Kanagawa, Bruno Cathala & Charles Chevallier

Published: Iello 

Illustration: Jade Mosch

Plays: 2-4

Duration: 30-45 mins

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Let me start by saying that Kanagawa is now firmly placed in my ‘chill AF’ game category, which previously didn’t have enough games to be construed as a category, but at this point I think there are just enough, and Kanagawa fits into it quite nicely. If there were ever a game to give you enough to concentrate on but also the headspace to sit back and just enjoy playing then this is it.

Having read a few glowing reviews and watched the promo video I pretty much knew I was going to like it from the get-go and thankfully it didn’t disappoint. I unboxed it to find a traditional Japanese style play mat, chunky ‘diploma tiles’, little paint pots and square ‘lesson’ cards depicting various pretty images that really set my heart a-fluttering. And amongst all this cute stuff is a very good little game, and attractive components aside, that’s what it’s really all about isn’t it?

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Kanagawa is a worker placement & set collection combination with a bit of card drafting and press your luck thrown in, that works beautifully and plays super smoothly. The rules are fairly simple, but the choices are tough without making your head come off and therein lay the chill factor. You find yourself enrolled in painting school on a mission to prove your art-worthiness to old Master Hokusai. You achieve this by making prints and claiming diploma tiles. You begin with a starting tile; on the top side is your canvas, on the bottom your skill board. The start player (or Grand Master) draws cards from the deck and lays them in a face up/face down arrangement as shown on the mat (your art school). You draw two at a time and the start player decides if they want to stay in school i.e. wait to see what cards are drawn next or to take what’s already there (say you desperately want a lesson card with the landscape painting skill) and the next player will take what’s left. Which isn’t always a bad thing.

You choose to place your cards in two ways: 1/ With your skills; this will acquire you more painting abilities, points, further paint pots, ability to move your pots a number of times or to gain the start playing marker. 2/ With your canvas; prints mean points just by being placed, but you cannot paint them without having the skills and the paint pots to do so.  (The bottom of the lesson card symbolises the skill you need, e.g. two blue ocean painting skills). You increase your Harmony Points by collecting sets and pinching your desired diploma tile before your opponent. Valid sets include people and buildings of different types, combinations of animals and identical landscapes. It’s very much a game of deciding what to do for the best in the moment. Are you aiming to collect tree or people prints? Maybe you want to try your hand at all of them. Should you go for a diploma tile now or wait until next turn to get the better one? What if your opponent nabs it before you? Maybe you want the lesson card with multiple painting abilities, but it will lose you two Harmony Points. Perhaps you can gain them elsewhere…but how? Have you paid attention to what seasons (top right of the lesson card) you are painting? An identical sequence of seasons will score you bonus Harmony Points (although if you gain a skill awarding you a storm token you can use it to substitute any season for a greater sequence.) For a seemingly simple game the options to explore are so varied that you want to play again immediately after you’ve finished to see what else you can do. And that is the mark of a really great game.

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In a two-player game the end is triggered when the lesson deck is empty or a player reaches eleven cards on their canvas. Scoring is based on number of prints, Harmony Points on skills and prints, diplomas, longest sequential run of seasons and a bonus two points for the last player with the Grand Master pawn.

In case you hadn’t already guessed I highly recommend Kanagawa. I love having lots of options, I adore satisfying end scoring and I enjoy games that play like fillers that are a bit fuller…and when it’s over you’re like ‘well that was lovely wasn’t it?’ which is exactly what I’ve said after every game of Kanagawa so far.

Thanks for reading!

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The Good Ol’ Euros

I talked for England in my little Essen Wishlist videos (thank goodness I cut them down to 6.5 mins) and I was toying with writing an epically long blogpost, then decided against it. Because essentially it would just be a long list and re workings of Board Game Geek blurbs and really, who wants that? No one I should think. So moving on swiftly; if you want to see my general and rather insane BGG Wishlist i’m under LindsayJoMiller, I cut such a lonely figure on BGG, so we should be friends!

I thought I would briefly summarise the end of my Wishlist for 2016 in this post. I was tempted to talk about Rising Five: Runes of Asteros which I must say looks to be super fun, and is another app included tabletop game, however it’s currently on Kickstarter and probably will be in retail at the end of 2017. So for those of us who simply cannot afford hefty pledges right now, well that’s a bit of a wait. As excited as I am about all these cool, innovative and exciting games springing up, to be perfectly honest I’m more of a traditional Euro gamer at heart. It’s the warm familiarity; it’s comforting, it’s cosy, it’s often bloody difficult and I love it. I often talk about themes I like, because I love stories and settings and beautiful illustrations and flashy components. But again, when it comes down to it, and I really think about it some of my favourite games are’t heavy on the theme. I’ve also mentioned that I like a bit of fighting in my games, a bit of battle. Which I do! But again, my all time favourites don’t involve super heavy conflict. It’s actually the quiet, slow burning kind that gets my brain working that I enjoy the most. I like gameplay that’s not too random, there’s not much left to chance.

So firstly I wanted to mention Rhodes and this is definitely one I can see myself enjoying. Read all about it on the link above. It sounds medium-heavy, so it would get me thinking, planning and plotting my potential glory, without my brain combusting (which I do like in its place, but I could’t play super heavy strategy games non stop). It’s an ancient city setting, fullfiling objectives by pick-up-and-deliver and developing your land into a fruitful paradise. Place workers, set up buildings and gather up VPs and cash to win the game. It sounds a bit Puerto Rico esque, but having read the rulebook it’s different enough. Which is ok sometimes y’know? I’m not always looking for something monumentally different. So, Rhodes, I shall look forward to a UK release.

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Secondly and finally, I think that Round House deserves a mention. Visit the link to discover what it’s all about! This looks to be a super interesting economic simulation game, pretty medium-heavy, with sturdy and well established mechanics. I love the sound of moving your player token around the modular rondel board, (I am yet to play a game with a rondel, yippee!) to get the most actions out of your family members. And did I mention it looks beautiful? Always a plus, especially when it’s not a case of style over substance.

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Well, for the past month I’ve talked about new releases, up ‘n’ coming games and future frontrunners, and I am all out of wishes. So I’m really looking forward to actually relaxing and playing more games, because sometimes, between everything else i’m up to I often forget that it’s ok to just sit down, breathe, switch game brain on and forget everything else.

Happy Essen week, and happy gaming!

 

 

Rococo: Jewelry Box Expansion Review

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I acquired two new games last week, Broom Service the card game and the Rococo Jewelry Box expansion. I decided to write about Rococo and make a little video on Broom Service (coming later this week). As I mentioned in my post a few weeks back I absolutely love Rococo, its a beautiful Euro and up there in my top ten.

So what does Jewelry Box add to the game and is it worth purchasing? Well you get 28 additional employees, an exam card, jewellery box board and jewellery tokens, and yes I believe it’s worth purchasing (for a vey reasonable £12.50 RRP.)
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So what does it do? Well first off there’s the personal ‘exam’ cards. You take the exam using your apprentice and journeyman cards to meet the three set requirements (same for every player and easily achievable e.g- use an action with your apprentice to buy a yellow or red material) Once you’ve completed the exam you spend an action trading in your standard journeyman/apprentice card and pay the hiring cost to choose one of the special guys. These let you add on a cool free action e.g. – make a dress for free and sell only (instead of placing it in a hall, and hey that extra money is always welcome!) you can take the exams as many times as you like. The jewellery itself is displayed on a separate little board and consists of coloured ring and necklace tokens. You can only purchase these when you make a dress and as the game progresses and they are purchased you can move them along the board and lower their cost. When you buy a piece of jewellery this gives you income every round. If the one that you buy matches the colour of the dress you made then you can pick up a free material. I find this comes in handy because personally I dislike spending too many actions purchasing! Some of the expansion cards are shuffled into the regular deck too so you can snap one of those up as a hiring action.
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In my opinion if you like Rococo you’ll welcome this expansion and probably enjoy it as much as I did. I love that it adds more to an already tough game and makes choosing what to do next even more challenging. I only wish it added on an extra round because this game seems to end so quickly as it is, and you feel like there’s so much more you could achieve if you had just a bit more time. There’s the inevitable ‘check the rule book 500 times to remember what the symbols mean’ but that’s to be expected when you first start playing a language independent game. The jewellery box and the exams seem to give you quite a bit more income to play around with too and can earn you some valuable extra prestige points early on, so it definitely feels like you are gaining more which is always nice.
It’s an all round good review from me, a must have if you own the game and an incentive to give Rococo a try if you haven’t already!
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Empty packet of Revels optional! 

Games, Games, Games!

First off I must apologise for being a bit quiet of late, it’s been a busy couple of weeks, and although i’ve been playing games as much as possible  i’ve been lacking in time for blog posts and game design. Hopefully now I can get back on it a bit.

Something I love to do in my spare time is look up new releases, up and coming games and expanding my already pretty full games wishlist. For fun if nothing else. I guess that’s what a lot of boardgames do! A few weeks ago I posted about games that I’m excited for this year. Well i’ve now found yet more games that look and sound fantastic, and here I am going to share them with you! First up….

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Domek: A lovely family game from Poland. In Domek you build your dream home, where your board is actually a house (complete with cat in the front garden and treehouse) to fill up with furniture and rooms. You achieve this by card drafting, set collection and pattern building. End scores are based on good functionality, quality and design. The artwork is ludicrously cute! Cannot wait for this one, due this year, but no release date as yet.

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Hit Z Road: Ok, I don’t know if excited is the right word for this one. I’d say more curious. I can categorically say that i’m pretty much over zombies. Which is sad, I used to love zombies. But like a lot of things that are over produced it becomes a bit stale.  But if there’s anything that could get me interested in zombies again it might be this game. I don’t like the title (I preferred Route 666, there’s a whole thread about this on BGG that made me chuckle) but I love the artwork. I had some quibbles with Study In Emerald, but I like Martin Wallace. I’m into the kitschy 50’s take. But is it a good game? To be honest it’s too early to tell, there’s not a huge amount of information or rules available at present, but i’m keeping my eyes and mind open for this one.

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The Last Friday: Ah ha ha. I’m a horror nut, I grew up watching films like Friday the 13th (and have hated every single slasher flick 90’s onwards, i’m much more into supernatural/weird horror) and although i’ve seen a few games that are capturing the essence of a horror movie i’ve not seen one that’s compelled me to play. This looks different. I’ve seen a few forum gripes that it’s a bit similar to Letters To Whitechapel (which I wanted a couple of years ago but never bought) but my feelings are kid of like ‘and? If something is a direct and obvious rip off of another then that pretty much sucks, but I feel that most games (especially those that need to use a certain mechanic) will always seem reminiscent of something else and most games have been inspired by another in some way. Nothing exists in a bubble as I always say! But indeed those that pioneer completely innovative stuff well that’s another story. Anyway, this is a hidden movement game/deduction/hunting game where you are stalked round a campsite by a weapon weilding lunatic. The usual cat and mouse horror movie type scenario ensues, played across four chapters. It just looks good! Due for release in August, i’m going to play this out the garden with marshmallows and a horror movie soundtrack. That should please the neighbours!

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Anachrony: With over 2000 backers and another two weeks to go this already hyped mega-game looks just a little bit mind-blowing. It’s a post apocalyptic/sci fi/time travel themed table hog, played over 7 eras involving a two tiered worker placement system and travelling back and forth in time thus altering the path of the game.  Following on from what I said in the previous paragraph I’m always impressed with designs that are innovative especially with the mechanics. Anarchrony involves worker placement, gaining influence, scoring victory points, playing for dominance, all familiar territory so far. But it gets complex. Very complex. So complex in fact that after burning my brain and testing my (not so great) writing skills this afternoon, I gave up. I think if you want to get the full grasp of this game you should definitely go and visit the BGG summary and the official Kickstarter. Much better than me trying to summarise it here! It looks amazing, really. If it’s super heavy you’re after then this is your game. The pledge levels and stretch goals are all worth going for and if I do get the chance to back (lack of money is the bane of my life right now!) I would personally go for the ‘Leader Box’ for the amazing miniatures alone because I feel that I really need more futuristic robot miniatures in my life.

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Shakespeare Backstage: I absolutely love Shakespeare and have played many good games over the last few months. It works beautifully, is straightforward and fun but still requires much thought and strategy. I posted about this a while back and my only concern was once you’ve cracked it the replayabilty is limited. But hey, fear not, we have an expansion on its way. It’s called Backstage and all we know so far is that we’re getting new characters, costumes and stage set. I’m in!

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Days of Ire: Budapest 1956: This looks fantastic. I’ve been waiting for a new war/political themed game that actually looks like something I would enjoy playing and not leave me feeling a bit icky (if you know what I mean?) This could be the one! It’s a co-op game for 1-4 players where one player is the Soviets, the others are Hungarian revolutionaries, in a historically inspired card game spanning 7 days. I won’t go into all the details- you can read a perfectly good summary on BGG! But it does seem reminiscent of GMT’S Twilight Struggle and Labyrinth (TS being a big favourite of mine) and the art by Sami Laakso (of Dales fame) and the designer Katalin Nimmerfroh looks fantastic. I do like good art in a game. Also I have to add that I am very, very pleased that one of the game designers is a woman. I don’t think it should be made a big deal of, and there are women designers out there, but as far as I’m aware (please correct me if i’m wrong, really!) but they never seem to be attached to any well known games, so I hope that this one blows everyone’s socks off. As a woman designing a game it fills me with confidence (‘I can do it too!’ type confidence). I’m stoked! No rules available yet and it’s still due for a Kickstarter (date still unknown) so could be quite a wait for this one.

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Islebound: Ships! Merchants! Sea monsters! Pirates! All wrapped up in an adorable bundle. I’ve been contemplating various nautical themed games and Islebound definitely looks to fulfil that need in the way that others haven’t quite tempted me. In Islebound you sail around collecting resources, hiring crew, commissioning buildings, recruiting sea monsters and pirates to conquer towns or completing events to befriend other towns. You will win the game by being the wealthiest player with the most impressive capital city! Sounds fun, interesting and a game you can get on the table and play without too much faff. I really like the idea of taking different paths to achieve the end goal, meaning much replayabilty, and I like that it seems like innocent fun in a sophisticated package, in the way that other nautical games haven’t quite captured for me.

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Dale of Merchants 2: The Era of Trade Masters: I was late to the party with Dale of Merchants but I finally got my hands on it last week (at a great discounted price!) and I was expecting a tough little card with some interesting choices to be made and adorable animals to say (or squeal) ‘awwwww!’ over. I can gladly say it definitely lived up to my expectation! So Dale of Merchants 2: The Era of Trade Masters, has a great backstory (see here) and it can be played on its own or combined with the original. It’s now 4 days away from the end of the Kickstarter campaign. I’m pleased to say it’s majorly over exceeded its funding goal, so stretch goals will be unlocked meaning more decks (penguins! Beavers!) better quality components and more amazing artwork.

Wow, I think I’m done for now! Thanks for reading. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To sell or not to sell? Collectors Remorse…

 This was written whilst trying to get my daughter back to sleep tonight. Just a random train of thought and ultimately pointless!

Oh SOS Titanic, how I miss you…

I’m often torn as to whether to sell games I don’t play very much and know deep down I probably won’t again. I’ve sold a few games in the past like Mondo, Coney Island and Survive! as they were perhaps a bit too light for me. I sold Mice and Mystics because as gorgeous as it was I just didn’t enjoy playing it. I kind of regret it because it was such an attractive game, I feel so bad now when I think of those adorable cheese tokens! I definitely regret selling SOS Titanic because it was actually a good solo game but I didn’t like playing solo back then. Now of course I want to play more solo games! 

I think the times I sold games were probably ‘desperate for spare cash’ moments. I look at the collection I share with my partner and know there’s a couple I would probably not choose to play again in a hurry. Or maybe at all. Like The Producer (damn shame, if you’re interested see my review from February). But nowadays I can’t seem to get up the nerve to sell a game. Mainly because of the regret factor. What if I sell it then have an overwhelming urge to play it when it’s gone?! (Like SOS Titanic) I feel torn because there’s lots and lots of games I want and I simply can’t afford them all, and there are games sitting on the shelf going to waste! My partner Jon said it would be nice to simply give games away that you don’t play and let someone else enjoy them? Hmmm. That’s a nice idea. But now I consider myself to be a games collector I can’t bear the thought of parting with any. I like that I don’t buy tons of new games all the time and make the most of the ones I do have, but the ones I don’t play are like thorns in my side when my wishlist is ever growing. 

I guess buying and hoarding games isn’t so bad. People collect everything from stamps to lipsticks to technology, to mugs to old newspapers. I guess one mans trash is another mans treasure as they say. 


Are there any games you’ve had for months that you haven’t played yet? Any you have sold or given away and regret? Or any that you know you won’t play but can’t part with? Please share! It will make me feel less weird. 

My Top 9

My Instagram is blowing up today with boardgamers Top 9 games. So I thought I’d join the party and share on here too. Here’s my top 9 and a brief summary of thoughts on each. This was very hard to do!

 

  1. The Castles of Burgundy An oldie but a goody. There’s something so incredibly smooth and enjoyable about COB and I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad game even when I’ve lost!
  2. Suburbia One of the first designer games I played and I just love building my own little town, seeing all those lovely hexes joining up and the delight of scoring points and taking income. 
  3. Twilight Struggle I never thought I’d enjoy a war themed game but I have absolutely loved TS. It’s pretty straightforward to grasp but so many tactical desicions to be made and really hard to pull off. I like to make risky moves and hope I don’t annihilate the world.
  4. Race for The Galaxy A beautifully clever card game with so much to do and completely different every time you play depending on what objectives you go for. I usually build up military. Always love the end of game scoring in this. 
  5. Doomtown Reloaded The Weird West setting, the poker, the shootouts, I honestly love this game. I think it’s the only one I played solidly with my partner Jon everyday for about a month. You never know what you’re going to get, you might have a half hour game, it could be a 3 and half hour ding dong battle. Beautifully thematic and genius in my opinion! 
  6. Fury of Dracula It’s nail biting, sneaky and just damn smart. This is a game where you can get totally immersed in the setting and the theme. I liked playing as both Dracula and the hunters equally. But I did enjoy beating up the hunters as Dracula.
  7. Broom Service A witchy theme, kitschy artwork and pick up and deliver, I’m there! But as I mentioned in an earlier review it’s a mean game wrapped up in a cutesy package. I really like that. 
  8. Concordia It’s just so tension filled, gets the adrenalin going, which is pretty weird considering it’s about settling and trading. It really is a nail biter for me, usually tapping my foot with nervous anxiety, hoping I can achieve everything I set out to do and get the Concordid card. Usually glancing at Jon silently praying he doesn’t get there before me!
  9. Eclipse This holds fond memories, played with 5 people on a New Years Eve it spanned about 7 hours and crossed over into a new year. Epic stuff. I must admit my favourite bit is rolling the dice and fighting with the ships for control!

So there we are, my top 9 in a nutshell and all my dorky reasons why!