Cheaper than a bag of Perry miniatures, more bang for your buck than a Legend of the Five Rings starter deck; Warbands: Bushido is a lightning-quick slice of Early Access turn-based multiplayer tactics. And it is素晴らしい*.
* bloody good gear.
Warbands: Bushido, a debut effort from Russian outfit Red Unit Studios, is a compact and laser-focused squad-based strategy set in medieval Japan. Players select a small mob of units, ranging from basic peasant ashigaru to scowling swordsmen of the military aristocracy, and fight similar bands in condensed arenas. Cards power special abilities and augments; extra attack chances, specific movement bonuses, random events and the like. It’s a clean, efficient set of tactical mechanics. Combat dice rolls, morale, armour value, agility and area of control; Red Unit have done a good job in effecting the feeling of peering over a flocked gameboard and taking a punt with your 35mm pewter.
Where Warbands: Bushido shines is in its unit and card collection. Much like a CCG or something like Heroclix and MechWarrior: Dark Age, it caters to the addiction-prone and the obsessive with soldier and card unlocks. Winning matches award a palmful of in-game loot, the likes of which can be used to purchase either card packs or soldier boxes. Given Warbands: Bushido’s obvious emulation of tabletop physicality — the units don’t so much animate ambulation as they do divine repositioning — breaking open a freshly-snagged box of warriors milks a hearty dollop of dopamine from the pleasure duct.
Once you’ve got a stable of stone-faced Samurai, you can customise their colours and set about configuring their associated card decks. It’s not an expansive selection per squad, and the unit point cap keeps things fairly intimate, but meat is very much on the bone. Every battle that nets a squad at least one kill nets cumulative experience for the members. Once units level, they receive automatic upgrades like increased movement.
Right now, it’s all multiplayer. And if a game cannot be found with a fleshy opponent, substitute AI will fill the void. Warbands: Bushido sports a featherweight tutorial that won’t answer much of the nitty-gritty, and some might be put off with the current lack of single player campaign. There are still a few niggles with bugs, and I’ve had a few curious lock-ups here and there. But the snappiness of a throw-down — we’re talking mere minutes — makes this another fine little late-night morsel for the time-poor and parentcore.
Cupertino tableteers, fear thee not. While currently only on PC (Mac and SteamOS to come), Warbands: Bushido is also destined for iOS, with cross-platform play between the aforementioned. 良か, as they say. I’ll take it.