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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Tuesday 21 November 2017

The Long and Winding Road:- 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: Avenue of the Kodama is a route-building game for 1-8 players. In it you are tasked with connecting flowers and caterpillars to the sanctuaries of the forest by restoring the ancient paths. But you have to be careful to plan ahead, because if you ever score less than you did in the previous round then you get heavily penalised.

Kokoro’s gameplay is elegantly simple. Each player has a dry erase board with the exact same map layout on it. A sanctuary is revealed which players have to connect the flowers and caterpillars to in order to score. After the sanctuary is revealed a card is drawn. Each card has a line, either a straight up/across or a 90 degree turn in any of four directions. Every player must then draw this line on their map. These cards are either plain or golden, after 4 golden cards are drawn the round ends, players add up their connected items and note down their score. Then a new sanctuary is revealed and gameplay resumes. If you would score less than the previous round then you instead score 0, with a penalty of -5 points at the end of the game for each zero you scored. At the end of the game there is a final scoring for flowers connected to the lion in the bottom right and caterpillars connected to the lady in the top left, then the player with the most points wins.

The very start of a two player game with the advanced rules. We need to connect things to sanctuary A, and have started by drawing line number 1.
The result is a game that is tough, but rigorously fair. Each player has had the exact same opportunity, it’s all about how you use it. Do you plan for the future and build a route that scores you no points now in the hope of a big payout later, or do you steam ahead from the early game in the hope of being able to constantly improve just that little bit to keep your points rolling in? Having no crossroads makes Kokoro incredibly unforgiving to mistakes and lack of forethought, although if you really don’t know what to do with a line then you can opt not to draw it in return for a glimpse at the next sanctuary, allowing you to plan for the future.

Once you grow tired of the basic gameplay there is an advanced variant which changes the rules, either giving you new ways to score or different ways to use your tiles. Unfortunately, none of them make a huge difference to the game. Conversely, they don’t add much complexity, so they are probably worth including from your second game onwards.

Final scoring of my board, not my finest hour, but I still won by 1 point. On the pink side of the board the flower goddess and lion god are placed randomly, hence my "art"
It’s hard not to see the charm in Kokoro - the art is minimalist, but incredibly endearing. The gameplay may not be deep but it has been polished to a mirrors sheen, it’s hard to find any faults in it. Even the dry erase pens coming with little erasers built in the top are a great thoughtful design. Kokoro is a small game that makes for a fantastic warm-up game that can be relied upon to take 15 minutes regardless of your player count.


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