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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Sandcastles, Andrew Harman

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I spotted Sandcastles  by YAY Games on Twitter and really fancied it, and for a mere £13, I thought why the hell not?  It’s amazing how much fun can be packed into a small box with cards.
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If you saw my unboxing video then you may have seen that these cards are more like square tiles and have various graphics depicting buckets, crabs and seagulls. They have different patterns around the outside that are the ‘walls’ and you use these to build and connect your sandcastles. In a two player game you randomly choose ‘objective’ cards that will score you points e.g-  ‘largest’ sandcastle, the ‘tallest’ sandcastle, a sandcastle featuring 4 bucket cards etc. You play by selecting a card each turn, either by drafting from three central cards, or from the draw deck in order to build your castle. Some of these cards are attack cards and these can be used to mess with your opponent, steal their cards and ruin their glorious sandcastle. When an opponent attacks you can play a card back on them to deflect their attempt, e.g – they play a crab to poke your castle, but you reveal a seagull to eat their crab, but they happen to have a bucket to throw at your seagull, so it’s like rock/paper/scissors and really fun!
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 You can build several sandcastles at once, but you can only set aside your sandcastle for scoring when it’s been completed and all of your sandcastle walls are joined up and closed off. A two player game finishes when the wave card appears. It took about half an hour to play and I never got bored or found it repetitive. It was really genuinely good fun!
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There’s a variant for 3-7 players and for solo play. I’m really looking forward to playing solo, in fact it was the main reason I bought this game as it has a solo option.  Unfortunately spare moments are few and far between, because my current life situation just doesn’t include alone/down time really. I remind myself that it’s not going to last forever and it’s nice to have games with solo play for when the time is right.
Sandcastles is a very good and worthwhile purchase in my opinion, and you can buy directly from the YAY website or from Square Orange. More info on the game here.

Back This! Gloria Eternia by Lewis Terry

On my quest to meet like minded tabletop gamers on Instagram I came into contact with Lewis Terry, (@britishbriefs on Instagram) a game designer from the UK. I discovered that he was Kickstarting a new game in June called Glori Eternia, a fast paced card game for 2-4 players where clever hand management and timing is everything. Lewis has been crazy busy preparing for the launch so I was very lucky to get the chance to pick his brain last weekend and interview him. Read further to find out more about Glori Eternia and his journey as a game designer…..

Hi Lewis! So your new game Glori Eternia is launching on Kickstarter. How long has this game been in the making and how has it evolved over time?

‘I had the initial idea for the game many years, and in the last few years I started developing it into a more cohesive and sturdy game. Since its first conception it has evolved dramatically with regards to the art and design, and has become far more powerful. I sought out a talented artist who could bring the images to life in the way that I imagined through the use of traditional painting, and the layout design is through the use of digital art – so there is a nice merger of the traditional and the contemporary. The gameplay itself has gone through rigorous playtesting with a diverse age range, from seasoned gamers to beginners, and it has been tweaked here and there to make sure it is balanced and fun to play.’

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The Evolution of Glori Eternia

What was your inspiration for the game?

‘The inspiration for Glori Eternia came from three main things.  I have always loved the idea of the mythical hero who could slay silly amounts of opponents in one blow on the battlefield.  Growing up I really enjoyed hearing tales of mythology.  Later I discovered the Dynasty Warriors series of computer games in which you play as heroes of the past and take on wave after wave of insignificant peons.  Then in cinema, Lord of the Rings really turned that battle prowess into a visual reality.  Sauron cleaving waves of his foes in one strike of his blade. I wanted to recreate this in a game.  I had a few shots at it in my teens and I eventually came up with a solo dice game, which I shall talk about later.  Even though the dice game could be played with more than one player it was still really just a solo game.  I wanted to create something where you had the same banter as Legolas and Gimli in Lord of the Rings, a friendly but heated competition between rivals.  This brought me into a Take That style card game in which you are all fighting to be the best, while screwing each other over in the heat of battle’

Have you ever launched KS before and how are you feeling as the launch date approaches?

‘We had one successful Kickstarter last year, with a print and play game called Breakneck Blitz. Blitz is a game about arena combat, using a dry point pen on a grid to plot your movements. We also did launch Glori Eternia last year too (back then it was known as Eternal Glory), but we launched too close to Christmas and during a sudden, big house move so things were pretty chaotic. We decided to postpone the project and launch after we were settled and had improved the overall layout of the cards. It was a good decision! As the launch date approaches I feel a mixture of excitement and nerves kicking in, which I guess is natural when you are launching a big campaign and attending the biggest games convention in the UK as an exhibitor.’

Tell me a little bit about your background? I understand you’ve been designing games for many years, was it always something you aspired to do? 

‘I was brought up from a very early age with Citadel and Games Workshop games and miniatures.  My dad as a late teen had the opportunity to have an apprenticeship for six months or so with the small six man team that it was back then.  This meant that I was surrounded by a lot of Games Workshop titles, such as Space HulkTalismanChaos Marauders and Chainsaw Warrior, to name a few.  After that he went into computer game artwork and design for two decades.  This allowed me to see the development of an idea to its fruition into a product many times over.  It was an exciting environment to grow up in.

After the initial upbringing of American and UK games. My family started to import games from Germany when the Eurogames really kicked off.  It was seeing this huge amount of games that inspired me.  Seeing both high end production but also the really budget marketplace too.  Steve Jackson’s microgame series and James Ernest’s Cheapass Games, really inspired me.

Both of my parents always encouraged my creativity.  I was always surrounded by paper and notes and I made my own games from an early age.  I guess it was always something I wanted to do but never thought I could do.’

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Breakneck Blitz

I’ve seen some of your amazing art work on Instagram, have you ever illustrated for other games or your own?

‘Thank you for the compliment. I got into art as a hobby, a hobby that slowly got very out of hand.  For a few years I spent time trying to illustrate people’s games on the Board Game Geek.  I did a few versions of other people’s print and play games.  One of which was Doubloons that has now been released as Scallywags.  The artwork that I did was okay and it led to me making art for my own games.  You can download on BGG many of my early games.  My favourite was a game called Exquisite Rivalry, about feuding rich siblings trying to make the best town.  I am currently redesigning it as Three Sheets to the Wind.  The artwork is poor but the mechanics are solid.’

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Three Sheets To The Wind

What was the first game you ever designed and are there many that never quite made it to the shelf? Would you consider revisiting one of those?

‘I honestly can’t remember the first game I ever created.  I used to make lots of paper and counter games with huge results charts and encounter tables.  I still have some of them in a folder somewhere.  Most of them were made from cereal boxes and paper cut outs. The first proper game I created that I had success with was called Makura Sagashi, which stands for Pillow Searcher.  In feudal Japan people would hide their possessions under their pillow, hence they called burglars pillow searchers.  I invented the game when I was 13 and kept revisiting it.  I played it sometimes at lunch breaks back then and I still bring it out sometimes now.  A few years ago I refined it and uploaded it to BGG as Pillow Searcher and gave it a new look.  Someone on one of the forums pointed out it was very similar to another game called Nobody Here but Us Chickens.  When I went and checked it out it is very similar.  It was crushing to see a game I had worked on for that length of time kind of already existed in another form.  This was also a valuable lesson though and it did not deter me’

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Pillow Searcher

‘There are plenty of games I have created that haven’t hit the shelf. Even games I worked up to completion.  Survival of the Fittest and Ouija are good examples of these.  Both I shall revisit at some point, but probably not for a long while. I have eleven games that I have finished and a chunk of them even have artwork and properly printed prototypes but I feel I need to tackle one at a time.’

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Survival of the Fittest and Ouija

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Some examples of game that didn’t hit the shelf. From right to left (Feed The The Beast, Adventure Team, Dicey Diner, Treacherous Turf, Sphinx, Space Babes)

As a newcomer to board game design what would your tips be for me or any other designers just starting out?

‘Since I started on my game design journey more and more people have come up to me with their game ideas and games they would like to make.  For me, game design has been a long journey.  It is easy to have an idea, but after that it needs to be play tested, balanced, playtested some more, then you need to get the artwork, format the components, source production companies and the list goes on.  Thankfully thousands of people have been there before and there are many great links on the BGG in the game design forums that will help out anyone looking into game design.

I have had to learn many new skills that I never thought I would need on my journey and the biggest piece of advice I can give is don’t give up.  Take criticism and keep improving on your idea.  If you have played the game a hundred times and you don’t enjoy it anymore, don’t try and sell it.  If you don’t enjoy your game other people are not likely to either.’

Can you tell me a little about your other new game Immortal Warriors and where is it available?

‘Immortal Warriors is what Glori Eternia was born from.  It is a very simple push your luck dice game for 1-4 players.  It is really a solo game but like Yahtzee it can be played competitively.  The game was created years ago and I have been playing it for a long time.  Having nothing to sell on the table for the UK Games Expo I thought I should make up a few games that would be easily affordable for people.  I decided to print up Immortal Warriors and make the artwork as luxurious as I could.’

The current version that people can by consists of seven Era map cards, which players battle through to try and earn the most fame and reputation. This is done by choosing a path and trying to get what is required to pass on three rolls of the dice.  If they pass they gain fame and reputation and move onto the next area, if not they suffer injury and lose a die. It is good light fun and hard to beat.  People will be able to buy it from our stand at D31 at the UK Games Expo or directly from our website in the future.’

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Immortal Warriors 

How would you sum up Glori Eternia in 3 words?

‘Fast paced fun.’

Thanks for your time! And tons of good wishes to you and your team!

The Kickstarter for Glori Eternia launched this morning, go pay the page a visit here, and if you are visiting the UK Games Expo this week you can find Lewis at stand D31 to pick up Immortal Warriors!