Warriors of Jogu: Feint is a card duel game that defies expectations by emphasizing bluffing your opponent instead of overpowering them. Each player picks one of five factions which contain 40 cards in a pre-built deck.
Stand Out Mechanics
While Warriors of Jogu shares the card duel game genre, it stands on its own with several new and unique mechanisms.
Hidden Information: The actual "duel" section of the game happens in a gameplay round after players have played all cards they want in their hand. Where the fighting will actually happen is on battlefields. Generally, this will be two battlefields, one player holds the A battlefield, and one player holds the B battlefield. This makes priority one attempting to determine which battlefield your opponent is holding (and your speed at determining this will likely determine if you win the round or not.)
Each faction has their own methodology towards extracting or hiding this information. The Gang of Mibits (a motley assortment of small woodland animals) can quickly move the bulk of their forces to a new battleground on their last turn, while the Guards of Keion can actually change the battlefields dynamically as the round plays out.
This game of cat and mouse makes picking which cards to play when interesting and thoughtful.
Incredibly Varied Factions: As mentioned above, each faction has its own strategies towards winning a round. The Tribe Wu faction can restore Morale (effectively your health) to make playing incredibly risky cards (if you lose on a round, you lose the Morale cost for the card) more viable. The League of Agents actively attacks your opponent's hands thinning their opportunities to play effective cards, which has potential to blow up an opponent's strategy mid-round. Meanwhile, the League of Engineers takes a less-tricky approach, deploying Engineers which precede massive Turrets that can completely change the outlook on a Battlefield.
Strategy Shaping: The strategies you can employ change on the cards actually sitting in your hand. At the beginning of each round, you can take a mulligan at the beginning of each round to get cards to better fit your anticipated strategy. The cost of the mulligan is that you only have 40 cards in your deck, so if you discard too many, you could run out of cards before the end of game and lose. Each faction has between 5 and 6 cards in their deck, so there is a chance you are missing the one card you need to execute your strategy, and if that's the case you can go digging in your deck to try to get it.
What We Liked
You may be able to tell from the above game details that we really liked this game. I was really surprised, because when you first sit down to play, you may think the game is a lot like Smash Up (due to the battlegrounds and deck variety), however the game plays very differently.
As you formulate your plan, your opponent is constantly thwarting your plans with their own strategy. The changes that catalyst when the two opponent's strategies smash into each other is the key factor that makes the game compelling and replayable.
The artwork on the cards is good, the pace is good, with an average game taking about 30 minutes once you've mastered the rules. The end of the game often comes as a surprise as it's fairly easy to burn through a lot of morale points if you are anticipating a winning round, but are reversed into a loss.
What Could be Improved
Creating five factions that are balanced against each other is a massive task for an indy designer and studio, so it's understandable that the factions don't have a huge variety of cards. This is definitely the piece of the game that feels the least accomplished. Everyone that we played with were a bit disappointed in the variety of card-types each faction offered. The reason for this is obvious, it's difficult to form a strategy if you can't count on seeing a card multiple times each gameplay. However, if the game has future iterations, spending the time to add more cards to each deck would be a huge benefit to the spreading the appeal of the game.
Additionally, the iconography is a bit confusing the first time you see it (down and right arrows are very vague). Since there's so much room on most of the cards, it probably would have been better to use clearer keywords to make learning the game a bit easier.
Notes on the Tabletopia Version
The Tabletopia version of the game is excellent in every regard. You can see the entire playfield from the default view, a custom table has been designed, the artwork has scanned crisp, and time has been spent to lock all the objects to hotspots on the board.
Though no fault of the developer, some of the trickier card manipulation you have to do with the factions is cumbersome. For instance, having to peel off the top three cards of your deck, pick one, put it on the bottom of the deck, and put the other two cards back on top of your deck is some advanced Tabletopia UI. I have a feeling these elements will play much better in the cardboard version of the game. Hopefully Tabletopia adopts a more advanced card scripting interface soon.
Where to Buy
The Kickstarter is running until April 14th. There will likely be a preorder link after the Kickstarter ends.
The game is currently free to play on Tabletopia. All five factions are available as well.
Time to Learn: 10 minutes watching the KS How-To-Play videos, 10 minutes consulting the rule book. 15 minutes to teach.
Price: $39USD for the full game, $30 for the starter set which only includes three of the factions.
9 out of 10 (Excellent - very much enjoyed playing)