Resource management in Skulls of the Shogun is also handled in a very clever and innovative way. Each map contains rice paddies, and "haunting" them with one of your units claims the currency you'll need to summon more units from various types of shrines. Some shrines produce the standard archer, infantry, and cavalry units, but others allow the recruitment of special monks. One type of monk can do things like heal wounded units, while another has powerful offensive spells. Yet another monk type can summon a gust of wind to blow friendly units to safety, or enemies off cliffs. Powerful and unique units such as these could really turn the tide of battle.
You'll typically start with a handful of units, whose ranks you'll need to supplement in order to take out the enemy forces. During the campaign, victory conditions can vary from mission to mission, which also goes a long way to keeping the gameplay feeling fresh.
Most often, you'll be tasked with slaying a rival general, but some levels will simply ask you to progress from A to B, or eliminate all the enemy troops. A particularly fun twist in one of the missions involved an avalanche that would traverse a central pathway every round, damaging all the units still in its path. Part of the joy of playing the campaign was wondering what surprise would come next. New gameplay twists and units are introduced throughout most of the campaign. Besides keeping things new and exciting, the progression serves as a great primer for multiplayer.
Each unit has a radius that replaces traditional, grid-based attacks and movement.
Multiplayer consists of online matches and couch-based grudge matches, in addition to cross-platform, asynchronous options. In short, players on Xbox Live can play against folks on Window 8 PCs or mobile devices. Though I haven't personally played the final release on anything other than XBLA, I did get to see how the game worked on a Windows 8 tablet, during an earlier demo. As one would hope, the controls work really well on both an Xbox 360 controller and a touch-screen. It's a really elegant cross-play effort that loops in PC, mobile, and Xbox, hampered only by the fact that Windows 8 isn't exactly ubiquitous. Regardless of how much time you have, Skulls of the Shogun can serve you up an appropriate multiplayer match. I fully expect that Skulls of the Shogun's multiplayer is something that I'll keep in my gaming rotation for quite some time.
Skulls of the Shogun is a deceptively brilliant strategy game that basically streamlines things to a degree that it often feels like one is playing an action game, rather than one of turn-based strategy. Witty writing and engaging art serve as the presentational support for some really solid gameplay systems that interlock to create a comparatively fast-paced experience that rewards smart, tactical player decisions. The multiplayer might be the star of the show for many, but it would be a mistake to avoid the game's immensely entertaining single-player campaign.
Feed skulls to your General to make him even more powerful!