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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An interview with Robert Coelho

I was lucky enough to speak to Robert Coelho, a theatre director and board game designer from Brazil. Robert’s game Shakespeare: Sonhos de um Bardo (A Bard’s Dream) is on it’s way to being released by Fun Box Jogos. It is a set collection, card drafting game featuring gorgeous artwork by Luis Fransisco and Jacqui Davis and you can read more details below. I loved reading Robert’s answers, fascinating stuff and plenty of names and games to investigate further. I hope that you enjoy reading as much as I did.

Robert Coelho

Robert Coelho

All images taken with permission from Board Game Geek.

Tell me about your most recent game Shakespeare: A Bard’s Dream when is it to be released?

Shakespeare: A Bard´s Dream is a card game inspired by all those amazing plays and iconic characters. The game is a play staged by the players and their characters. Each round takes place in a different scenario and players use characters to perform actions or collect coins. Characters have class icons and each character you put on stage later becomes part of your cast. At the end of the game you’ll get points according to class icons in your cast. It would be a simple and placid set-collection game, if not for all that treason, murders, vengeance, romance and many other shakespearian actions characters can perform during the play. The game will be released here in Brazil this year during the second semester on a date to be announced.

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How did you go about publishing your game? Did you approach Fun Box initially?

It all started around the beginning of 2014. I am a theatre director and my playtest group was my game group, basically formed by my actors. After a few weeks where we played Citadels almost every day during rehearsal snack breaks, I began to think about a game that would a play where we could put characters on stage. Took a look at BGG when I started sketching this idea and noticed that there were not many games with this theme. There were some games that had Shakespeare as a theme, but none of them were relevant or similar to what I was thinking. Spent a few months working on the mechanics of the game and in the characters actions, what took me to re-read and study all of Shakespeare’s plays to get the game where I wanted. In October I thought that the game was well balanced and I began thinking about crowdfunding to publish it. At that time I already knew Vanessa, one of the owners of Funbox Jogos, because I was a loyal customer of Funbox Ludolocadora, a board game cafe where you can rent games too.  Funbox Jogos had recently published through crowdfunding the Brazilian version of Coup, which was beautiful, by the way. So I thought it would be a good idea to show them the game and find out  if it was really worth it and maybe get some tips that could help me on the way to a successful crowdfunding campaign. On the day that I scheduled with Vanessa to show her the game, all Funbox Jogos big guys were there and they ended up playing too. Many tips, analysis, suggestions and compliments and a week later they contacted me saying they wanted to publish the game.

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Will it have an English translation or European distribution? 

Well I have a prototype of the game in English and Funbox Jogos will be at Essen. So, let´s cross fingers.

How long have you been designing and have you had any other games released? 

I always loved games, whether electronic, cards or tabletop. But I really started thinking about creating one just after a new world of possibilities was uncovered when I discover the modern board games in 2011. Shakespeare was the first game I considered good enough to show other people than my game group and it´s going to be the first one to be published. Hope many others will come.

Is there anything you’re currently working on?

Last year I spent some time developing more card games ideas, like Urbes (A city building draft game), Anime Studio (An anime production with multi-use cards) and Mermaids (A bluffing and deduction game under the sea). Unfortunately I can´t work full time on my game projects, so I dedicated my free time to them. Since I think I get better results when I focus on just one game for a while, I’ll have to choose which board game prototype I’ll return to, since some got frozen during last year, or which new idea I’ll start developing. I have a little notebook where I write down all my games ideas so I can work on them later, and right now I have more than 20 there. I think I need more free time!

What’s the table top game scene like in Brazil? Has it always been quite strong of has it grown in popularity?

Catan was just published here in 2011, and before that the vast majority of the market was dominated by Risk and Monopoly look alikes. Just a very small number of people would import because taxes are very high here. From what I have read on BGG and heard on YouTube, there was a worldwide increase of tabletop games enthusiasts in recent years. Fortunately we seem to follow this trend, as the number of stores, publishers and games has grown exponentially every year since 2011. We don´t have a big convention bringing together players nationally, but several cities already have local events. I organize one in my city called Joga Cuesta. Hope to have a BGBR CON soon, with many foreign companies, designers and reviewers visiting us.

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Who are your favourite designers, and do you have any recommendations for us?

I´m a big fan of Bruno Cathala, Bruno Faidutti, Vlaada Chvátil and Uwe Rosenberg. Have not played so many Feld games, but I really liked those I played. I´m a big fan of Marcos Macri´s games, a Brazilian designer who was not yet published out of here. But if you want to know him better, Rahdo did a run through Dogs, one of my favourites. I playtested his next one, Chaparral, and it´ll probably be the best of all. The dynamic duo Sérgio Halaban and André Zatz, responsible for the big hit Sheriff of Nothingham, are also Brazilian and from them I would recommend Quartz, a very funny press your luck game which will be released at GEN CON this year. If you are more of a euro gamer, besides Macri´s games I´d recommend Blacksmith Brothers from Nicholas Paschalis, just released here by Ludofy Creative, and Space Cantina from Fel Barros and Warny Marçano, which crowfunding campaign is ending this week. Shakespeare artwork is amazing, thanks to Luis Francisco graphic design and Jacqui Davis illustrations. So I´d like to recommend Fidelitas and Euphoria, two great games where you can find Jacqui´s art. If you have Instagram I would recommend following me, @robertcoel, so you can find more about Brazilian tabletop games and talk about what we´re playing.

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A sneak peek at a previously unseen card, one of my favourite characters!

You can follow Robert on Instagram on the link above and follow the game on BGG

 

The Gallerist, Vital Lacerda

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I heard many great things about The Gallerist and after watching a review I agreed that it looked like a lot of fun. I was a little worried that it wouldn’t live up to the hype or to the slightly hefty price tag. I am pleased to confirm that on both accounts it certainly did. It is a great game, and once you see the and feel the quality of the box and components it is definitely worth the money. The box is huge, the board is big, the pawns with their nice little hats are made of vibrantly coloured wood. The tiles and money tokens are thick cardboard and the art work displayed on the tiles is actual art that was submitted for the game. The graphic design is neat and functional. So aesthetically The Gallerist gets a big thumbs up from me!

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The game itself is smooth and fast moving, with plenty of tough decisions to be made. As always I won’t go into the rules, but a quick overview; You move your pawn around the board to the action spaces. Your aim is to discover artists, buy art, sell art and set collect for bonus VP’s. It sounds fairly simple but the reality is bloody tricky. You also have to decide what you want to achieve most; a great selection in your gallery, money for the art you sell, to have  certain sets (as outlined by your objective cards) to discover as many artists as possible to buy at a commissioners rate….there’s a lot of thinking to do here.

So what makes it tough? Without people in your gallery or plaza there is a limited amount to what you can do, you need tickets to get those cute little art lovin’ meeples in the door, you need meeples in your plaza to take actions to generate money, gain influence (which will gain you money at the end of the game) bring out new meeples, take tickets etc. You need money to buy more art, contracts to sell it, assistants to help you achieve this and don’t forget about the international market. This is where you go gain the piece of art on display that will gain you some lovely bonus cash in the end scoring. You need to spend some time getting your assistants in the high value market spaces in order to win the piece. I could continue but I think that you get the idea. So we’ve gone from this sounds simple to ludicrously complicated but fear not! It works. It’s fast paced and enjoyable, it can be head-in-hands frustrating, but it’s such fun! Making these tough choices around what your opponents are doing is one of the hardest parts. The ‘kicked out’ actions allow you take the same action as another player but it means they’ll get a free turn. I didn’t think this seemed that bad but actually you really notice the difference when your opponent starts steaming ahead of you!

All in all The Gallerist is very fun and well worth the money. Jump on the bandwagon and play it! More info here. I was really hoping to make a video this week but i’m still waiting to get a tripod. Hopefully next week!

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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

Gum Gum Machine, Stefan Dorra, Ralf Zur Linde

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We played Gum Gum Machine for the first time and I am happy to say it was a lot of fun. Pretty much what I expected, it’s not going to set off intellectual fireworks or bust your brain. It’s a cute silly game about making ‘gum gums’ and that’s about it!

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I found the Charlie & The Chocolate Factory aesthetic particularly pleasing, and the modular board is a great addition. It reminded me of games I played when I was a kid like 13th Dead End Drive, and you can interchange the components to change it up a bit each time. Also check out the box inlay….ooooh.

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So I played a couple of games employing no strategy whatsoever, just having fun with it and lost both times. If you want to win then you can try and memorise bits and pieces to get the gummy you need, make the biggest gummies and get the most points.

The board sends you to different areas and randomises your turn so to memorise the board and find a strategy is tricky and fun. That’s why I like the board because you can make your next game different and it doesn’t get stale. Not the kind of game you’d play nightly because I can imagine it would lose some novelty but as a filler game or something light and fun then it’s a must buy! More Info