Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday, 23 November 2017

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama

Game: Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama

Publisher: Indie Boards and Cards

Designer: Eilif Svensson, Kristian Amundsen Østby

Year: 2017

Kokoro is one of the first Kickstarter games we backed. What attracted us to this Kickstarter project in particular was the meeting of two strong games. At the time we had recently enjoyed Kodama - a great little card placement and set collection gma set in a very whimsical world. Kokoro is a re-theme of an Essen 2016 hit, Avenue, into the universe of Kodama. We didn't get the opportunity to play Avenue, but it received considerable buzz for a small game and Kokoro promised to be a good re-theme with some additional modifications.

Kokoro is a competitive game for 1-8 players. It comes from the genre of roll-and-write games, but mechanically it works with a deck of cards. The game has 5 rounds and in each round you will draw cards from the top of a deck. The cards have 6 different routes on them - 4 different turns, a horizontal and a vertical line. Each player has a grid and must choose where to draw each line segment. Each round you are trying to connect a line back to one of the correct sanctuary - there are 6 sanctuaries and one is active in each of the five rounds.

Kokoro is a logical puzzle which is made more complex by the scoring mechanisms. Each round you need to increase the number of flowers and caterpillars that you connect into your route. If you don't manage to increase your score you will lose 5 points for the round. The key to increasing your points is not to be too ambitious in the early rounds and ensure that you plan ahead so that your sanctuaries all become interlinked by the later rounds of the game. The perfect game would connect all of the sanctuaries, as well as the lion and the fairy in the two corners of the board. I think this perfect game is possible with the right spatial awareness and forwards planning - two skills I don't appear to have!

The alternative side of the board, with our wonderful drawings of a lion and a lady in the locations determined by the dice.
The fact that it seems possible to identify a perfect game could easily be seen as a negative, but fortunately a lot of variation has been packed into the box, with a second side to the board which randomises the location of each player's sanctuaries and a pile of gamer changer cards which change the rules or offer different point scoring opportunities. We're only just starting to change things up with these cards, and none of them seem to be earth shattering changes, but it's nice to have the variability in the base game, when it could so easily have been saved for an expansion.

A selection of the 'Decree' cards which add minor rule changes to the game.

One of the strengths of Kokoro for us is the high player count. Kokoro plays 1-8 and it's great for me to find a game that plays so many players, but isn't a typical party game. In reality Kokoro could play an infinite number of players simultaneously and you're only limited by the number of components in your copy of the game. The designers appear to have thought about the high player count by giving each type of turn or straight line it's own number which can be called out to a large group who have a small image of each tile type on their board as a reminder. I can't wait to try Kokoro with my fledgling group of 'gamers' at work, who always want to play as one big group.

Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama is definitely a light game which plays in a short length of time and is also very portable (we've played it 2-player on a train journey). For gamers, it will only be a filler, but it's also going to make a great game to bring people into the hobby because it's so unique from many typical board gaming experiences. The charming artwork and nice production, mean that it will definitely work well for children and families as well as gamers who enjoy puzzly games that aren't too mentally taxing.

For the Yellow Meeple, Kokoro is a 6.5/10.

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