The Shinchoku clan represent the lighter, peaceful side of the town, with more spiritual tones in the building design. The left side of the board has lighter stone and creeping plant growth with blooming flowers. This represents the prosperity and abundance that the Shinchoku bring through their focus on development of the town. The place is literally blooming with life.
The box art also mirrors the board in this way. The lighter stone on the left side of the board is shown at the front of the dojo, whilst the vines and flowers on the board can be seen spreading over the tree and the lake.
The building artwork for the Shinchoku clan reflects the colour scheme used on the box and the board, made up of greens, blues and pinks. Just like in the Tsuyo Clan Spotlight, these buildings are also influenced by historical or cultural realities.
The Shinchoku clan represent progress, developing the town into a an advanced city that can be enjoyed by all. The zen gardens, common in Kyoto, were intended to be serene and calm places to aid meditation. The clean lines you see in the gravel are raked every single day, also as a practice in concentration. The Gardens here, like other more ornamental constructions in the game (such as the Statue) provide immediate victory points for the player. As the Shinchoku are dedicated to progress, and hence a faster game, the 1 victory point gain from the Gardens is manifested by the player taking 2 points, whilst also giving a point to their opponent.
A tea house, or Chashitsu, is a particular space used for tea ceremonies that came about during the Edo period. Some of the most important tea ceremonies were held by the Shogun, offering the invited Daimyo an opportunity to expand their social and political influence. The Tea House in Micro Dojo behaves in much the same way, allowing the Loyalty action to be used to gain 2 Favour instead of 1. This provides an alternative option to progressing along the Loyalty tracks, as well as combining well with other Shinchoku buildings that use Favour as a resource.
Mechanically, the Shinchoku have some sub-themes that I wanted to add into the game as a mirror opposite to the Tsuyo, focused on a faster game with:
- Sharing benefits to both players
The Shinchoku building abilities are simpler, as many of them take existing options and improve upon them. The Tea House makes Loyalty spaces more efficient; the Orchard makes Favour tokens more efficient; the Pagoda makes Actions spaces more flexible. This simplicity gives the Shinchoku a more raw kind of power (as opposed to the technical kind of power of the Tsuyo), and the abilities they have will almost always be useful.
Balancing the buildings for those that mirrored existing buildings was straightforward. For example, the Gardens functionally provides a 1 Victory Point, which is the same as the statue. Arguably it is slightly more powerful (since it is effectively 1 point needed of 6), but the Favour cost replacing a resource cost makes it more challenging to obtain. The remaining buildings had additional balance considerations around when in the game they would be used and for what value, which is explored in the strategy tips below.
Note: Some of the buildings may go through some balance or graphical changes before the final print run.
If you’re picking up Shinchoku buildings, and progressing along the Shinchoku Loyalty track, you can expect the game to be much quicker. That means that you want buildings with instantly applicable effects, like the Statue and the Castle, as well as buildings that can help you position to close out the game like the Stables and the Guard House.
When valuing the Shinchoku buildings, some of them are much better used at different stages of the game.
Buildings that grant you resources, or more efficient generation of them, such as the Tea House and the Orchard will be useful early in the game. Indeed the flexibility of both of these can inform your early game about whether you focus on progressing up loyalty tracks or on gaining favour to be spent on getting more points.
Komainu is a great early pickup as it can accelerate your early game immensely, but be warned as it also helps your opponent. You’re still 2 resources ahead whenever you use it, but it could lead to your opponent being able to buy early buildings they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
The Gardens is efficient at any time, as just like the Statue (and indeed any building) it can be sacrificed after its use for an additional point. The Gardens really shine when you’re at 5 points though (or 7 in the extended game) – who cares about giving your opponent a point when you just won the game!
Other buildings that grant you flexibility like the Pagoda and the Onsen can make it easier to score points by simply giving you more options to close out the game, making it harder for an opponent to block those final points.
As a final note, the Shinchoku buildings skew towards costing Food (rather than Gold) so you will want to prioritise those resource spaces on the board accordingly.
The Shinchoku clan develop the town at a fast pace, gaining resources more efficiently than their opponent in the early game and using their flexibility to close out the game at the end. The Shinchoku clan are happy to bring their opponent along with them in this success, just as long as they are the ones holding the power at the end of the game.