Reiner Knizia’s Sakura

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Every year the Emperor walks through the imperial gardens to greet the spring, every year he stops beneath the Sakura trees, and every year you try to paint his picture. This will be your year. Artists from near and far will step over their rivals to be closest to the Emperor as he reaches the cherry blossoms, hoping to paint a portrait that will please him. However, should one of t…
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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Easy to learn / teach
  • Brilliant simultaneous card play
  • All your plans can be dashed so easily and that is funny
  • Game is super quick and you will always want another go
  • More players equals more fun

Might Not Like

  • Cards have a strange finish and were initially stuck to each other
  • Board doesn’t sit perfectly flat on the table
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Description

Every year the Emperor walks through the imperial gardens to greet the spring, every year he stops beneath the Sakura trees, and every year you try to paint his picture. This will be your year. Artists from near and far will step over their rivals to be closest to the Emperor as he reaches the cherry blossoms, hoping to paint a portrait that will please him. However, should one of them accidentally bump into the Emperor, they would be sure to earn his ire!

Sakura is a light tactical game of pushing your luck, and pushing your friends. Each player will simultaneously decide how far to move both their character and the Emperor. The player closest to the Emperor when the Cherry Blossoms are reached will gain a huge amount of prestige, but if you push too far you risk bumping into the Emperor and walking away in disgrace.

The story premise of Reiner Knizia’s Sakura from Osprey Games…

You must paint the best picture of the Emperor as he walks around the cherry blossoms in bloom. To do so it is best to be as close to the Emperor as possible as he approaches the trees but oh no watch out you have walked right into him. He is furious and he scolds you so you step away and lose some of his favour. To gain more favour you will have to be brave and get closer than your fellow artists and paint the best picture, just make sure you don’t bump into him again.

That is the story premise of Reiner Knizia’s Sakura from Osprey Games for this simultaneous card and movement game for two to six players. So does the game earn the favour of the Emperor or should it be banished from the forbidden city? Read on to find out.

Bump

Let’s get the negative stuff out of the way first. The cards are made / finished with a strange material and arrived stuck together. I had to pry each card apart from its neighbour. After a few plays this seems to have rectified itself and the cards no longer refuse to be shuffled. The main board on the other hand is a little bit of a pain as due to the way it is folded it doesn’t sit completely flat against the table. It is getting better over time but very slowly.

That is all of the negative feelings about the game out of the way now let me tell you why you should buy this game.

Line Up

Fun. Sakura is fun. It is so simple in its gameplay and so easy to teach that I can have new players fully engaged and playing within a few minutes. You have a player pawn that moves forward and backwards as you try to get it closest to the Emperor who is also moving forwards and backwards. Controlling everyone’s movements are a deck of 60 cards each numbered 1 through to 60 which represents their order number (lowest numbers go first). Also on each card are two instructions which either provide movement to the Emperor, the player closest to or furthest from the Emperor as well as your own pawn.

At the beginning of the game each player is dealt five cards and then everyone simultaneously chooses and reveals a card. Then in turn order (lowest card to highest) each card is resolved. This is where the hilarity begins. Players will be moving backwards and forwards all jostling to get closest to the Emperor but desperately trying not to bump into him. But the Emperor is fickle and will sometimes move backwards and walk into the painter closest to him. Whenever you bump into the Emperor (either through your movement or his) you will lose one of your five starting favours and will be sent backwards three open spaces.

After each turn players will be dealt another card and the game will continue like this until the Emperor reaches the first blossoming cherry tree. At this point he will immediately stop and all cards not played that turn will be dismissed. New favour tokens are dealt out according to how close your pawn is to the Emperor with the closest receiving three favours, second closest two, and third receiving one (in a five or six player game fourth closest also receives one favour). The game carries on for two more cherry trees (the final tree provides more points) and then the winner at the end of the game is the player with the most favours including their original starting ones.

Player Count

There is no doubt this game gets funnier the more players there are. As you increase player numbers you will lose more and more control over how the Emperor will move and you can be in a completely different position to what you were expecting by the time it comes for your card to be resolved that you can’t help but walk straight into him. But it doesn’t matter as the game is so fast and everyone is in the same position.

But don’t let that put you off buying this game if there are only a few of you who will play it as the game includes a very simple dummy player mode for two players. You place another pawn at the beginning of the game and you reveal the top card of the deck as their choice of card. You resolve this in turn order and whenever they have a choice of moving a player / Emperor forwards or backwards they move them forwards. This makes for a more tactical game as you have more control but there is still enough randomness to keep you on your toes.

Final Thoughts

This is a fun, lightweight game with pretty artwork, some nice components (player pawns and favour tokens), some not so nice components (already mentioned cards and board) and a great theme. I would happily recommend it to almost all gaming groups or types of players as it is so easy to play and will get everyone smiling within a few minutes.

So go and get as close to the Emperor as you dare just don’t bump into him.

That concludes our thoughts on Sakura. Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts and tag us on social media @zatugames. To buy Sakura today click here!

Reiner Knizia’s Sakura is a brilliant simultaneous card selection game published by Osprey Games. Your goal is to be as close to the emperor as possible as he approaches the blossoming cherry trees so you can paint the best picture. But don’t get too close otherwise you will bump into him and lose some of your points.

I have written this how to play to help keep you ahead of your competitors (but still behind the emperor).

Set Up

Place the board on the table and place the emperor on the dark grey space after the first bridge. Each player takes a painter and their 5 matching points tokens. The painters are placed at the entrance of the garden in the same shared space (this is the only time the painters can share a space). Shuffle the cards and deal each player 5 cards (which they must keep a secret from each other). Place the general points tokens in a supply next to the board. You are now ready to follow the emperor.

What Do The Cards Do

The cards of Sakura have three important pieces of information on all of them. The most important is the order number which is found on the bottom left of the card. This game is a simultaneous card game which means all players will choose one card from their hand and reveal them at the same time. Then turn order of how the cards will be dealt with starts from the lowest card order number and works its way up.

Above the order number are two instructions for the painters and emperor to walk forward, backwards, jump ahead of another painter or move forward as many spaces as there are painters ahead. When following the instructions you carry out the top one before starting the bottom one.

This game is all about timing your movement against what you think your competitors will do and trying to outsmart everyone else around the table (keep in mind you will still need some luck on your side).

Let’s Play

All players look at their hand of 5 cards and choose one to play. This is done simultaneously. The player with the lowest order number plays their card first and carries out the instructions on the card. At the beginning of the game it is important to note that none of the painters are in front or behind so neither the green or red triangle have an effect yet.

The different Sakura instructions are-

  • Yellow Box with a Number & +/- means to move the emperor forward or backwards the number of spaces
  • Green Triangle with -2 means to move the painter who is closest to the emperor backwards two spaces
  • Red Triangle with a +2 means to move the painter who is furthest from the emperor two spaces forward
  • Purple circle with a +/- 1, 2, or 3 means move your painter the number of spaces and direction
  • Purple circle with an leaping arrow means to move your painter ahead of the next painter
  • Purple circle with a +painter (pawn) means to move your painter forward the same number of spaces as there are other painters ahead of them
  • A + always means move your painter / the emperor towards the end of the garden, whereas a – means move them back towards the start of the garden.

Each space can only ever be occupied by one person or the emperor. So if your card says you must move ahead of the next player but someone already occupies that space you would move to the next available free space. In addition, any card that says to move a certain number of spaces means to move that many empty spaces.

The emperor is always in the lead and if ever a painter bumps into him (or the emperor walks backwards into a painter) that painter must lose one of their point tokens and move backwards 3 spaces due to their shame.

After all of the players have completed the instructions on their cards new ones are dealt bringing everyone’s hand of cards up to 5 and play continues. If you ever run out of cards shuffle the previously played cards into a new draw pile.

Points & Paintings

There are three blossoming cherry trees in the garden and as soon as the emperor reaches one of the allocated spaces (dark grey stone with blossom on it) he stops to admire the tree and the round immediately ends. No more movement can occur this round and all cards currently in play are discarded (therefore the painters also stop moving).

Award the player closest to the emperor in Sakura 3 points for the first two trees, then second place gets 2 points, third place gets 1 point. In a 5 or 6 player game you also award the player in fourth place 1 point. All of these points are taken from the general supply. The final tree awards 4 points for the painter closest to the emperor.

As soon as the points have been allocated at each tree move the painters so they are lined up (each on one stone each) behind the lead painter.

At the final tree you tally everyone’s points and the player with the most points wins. Ties are broken by the winning player closest to the emperor.

Special Mentions

In a game with 2, 3 or 4 players the bridges only count as 1 space and therefore only the emperor or 1 painter can be standing on a bridge at any one time. If you are playing with 5 or 6 players the bridges now accommodate 3 painters or the emperor and 2 painters.

If ever a player should go backwards but would fall off the board they must always stop at the gate (the starting location). The emperor can never be further back than the first space after the gate.

Two Player Variant

When playing with only two players you add a ‘dummy’ painter (called a court painter). Each round after both players have revealed their card you turn over the top card from the deck to represent the court painters choice. You then carry out the instructions of all of the cards in the normal way (working out turn order first) but if ever the court painter has a choice between moving themselves or the emperor forwards or backwards they always choose forwards.

Tricky Two Player Variant

Instead you can play where the player furthest from the emperor controls the court painter by playing two cards from their hand. Once again the court painter always chooses forwards if given the option. Obviously the control of court painter will change over the course of a game and whenever a player okays two cards they must draw two (instead of the usual one at the end of the turn)

Conclusion

I hope this has helped you to learn the rules and how Reiner Knizia’s Sakura plays. Obviously I would always recommend people use the official rule book to learn the rules in depth but this blog should give you a really good flavour of how the game flows.

I really enjoy the game and if you want to find me on twitter to discuss how brilliant Reiner Knizia’s Sakura is please do @boardgamehappy.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Easy to learn / teach
  • Brilliant simultaneous card play
  • All your plans can be dashed so easily and that is funny
  • Game is super quick and you will always want another go
  • More players equals more fun

Might not like

  • Cards have a strange finish and were initially stuck to each other
  • Board doesnt sit perfectly flat on the table