Sengoku was released on 13th of September 2011. As most (if not all) games by Paradox, it is a real-time strategy. Not like the old Age of Empires, Starcraft II nor Men of War. The strategy games created by Paradox are special - the player starts the game controlling a certain number of provinces. Through diplomacy and war, the controlled region is supposed to grow larger, and the final result is to reign the whole map. These games are perfect in the field of alternate history, offering players the possibility to choose between hundreds and thousands of 'What if' scenarios. That's also one of the main things the games are loved for.
As a fan of Paradox, I have played games from the Hearts of Iron series, Crusader Kings series and the East India Company games. Last week I got the chance to try out Sengoku. What was my first impression of the game? First of all, I noticed the big similarities between Crusader Kings and Sengoku. Both games have the same honour, income and character systems. Most actions require players to sacrifice either honour, or money. To gain the first one, the player has three possibilities: the first one is to grant titles to other characters - be it a relative or another person wishing to become your vassal; the second possibility, which is also the easiest and fastest one, is to send people gifts. The minimum, and strangely maximum amount of gold your can send to another character, is 20. By giving the gift, the relations between you improve, and you also gain 1 honour. Another possibility to get a bit more honour for the price, is to do something the emperor asks for. For example there is a possibility to send the emperor a gift of 30 gold, granting the player 2 honour (basically 1,5 times more than normally), or spending larger amounts on allowing certain residencies etc. to be in your provinces. The third chance to obtain honour is the longest one, and therefore requires the most patience - there's a monthly increase of honour for each character, which is quite small compared to the amounts that some actions require.
Unlike honour, money gain is much faster. It depends on the taxes and the level of your village. The more upgrades have been done to the village (new buildings, to be more precise), the larger the income. Money can be spent on building religious buildings, triggering certain events, sending gifts, offering peace, performing some diplomatic actions and much more. Even though it isn't the only resource in Sengoku, it is still very important. I would advice players to send gifts to their vassals over time, in order to keep them loyal. If there are vassals, who are at least of a bit negative opinion of you, try to improve the situation at any costs - you don't want them to back-stab you at the worst time! And they most certainly will, if the chance comes. During a war, relations with vassals decrease, and there might be some rebels. Therefore, it's advised to always keep some men behind, in order to suppress the rebelling armies. Same goes for the neighbours - even if you think you are on good terms with them, you should always be careful. As soon as the tide of war turns, they will attack. Sometimes even from several sides. If that happens, the game might as well be over, so try to avoid such situations at all costs. Don't allow enemy armies to take over your provinces and finish the war as quickly as possible. The faster it happens, the more chance there is for internal and external conflicts.
Now about the honour system. The main action that requires honour is war. To attack a clan, you need honour. If it's smaller than your clan, you will have to spend more. If it's bigger (which is strongly advised not to attack, at least without a good plot, several allies and if the overall amount of soldiers available to use isn't two times more than the opponent has). The relations between your clan and the enemy are also important - if you think of them well, it will cost you! The better the opinion of the opponent, the bigger is the penalty of starting a war against them, so you should never get too close/friendly with anyone. Exchanging hostages also helps avoid attack on you. If you want to start a war after all - never keep your armies inside enemy province at that moment - you will receive a big penalty for that.
Sengoku is different from other games made by Paradox. The difference is the goal of the game. If other games don't have a real mission/quest/goal, and just let you go around the world, conquering whoever you want without the game really ending, then Sengoku actually sets you an objective - get control over at least 50% of the medieval Japan and hold it under your rule for at least 3 years. If you manage to do that - you win. That makes this game faster than others, but keep in mind - it's created by Paradox. This means it still has hours, days or weeks of fun gameplay to offer, so don't play it thinking you'll finish it in a day or two. The player can achieve his goal by various diplomatic actions - plotting against a big clan that controls almost half of Japan can come out to be a big success. Another option, which is quite difficult to perform, is to marry a woman of your clan into the clan you plan to take over without a war. After successful marriage, you need to start killing off all possible successors of the clan, until the only possibility left is your clan's woman. I personally didn't achieve this, but read about this difficult strategy on a Sengoku discussion thread. How to kill single characters, you may ask? That's what ninja clans are for. They keep moving from province to province, with the possibility to be hired. The ninjas have different quantities and skill levels - the higher these numbers are, the bigger the chance of success.
The only negative point I could find was that the game hasn't made big improvements from the 2004's Crusader Kings game. Would I recommend this game? That definitely depends on what games you like. If you are the kind of person, who prefers first-person shooters like Crysis or Battlefield, this game might not be for you. On the other hand if you are a fan of other games from Paradox, or just like turn-based/real-time strategies, give this game a go. I assure you - you won't regret playing it!