Help Jack Battle Aku in Samurai Jack: Back to the PastAugust 29, 2018
Samurai Jack: Back to the Past puts players in the struggle at the heart of the hit animated series. Take on the role of Ashi, Monkey Man, Scotsman, Max, or Sir Rothchild and help Jack return home … or watch Aku, the shape-shifting Master of Darkness, slowly drive him insane in this game inspired by the final season of Samurai Jack.
Players try to gain the most honor by collecting cards representing allies, weapons, and traits to defeat Aku and the villains, and return Jack to his home in feudal Japan. You’ll use movement cards to make your way along the path and use your cards to battle against the villains.
The path is made up of groups of tiles randomly distributed before each of the three rounds, with a villain placed at the end of the path. Players choose a character and get five movement cards that correspond to each of the tile types (desert, jungle, ruins, city, and field).
Jack is the first to move, so you’ll draw from the Jack/Aku movement deck and place him on the designated tile.
Next, players choose their movement then reveal the cards simultaneously. Beginning with the player furthest back on the path, everyone moves their character to their chosen tile. Each tile only holds three characters; if no spaces are available, then you’ll move to an open space in the next available tile.
Movement cards are not returned to your hand until you’ve either played all of your cards or you land on your home location as indicated by your character’s card.
After everyone’s moved, draw another card from the Jack/Aku deck and move Aku. If Jack isn’t on the same tile as another player, then he loses one point of sanity. If Jack’s sanity hits zero, then everybody loses.
Finally, resolve actions. Players may take a card from their designated area. So, if Ashi is on the Ruins then she may take a card that’s on the Ruins space. If a player is on the same tile as Jack, then they receive one honor and have the option to draw from the deck instead.
When players reach the villain at the end of the path, they battle by exchanging their collected cards for honor tokens.
Reset the tiles for round two and three; however, at the end of round three, players will battle Aku, who requires more support cards to be defeated. The player with the most honor tokens wins.
Samurai Jack: Back to the Past is a game that draws some inspiration from the classic Antoine Bauza title, Tokaido. The set collection and last-player-moves-first mechanisms will feel familiar to regular gamers while the ease-of-play will appeal to fans of the show who haven’t taken the dive into modern board gaming.
The semi-cooperative nature of game play works well here. While players are competing against each other, they need to ensure Jack’s sanity or else nobody wins. To battle villains and Aku, they form a plan to easily defeat their foes by ensuring tiles have open spots so they can draw the cards they need.
USAopoly has created an impressive-looking game here, with the pre-painted miniatures being the highlight. The card and tile artwork also evoke the show’s dystopian retro/future atmosphere. It’s not meant to be a deep and immersive re-creation of the show, but a gateway-style game for Samurai Jack fans, with just enough gamer-y features to engage more seasoned players.
Our thanks to USAopoly for the review copy of Samurai Jack: Back to the Past.