16 Oct 2013. Robinson Crusoe. The Cook (a player character) and Dog (a supporting character). I didn't think much about it when I took this photo. I just wanted to capture the artwork of the game. Some time later when I looked at this photo again, I thought, if this Cook is Chinese (like me) and is stranded on an island, and is starving, and there's a dog nearby...
17 Oct 2013. Another Chinese thing... based on the Chinese Zodiac, I was born in the Year of the Tiger. Chinese readers will probably immediately start calculating how old I am. This is a beast card from Robinson Crusoe.
For the next photo let's go a bit further east, to Japan.
21 Oct 2013. Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan. This was my fourth game, and I think Han's second. I played Tokugawa (black) this time, and Han played Ishida (gold), which he had not tried before. This was one very tense game. I felt my heart pounding, and my hands were almost trembling. In the early game, I had just the right cards so I quickly sent an army to besiege and immediately capture Ueda castle (six black blocks in the background on the right).
We had many battles. Many men died. In the east, Han's Uesugi army suffered an early loss, but new troops mustered there revived his eastern force. He defeated my Date army in the east, and became a threat in the east, which is typically dominated by Tokugawa. I was probably overly keen on battles and on killing Ishida himself. I sent a large Tokugawa army mustered in my capital of Edo (in the east) westwards to fight and to try to corner Ishida. This weakened defenses in Edo, and later Edo fell to Han's Uesugi army. This was bad, because it meant my eastern front had collapsed.
I did have successes in battles in the west, whittling down Han's Ishida armies. However three of Han's mustering locations were in the far west, so he was able to keep bringing in reinforcements. In hindsight, I should have put more focus on capturing and securing resource locations and castles (they are worth VP's, and also provide more cards / troops), as opposed to just focusing on battles and positioning for them. This is a game about economy and influence too, not just about battles. This was a valuable lesson to me.
The board situation near game end. My eastern front had collapsed and the east was dominated by Han's Ishida armies (gold). With so few armies remaining, it was hard to establish fronts and protect resource locations and castles. On Han's last turn (he was second player that round) he didn't even need to initiate battle anymore. He had the cards to recapture Ueda castle, which would secure his win by VP, and even if he hadn't, he could disperse his troops to capture enough undefended resource locations and castles to win.
Of the four games I have played, three were won by VP. Only one was won by one of the protagonists being killed in battle, and that game would have been won by VP too if I had not been careless. So far no game came near to Osaka being besieged, which is the 3rd victory condition. I wonder how often others experience this. It seems to be very difficult to achieve for the Tokugawa player. There seems to be little incentive too. If the Tokugawa players is doing well economically (i.e. in overall board position), there is no need to attack Osaka, especially considering the "free" Mori troops that will muster immediately there. Tokugawa would have to do quite well militarily for it to be feasible to attack Osaka, which is deep inside Ishida territory (three of four Ishida mustering locations nearby). If Tokugawa is doing well militarily, wouldn't he also be doing well in overall board position? In this most recent game, I did consider attacking Osaka, because my eastern front had fallen and it looked like VP victory was slipping beyond my reach. Killing Ishida or capturing Osaka would give me an instant win. But of course that's easier said than done. I wonder whether this fall of Osaka victory condition is just meant to pose a constant threat to the Ishida player. The Ishida player must be wary of it, and the Tokugawa player can always attempt it if the opportunity presents itself.