With its veneer of theme, building a path of stones through a lily pool for a princess, that seems not to be mentioned anywhere but on the back of the box, Kamon is a pure abstract which combines a number of different concepts into a surprisingly cute and thinky little game. The object is to either connect sides or create a loop, and like several recent abstract games, each move is heavily constrained by the previous ones.
I'd recently translated the rules (now available in the BGG Kamon file section), and thought that it would be a good time to bring the game out and give it a bit of a spin. The rules explanation took a few minutes (mostly explaining the three different winning conditions), and we were off.
For the first game, we had the novel experience of mixing up all the red foam Kamon chits and laying them out across the board. I was surprised that the seemingly garish red actually looked okay on the leather board.
Black started and we started filling up the board. There never seemed any real opportunities for loops, so we both ended up in a mad dash to complete the cross-connection, in this case Black managed to carefully exhaust all of white's other options to force a move which permitted black's final connecting placement (although the game was stuck for several moves while this path was found. The final board setup was like this.
For folks following along at home, the the sequence of moves (black started) that led to the final situation was as follows (this can be looked up on the start board for the curious)
For the second game, we'd both become a little more canny as to the game's mechanics. White started on an edge at the top of the board, black immediately took a strong central position and started working to block white's cross-connection and trying to build a loop.
As the game progressed, two adjacent similar symbols prevent black from finishing the cross-board connect that had been started. Black also missed a late-game opportunity to finish the game by forcing a loop creation because of being too focussed on protecting the cross-board connection. IN the end, white managed to force the last piece down to neatly create a cross-board connection around two edges, from corner to corner. Very nice.
For the final game of the evening, black again tried a hybrid loop/connection strategy, this time centred around creating a loop around the starting-marker gap in the board. This proved a little too inflexible to manage quickly, and white again managed to get to the point where any of the chord-shapes (or 1 or 2 symbols) would create a victory.
Black managed a rear-guard action trying to complete a loop to win, but in the end, White had simply managed to arrange for too many of the following moves to result in them winning, and the game was lost.
Kamon is a cute game, the tension between the different winning conditions makes it nicely difficult to figure out whether someone is really trying to push a connection through, or simply stall until they're in a position to finish a loop. The crux of the game is trying to limit the moves of your opponent so they're forced to let you make helpful moves and it seems games are often lost by players being just that little bit too obvious about what they're actually trying to achieve.
The game plays fairly quickly, despite slowing down somewhat towards the end, when each of the chains of moves you might into action are being considered. If you're careful and are working out the consequences while it isn't your turn, the game goes pretty quickly, and it's certainly tempting to play again right away to try out a different strategy or winning condition.
st pierre en faucigny
thank you very much for putting into the light this game i really like !
and thank you for the english rules...
for the one who have an ipad or an iphone, you can play against your friends and/or an artificial intelligence:
have fun !
Too bad it is so consistently unavailable in the US.