The card game Hagakure by the author duo Frank Crittin and Grégoire Largey, which was originally published by Studio H and in the German-language localization by the Swiss publisher Board Game Box, offers players a basic theme that the game title already gives to connoisseurs of Japanese culture able to betray. It's about one of the most famous symbols of Japanese culture: the samurai, who for hundreds of years were considered the splendor of Japanese chivalry. In Hagakure, the glorious warriors compete against simple villagers. Do we enjoy the trickery game? You read here!

In the quickly learned card game Hagakure, three to five players, ages ten and up, compete against each other in a traditional Japanese competition between brilliant samurai and simple villagers. The game makes use of well-known mechanics from trick-taking games, but also provides room for simple tactical moves and thus gets a little more depth. The player who has collected the most victory points at the end wins the battle of the brave warriors.

Hagakure: A fight for honor

They usually have little material, are learned quickly and are fun! So does Hagakure. The simple stitch game with light tactical elements and an artwork by Claire Conan, which is reminiscent of a mixture of traditional Japanese ink art and modern painting from the 18th century. The playing time of a quick 25 minutes per game makes the title a game for in between, as an introductory and break game or as a joyful end to a round of games with friends and family. Hagakure is ideally suited for one thing: as cross-generational entertainment that can land on the table without further ado. Because only very few players will be unfamiliar with trick-taking games and with its easily understandable set of rules that requires only a few explanations, it is perfect for families and casual gamers.

At the beginning of the game of the Japanese-themed card game, all players receive, in each of the game rounds, the detailed cards in hand that correspond to the number of players. These consist of samurai, villagers and old rogues as well as Nobori chips, the yomi is also formed and a scoring sheet is laid out.

The subject of Hagakure: Samurai. The card game is known for its code of honor. Photo: Volkmann

The subject of Hagakure: Samurai. The card game is known for its code of honor. Photo: Volkmann

Hagakure's 31 cards in total consist of 17 resident cards as well as ten samurai cards, three old rogues and the game aid, as well as 25 Nobori chips that offer players special effects. A scoring block completes the material. The playing cards have an elongated format and have an extremely attractively drawn, colorful and detailed artwork that, in a modern and humorous way, leaves no doubt about the traditional Japanese game theme and the appropriate era. The tricks game also contains clearly written and concise instructions. The game box consists of a high-quality slipcase designed in the card style. It is reminiscent of a book. Which thematically fits Hagakure. So the word means, in addition to the literal translation, "The Book of the Samurai".

Easy rules, fast family game

Trick games are played according to the well-known principle: Whoever discards the card with the highest value face up, receives the trick. This happens one after the other and no player knows beforehand what kind of card the next one will discard. This is also the case in Hagakure, but here the game can be influenced by Nobori chips. Because they change the game for a round through their use for the player who used the chip. Through the tactically wise use of the chips, for example, in the first round a deck of cards called Yomi, which is considered the land of the dead, can be looked at and in the second round, the Yomi can then use the appropriate Nobori again to display all of the cards in hand be replaced. A total of five different types of helpful effects can be triggered in this way and thus bring an exciting kind of trick play on the table, which makes the outcome of the game a little more unpredictable. Another special feature of the trick-taking games category is that receiving the weakest samurai by winning a trick earns the player an additional victory point.

The illustrations are small works of art. Photo: Volkmann

The illustrations are small works of art. Photo: Volkmann

There is also another rule that makes the card game a little trickier. As usual, the highest possible hand cards cannot be played, but the type of cards must also be taken into account. If the starting player plays a samurai, all players have to use samurai cards, only the laying out of villagers allows the random discarding of warriors and villagers. The old rogues take on a special role, although they have an insignificant strength of tough zero, but are still considered samurai and may be played out that way. The rule here is: Whoever plays the last frail warrior wins the trick. In general, the scuffles won by the brave warriors lead to one victory point and those lost lead to minus points. So there are some ways at Hagakure to skilfully fool your teammates and emerge victorious from the duel.

Nobori chips add to the fun

Hagakure is without question a family and casual game with typical trick play elements that are not surprising, but it does leave room for tactical moves. This is ensured primarily by the Nobori chips, which trigger various beneficial effects and can thus manipulate the move or affect the distribution of points. This gives the card game an entertainment value that even seasoned bridge and skat players can find themselves in, but the trick-taking game will especially win the hearts of casual players or families with children. The rules are quickly understood and it is played just as quickly. After the pandemic, the game, with the handy game box, can certainly accompany one or the other excursion and provide entertaining fun. Even inexperienced players can get started with the game of Crittin and Largey within a few minutes. In this way, tactically sensible actions can be played out without further ado

To describe Hagakure as a purely shallow trick-taking game would not do the work justice, especially if the special effects were included. There can always be tricky situations and the other players should always be watched closely in order to anticipate their next planned move and to keep track of things until the end of the game. However, at no point can the game be described as difficult. Rather, it is an entertainment game with an annoyance factor that is unparalleled among young and old.

In terms of play, Hagakure is rather solid, but the material is nice for a card game. Photo: Volkmann

In terms of play, Hagakure is rather solid, but the material is nice for a card game. Photo: Volkmann

Of course, one could assume the subject of interchangeability. However, the traditional story of a battle between samurai and villagers fits perfectly into the gameplay and goes well with the special effects. Hagakure does not want to offer seriousness, it wants to entertain its players much more. It is a card game that can be brought to the table quickly in any situation without the need for much explanation or preparation.


Number of players: 3 to 5
Age: from 10 years
Playing time: 25 minutes
Difficulty: easy
Long-term motivation: medium
Genre: family games
Sub-genre: Cooperative board games

Author: Frank Crittin and Grégoire Largey
Illustrations: Frank Crittin and Grégoire Largey
Publisher: Board Game Box
Official website: Link
Year of publication: 2020
Language: German
Cost: 20 Euro



Hagakure appeals to all age groups with his artwork and thematically. Families and casual gamers alike will enjoy the beautifully designed card game with tactical elements that explains at least as quickly as it is played. However, particular depth of play should not be expected, Hagakure is not an expert game, but a game that game experts can in all probability also find pleasure in, as a nightcap or as an easy starter. Because the fun factor of annoyance is by no means neglected in the course of the game.

What fans of trickery games will be particularly pleased is that Hagakure can also be played in a larger group of up to five players and does not lose any of its fun. Although the title can be played well with three players, it only gets really bustling and less predictable with five players. Only then does the possibility of unexpectedly teasing the other players come into their own.

Previous experience is not required for the card game, only a little tactical considerations for using the playing cards and Nobori chips are advantageous for a victory in the village fishing. For children, the pure trick play is very likely to be easy to understand, but it could be that the effects and their use should be practiced beforehand. So that the fun of the game comes into its own. Otherwise it could easily lead to confusion and interruptions in the flow of the game for younger players.

Hagakure as a trick-taking game will be loved by fans of the genre, for all other players it lives mainly from what the players do with the possible special actions and how well the moves of the other players are observed. If you simply play according to the rules of a typical trick-taking game, you will not achieve a good victory placement. However, if you think about your moves and effects, you will benefit very clearly from the modifying factors compared to the well-known way of playing and only then can Hagakure show its full potential. Players who have not yet felt comfortable in the genre of trick-taking games may not warm up to Hagakure either, but can confidently give the game a chance due to the innovations.

Last updated on 25.05.2023/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. * = Affiliate links. Images from Amazon PA API