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 12 February 2019

Two Trees, or not two trees:- Kodama Duo

Game: Kodama Duo

Publisher: Action Phase Games, Indie Boards & Cards

Designer:  Nick Little (I), Daniel Solis

Year: 2018

Kodama Duo is a 2-player only version of the 2016 game of growing trees, Kodama: The Tree Spirits. But it's not just a 2-player game, it also serves as an expansion to the original game, raising the player count to 6 and adding a new drafting optional rule to the game.

If you are familiar to Kodama then you can expect mostly the same gameplay. I'll explain the changes in the next paragraph. But for those of you who are new to Kodama, allow me to quickly recap. Kodama takes place over 3 seasons each of 4 rounds. Each round you will gain a branch card from a common market and add it to your tree, you will then score a number of points based on the number of matching symbols on the branch you placed and the previous cards placed going back to your original trunk card. Each season will have a special rule that varies the gameplay in some way. At the end of each season every player will invite a Kodama to their tree, this Kodama will give you points depending on how much it likes your tree. Some Kodama may like a tree with lots of fireflies and caterpillars, while others want a tree with as many different branches as possible. At the end of the final season the player who has earned the most points wins.

In Kodama Duo there are a few notable changes, the first biggest change is the way you select cards. Each round you will either be the splitter or the chooser. The splitter draws 3 branch cards and chooses to put them in a set of 2 cards and a single card by itself. The chooser then decides whether to take the single card or the pair of cards, with the splitter getting the left-over option. Once the cards are picked one half of the pair of cards gets added to the tree. The other is discarded with a bonus token going to the player who took the single card. This token matches one of the symbols on the discarded card and can be placed on any one of your branch cards, covering up a feature and replacing it with the new one. Not only does this give you the opportunity to bridge gaps on your trees, but if your opponent has the token of the feature you wanted you take the token directly from them!

Add to this a series of new season cards that add twists to the way you gain tokens or split cards (try making a choice when one of the cards is face down!), along with some new Kodama who reward you based on token collections or for avoiding letting cards of a certain type get discarded and you have Kodama Duo. The changes may be small, but they add a lot to the game. The "I split you choose" gameplay adds a lot of tactical depth to a game where they is often one card that's obviously better for you. Whatever you do you are giving your opponent first pick. Putting it in the pair ensures that even if they take it you will get a token, but also runs the risk of them wanting the *other* card in the pair and then you get to watch you favoured choice be discarded!

It's fair to say that Kodama Duo is now our favoured way to play, while the original Kodama does play two players without any changes to the rules, the refilling market of cards always made it feel like it was impossible to deny your opponent and even if you tried luck could just grant them the card they wanted regardless. Kodama Duo lets you feel a lot more in control of your destiny. That being said some of the Kodama cards do feel a little easier to achieve, and certainly combinations of them make for a better set than others, it can be a bit frustrating when your deal of cards at the start of the game can leave you in a bad position before the game has even begun. Besides this minor issue though Kodama Duo is a wonderful game, with a terrific theme and beautiful art, it's certainly worth giving a try!


Kodama Duo was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £18.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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