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Raine's been gaming for as long as he can remember. It all started back with his video gaming roots, and as he got older he transitioned into tabletop. A lover of all games, some of his favorites include Pathfinder, Battlestar Galactica, Magic: the Gathering, D&D Attack Wing, Regnum Angelica, and Warmachine/Hordes. Raine's been writing for many years, and loves being a part of the gaming industry.

Written Review – Shitenno

Shitenno Box

The four greatest Generals known under the legendary Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu are known as Shitenno. Ieyasu finally unified Japan at the end of the 16th century, and now his influence can be spread throughout the country. In Shitenno, players take the role of these mighty Generals as they work to gain the favor of the Shogun himself. Battles are fought, not on the battlefield, but rather through strategic manipulation and planning within the Shogun’s walls. Through the course of odd and even years, players will take turns earning pieces of the Shogun’s wealth and using that wealth to spread their influence over the provinces of feudal Japan in its golden age. The General who spreads his influence wisely will gain the favor of the Shogun and come out as the winner.

Shitenno Stats

Out of the Box/Components:

  • 1 game board
  • 24 Koku cards
  • 34 Troop cards
  • 4 Shitenno cards
  • 4 Hierarchy tiles
  • 4 Title tiles
  • 24 Bonus tiles
  • 48 Kamon tokens
  • 4 score kamons
  • 1 rulebook in French, English & German


Shitenno plays differently depending on how many players are taking part. During setup, the board is placed in the middle of the table as always. Of the Bonus tiles, place three tiles, Troop face up, on the Gate of each Province on the board. These represent one of the Troop types a player needs in order to take control of the Province, which we’ll get into in a bit. The cards are divided according to their type (Koku, Troops), shuffled, and placed face down on their corresponding areas on the game board.

Shitenno Cards

Koku and Troop cards.

Each player then chooses a general they want to play. Each General has his own color, but aside from that they don’t offer anything unique to the gameplay. Once the General is chosen, the player takes all of the corresponding tokens, along with the card, matching the General’s color. The score Kamon is placed on the 0 square at the beginning of the score track on the game board. He then takes control Kamons for his stock according to how many players are joining:

  • 2 Players – 12 control Kamons per player
  • 3 Players – 10 control Kamons per player
  • 4 Players – 8 control Kamons per player
Shitenno card and control Kamons.

Shitenno card and control Kamons.

These Kamons will be placed later in gameplay to show influence in a Province. The remaining Kamons are placed back in the box. Then, deal randomly a Title tile and 2 Troop cards to each player. The players place their Title Tile and Shitenno card in front of them, and take their 2 Troop cards into their hand. Now the game is ready to begin!

Shitenno Setup

Game setup is complete!

Playing the Game

Gameplay in Shitenno consists of rounds that are broken into two parts: the Odd Year and the Even Year. Different things happen depending on what year it is, and after both an Odd and Even Year a new round starts. The goal of Shitenno is to take over Provinces and earn favor points. The player with the most favor points at the end of the game earns the favor of the Shogun and becomes the winner.

Even Year – The Sharing

Each Title tile has a different number of red symbols on it that are called Bakufu Seals. These seals determine the rank of the Title. The player with the highest Title Tile – the one with the most Bakufu Seals – becomes the Tairo. He takes Troop and Koku cards according to the number of players and spreads them out face up in front of him.

Number of Players

Troop Cards

Koku Cards










Shitenno Offer Pile

From these cards/titles, the Tairo makes and offers a lot.

Once the correct amount of cards have been drawn, the Tairo takes the 4 Heirarchy Tiles in his hand. With all of the cards and tiles he has taken, the Tairo then forms a deck that contains as many cards as he wishes, along with one Heirarchy Tile. He offers this lot to the player with the next Title in the Heirarchy (the player with the tile that has the next-highest amount of Bakufu Seals). This player can either take the lot and accept the cards given, or refuse the lot, which then gets offered to the next player. This player can then either take the lot or refuse it. When a lot is accepted, the Tairo makes another lot consisting of however many cards he wishes along with a Heirarchy Tile, and offers it to the next player in the Heirarchy that hasn’t yet taken a lot. If a lot gets offered and each player refuses it, the Tairo is forced to take the lot for himself. Then the next player in the Heirarchy who has yet to receive a lot becomes the new Tiaro, and the sharing continues with the rest of the cards and tiles available.

Shitenno Offer

And example of an offered lot. I’d take it!

In a 2-player game, or when there are only 2 players left without a lot, the Tairo forms 2 different lots with the cards and tiles left. The second player, who is not the Tairo, takes the lot he prefers and the Tairo takes the lot that is left. This leaves every player with a lot of cards and a Heirarchy Tile. Based on the Heirarchy Tile received through sharing, players take the corresponding Title Tiles and the Even Year has ended.

Odd Year – Control of Provinces

During the Odd Year the Shitenno take turns placing either 0, 1, or 2 of their control Kamons, simple (black) face up, on the board to take control of Provinces and earn favor points. The first player to act is determined by the Titles earned through the sharing during the previous year. In order to place a control Kamon on a Province, a player must for each Province:

  • Either discard Troop cards corresponding to the Troops shown at the targeted province. These Troops match those showing at this Province and on the top most Bonus tile. (This is the reason for placing Bonus Tiles Troop face up on the Gate.)
  • Or discard Koku cards with a total value that is equal to or greater than the number shown on the first free position at the Province (the most on the left).
Shitenno Claiming Province

This player plays Troop cards to take control of this Province, and places one of his control Kamons.

After meeting these conditions, the player places one of his control Kamons on the first free position at the Province. The number on the free position corresponds to how many favor points the player immediately receives for placing his Kamon. This player then moves his score Kamon the correct number of spaces, plus any extra for having either the Daimyo or Shomyo Title. He takes the top most bonus tile from the stack on the Province, unless there aren’t any. He is then free to place another control Kamon either in the same Province or another, following the previous conditions. Each player may only take control of up to 2 Provinces, be them the same or different.

Bonus Tiles

Shitenno Bonus Tiles

Sweet Bonus Tiles! Pictured is +1, Exchange, Draw, and +1.

When taking control of Provinces, players earn Bonus Tiles. These tiles allow flexibility for the player to do different things on their turn. Effects of these tiles are:

  • Exchange – Changes a Koku or single Troop into a Troop of your choice, or changes a Troop to a Koku.
  • +1 – Adds one extra Troop of the same type of Troop played, or adds 1 to the value of a Koku card being played.
  • Draw – Allows you to immediately draw one card from the Troop deck at any time during your turn.


Shitenno Title Tiles

Heirarchy and Title Tiles, in descending order.

Each of the Heirarchy Tiles offers players with a different title. These titles have bonuses that take effect at different parts of the turn. The effects of the Heirarchy Tiles are:

  • Daimyo – When a player with the Daimyo title places a control Kamon, he immediately scores 2 extra favor points. This allows for a total of 4 bonus favor points per turn.
  • Shomyo – When a player with the Shomyo title places a control Kamon, he immediately scores 1 extra favor point. This allows for a total of 2 bonus favor points per turn.
  • Sensei – A player with the Sensei title may, after placing his control Kamons for the turn, flip one of them over on its golden face. Kamons on this face count as two Kamons for the purpose for contesting a province.
  • Hatamoto – A player with the Hatamoto title can use the title to replace one Troop card while taking control of a Province.

End of the Game

The game ends at the end of an Odd Year if one of these conditions is met:

  • A player does not have any control Kamons left to place.
  • The Koku deck runs out.
Control Kamons are placed, and it's time for final scoring!

Control Kamons are placed, and it’s time for final scoring!

At the end of the game players start the final scoring. Each player takes the current place they are on the favor point track and adds points earned through these two ways:

  • 1 point per Koku left in the player’s hand. Bonus tiles can be used to trade Troops for Koku at this point.
  • 6 points per Province in which he has the most control Kamons. Kamons turned on their golden face count as two for this purpose. In the case of a tie, the player who placed his Kamon on the left most space takes the points.

The player with the most favor points after final scoring is the winner!

The Verdict

I was surprised with Shitenno. At first the rulebook makes the game look really daunting, but once you get in a game and get things down-pat it becomes a breeze to setup and play. What’s even better, the game is real easy to teach to new players too, once you’ve played a couple of times. I think the game sits best with 3 players because it still plays quickly, but one of the titles won’t be used throughout the turns so it adds an element of difficulty to the game. On top of this, playing with 3 players sort of forces pressure on the Tairo, which makes offering out lots more exciting.

Though the components of the game are many, they’re of great quality. One thing I don’t think is terribly needed is the Shitenno card that shows which General you are, but I can see that it helps for the overall theme of the game. That brings me to the artwork in the game, which is glorious. As a fan of feudal Japan-themed anything, the artwork for Shitenno is spot-on. Vincent Dutrait has done some phenomenal work with both the game board and the art for the rulebook. With vivid colors, splashes of highlights, and attention to detail, the artwork in Shitenno helps make this game stand out from the crowd.

I really love the artwork in Shitenno.

I really love the artwork in Shitenno.

After playing the game I can see that this could easily be overlooked, but it shouldn’t. The game may not feature direct player combat interaction, but the intensity is there during both Even and Odd years. I felt the animosity as I offered the other players lots that I hoped they’d pass on just I could get what I needed. It utterly disappointed me when a lot was offered that the player before me took so I couldn’t grab it. Placement was crucial to where I put my Kamons, because this is a game where you have to think ahead – you can’t just play to whims. Being a Shitenno takes strategy, and a tactical frame of mind.

One of the more defining factors about Shitenno is its replayability. The game never turns out the same, no matter how many players you’ve got. Each player attacks the game differently, and with the Heirarchy tiles going out randomly, your first turn could be in the hands of someone else. It could be up to another player to deliver you the cards you need to place your first two Kamons to get ahead of the game. If you’re not given what you need you just may well be left sitting enjoying the Cherry Blossoms as they fall in the Shogun’s court.

Shitenno Received Offer

For players who are into tactical strategy games, I think Shitenno is right up your alley. Those players who favor head-to-head combat might want to stray away from this one, however. The game comes in at around $40 MSRP, so it’s not a small purchase. I do think that if you can find the game on sale it would make a great addition to your shelf, especially when you want to outwit and manipulate your friends!

This is definitely worth picking up!

This is definitely worth picking up!


The Good

  • Outstanding artwork
  • Original and unique theme
  • Interesting and fun mechanics
  • Options make for intense strategy and manipulation of other players

The Bad

  • Rulebook is a bit confusing
  • Components each have their own name which offers a small learning curve
  • Depending on other players can be wonky


Thanks to Game Salute and Ludonaute for providing a copy of Shitenno for review!

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  1. Today in Board Games – Issue #36 - September 3, 2013

    […] Shitenno (Initiative: Tabletop) […]

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