Rik Van Horn
I had a full group of six here for the first play of Karesansui here at Millennium Games in Rochester, NY.
Al, Carl, Ben, Chris, Rademas and myself sat down for the teaching session, followed by a full game.
The basic idea of the game is that you're an apprentice in a Japanese monastery and you need to tend and enlarge a rock garden.
It's not as easy as it sounds though.
Each player has a board representing their garden. You can have a side that helps you organize or one that lets you freeform.
The purpose is the same, however, make a rock garden and ad to it each turn, but don't make combinations that jar the aura.
This is embodied by receiving demerits in the form of cards. The types of demerits are:
Demerit for not adding rocks to your garden this turn (passing) = 1
Demerits for having 3 rocks of equal size and the same color = 1-6
Demerits for having 4 rocks of the same size, but different colors = 1-6
Demerits for have three rocks, one of each size of the same color = 1-6
These are represented by cards stacked in order from 1 to 6, in ascending order.
So the first demerit awarded for each type is always 1, then 2 etc.
The demerit for passing is always 1.
These combinations come in the form of rocks. There are five different colors of rocks and 3 sizes of each from size I to size III.
Everyone starts with 5 rocks on their boards.
The auction board is then loaded with rocks. The boards is five sections, but one less section is filled than there are players.
Each section gets random rocks from a bag until it has a value of at least six. This can be more depending on chance.
Once this is done, beginning with the start player, you bid on a section containing rocks. As long as one section has not been bid on, you must bid.
Bidding works like this. If no bid has been made on a section, you may bid as many rocks as you have and/or like. If you wish to replace someone else's bid, you must less in total combined size than the previous bidder. This means if their total value was 8, you must bid 7 or less.
You can also match the value, if you use less rocks. So a bid of 8 using 4 rocks can be replaced with a bid of 8 using 3 rocks.
Bidding continues until all sections have a bid and someone finally passes without making a bid.
Once this happens, the person that passed receives 1 demerit and draws a random stone from the bag and places it in their garden.
Once this is done, all bids are placed in the bag and all section winners take the the stones they won and place them in their gardens.
Now, starting with the player that passed, each person looks for combinations that rate demerits, removes the offending rocks to the bag and receives a demerit card from the top of the stack for each offending category they had. These are placed in front of the player face down.
The game ends when either one of the demerit piles is empty or after 5 rounds, a black stone is placed in the bag and removed refilling the auction board, which ends the game immediately or is pulled by the passing player, also ending the game.
You can see the black stone on the auction board, it moves after each round until 5 have passed and then is placed in the bag.
The strategies became apparent fairly early, when I made what I thought was a final bid of one rock, size one on a section and was outbid by Ben's zero rock bid.
Yes, you can bid NO rocks at all and cannot be outbid after that.
People also realized quickly that passing is not necessarily bad, because you only receive 1 demerit point and one random rock.
While getting demerit cards for each type is low early, they quickly increase, making demerits much more costly as Carl and Al realized.
Five rounds passed quickly and some of us managed to acquire only 1 or 2 cards, while others were gaining more.
finally after 5 rounds the black stone went into the bag. Rademus, Chris and Carl had a larger number of cards, while Ben, Al and I only had a couple. Sadly, one of mine was a five and when the black stone came out a couple rounds later, Al had won with only 4 demerits.
This is a fast and fun abstract game with an interesting bidding mechanic.
If you want a game that plays 6 in less than an hour and has infinite replayablity, this is the game for you.
It's become a constant request in my game group lately.
Actually, Ben won the game by one point over me!