.

VERDICT

Mon: Emblems of Sengoku is a nice light game to have. If I need to say it honestly, it's something that you can tuck in between two separate sessions with more complex games. This is the one that you pick when you want a quick game. Thanks to its compact size, you can also bring it for your outdoor and travelling activities. If you want a new card game that rules out the trick-taking mechanic, Studium Mundi has something that may be interesting for you.

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