The biggest surprise for me at Toy Fair was a preview of Samurai Battles from Russian publisher Zvezda. Samurai Battles is a board and miniatures war game scheduled to ship in May with two alternative rule sets. One is based on Art of Tactic, Zvezda’s own miniatures wargaming system, which it had previously applied to the WWII era. The other is a Commands & Colors system being developed by Richard Borg.

Zvezda asked me not to publish pictures (sorry about that but the show rules are explicit—no pictures without permission), however I can tell you that I liked what I saw. Individual sculpts were very nice, with dynamic poses. Not all figures in the same unit shared the same pose, making it look more like a traditional miniature war game than the previous Commands & Colors based boardgames. All the figures in a unit sit on a base. That is, they can stand separately but then have a space to sit on a larger base together. Those bases have some terrain features and are more naturally shaped than a square or hexagon. Also, some foot units, at least, appeared to have more than the C&C standard four figures.

According to Richard Borg, to whom Purple Pawn reached out after Toy Fair for comment, what makes Samurai Battles unique for a Commands & Colors game is that it is actually two games in one. Richard had to design the game within the constraints of the miniatures and terrain hexes that already existed.

I’ve published games for a very large number of publishers. It is one of the things I enjoy most about my job. Each company is a little different, with a different emphasis or requirements. These wrinkles add to the uniqueness of each company.

Samurai Battles uses the accumulation of honor to influence the game. Similar to BattleLore, with its system for lore, spending honor allows the use of certain cards to influence game play. In addition, whenever a unit loses figures or must retreat, it loses honor as well. If a player doesn’t have enough honor when forced to retreat, the consequences are dire and can spread to surrounding units.