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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Broom Service: The Card Game

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I actually made a video on Broom Service: The Card game that I decided not to publish. I don’t know, it’s the second time I’ve tried making a video and I don’t think it’s for me. I feel like I need another person to interact with and bounce off. Me in a room talking to a camera just doesn’t work. It’s not even a vanity thing, I know I have a weird wonky face and it doesn’t bother me (anymore!) but staring at myself as I speak is just too strange and watching it back over and over to edit is worse. So until I find a video buddy (and possibly someone who is an editing whizz) I think I’ll concentrate on my written posts. 

So Broom Service: The Card Game. I bought this game for a modest £8.99 last week, I do love those low price points! I very much enjoy the board game and thought this would be a nice addition to it. I haven’t played the card game yet but I have used the mini expansion for the board game that comes with it.

My first thought was concerning the box and card sizes. It’s a small box but has quite a lot of room inside. But the cards are tiiiiiny, like mini cards. Which isn’t a problem really, I just wondered why they didn’t make the box smaller or the cards bigger? Or maybe even sold them in a Love Letter style pouch with an emblem on the front or something, that would of been cute. But larger cards would of been nice because the artwork is so lovely. Anyway I’m sure they had their reasons for producing it how they did so fair enough!

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The witches

This 3-6 player card game takes the ‘cowardly/brave’ element of the board game as it’s core mechanic. We have factions of witches such as Sun, Night, Fire, Meadow and so forth and each has a corresponding colour. Played over 4 rounds each player takes a turn placing one of the cards from their hand in the ‘cowardly’ or ‘brave’ position. When the next player takes their turn and if they have the same card as the one previously played they can use their card brave and cancel the previous one played, taking it out of the round. Or you can play cowardly and no one can stop you. So what’s the difference? Well if you play cowardly you’ll score at the end of the game for your potion points, but as there is only one potion on the cowardly side of the card you’re not going to score very big. The brave side has more potions and special potion symbols but if you play too many brave cards you run the risk of having the next player cancel them. The end scoring is based on how many sets of coloured potions you have, how many ‘brave’ potions you have accumulated and if you have met any of the task cards throughout the game. The task cards can be taken by a player at the end of a round if during that round you met the conditions on the task card e.g- 3 purple potions, 4 yellow.

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Task card

It looks like you will have to play carefully in Broom Service card game, keep an eye on how many cards are in the particular witchy faction you are playing and how many are already on the table. It looks to be a tricky one and I’m really looking forward to playing it in full.

So aside from this there is the mini expansion for the board game and this gives you 16 extra cards. You can pick up one of these when you choose to play cowardly and each card has an objective you can meet to gain extra points, like trading in potions for points. If you don’t meet the objective you can still get a point for the unused cards. So they’re worth having, and add an extra something to an already pretty tough game.

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Expansion

I love Broom Service, I think this card game looks like a lot of fun. Nothing amazing maybe, after all it just a set collection/press your luck mini game, but for a low price point and a little expansion included what’s not to like? I also really admire the cute artwork in this game. I just wish that they’d made the cards bigger. Or put an insert in the box. Damn those production costs hey?
More info can be found here.

Archaeology: The New Expedition, Phil Walker-Harding

I acquired this lovely little game as a Mother’s Day present after spying it on Games Lore a couple of months ago. It was also reviewed by Shut Up And Sit Down, and then I had my ‘yes, I need this in my life’ moment. I’ve always been really into history, artefacts, Indiana Jones, and to be honest if I could go back in time and have a word with myself, I would definitely tell younger me to get a job as an historian, museum curator or archaeologist.
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So, onto the game. Put simply, it’s small box card game, beautifully themtaic and you set collect. As a filler game it’s short and sweet (especially as a two player) so perfect to get out and have a few rounds if you fancy a quick game. It’s a draw back and forth card grabbing game, building a set of artefacts and selling them to ‘the museum’ as your actions. The more of one item you sell in one hit the more points you score, so it’s really about managing your deck and getting the cards you need. Play your tent card carefully, you’ll need that to hide from the sandstorm! When they come along at random you have to discard half your hand, and you can only play your tent once. So you can’t get too greedy or you might lose your valuable Pharaoh’s Masks…but if you’re too quick to sell, the 5th card you so desperately needed will be hidden in the chamber next turn! You also have to beware the thief card, which allows you to steal from your opponent. These random elements make the game fun (and annoying as hell) but you can strategise somewhat using the ‘monument tiles’ and their special abilities.
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I love the small box and dinky rule book. The artwork on the cards is pretty simple but affective, and the design on the back of the cards has a gorgeous vintage feel. I don’t feel like Archeology offers anything particularly new or exciting, but sometimes your not looking for anything groundbreaking. However, if you are looking for a new filler game with a fun theme, then you need to put Archeology in your collection and an Indiana Jones movie on! More Info