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Subject: A Casual Review of Kanagawa rss

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Lisa Schensted
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Lakefield
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Kanagawa is a light hearted, press your luck + tableau building game. The theme, being a student of a Master Painter, means trying to prove yourself worthy by expanding your studio and painting a harmonious print.



This is one of the few games where I learned the rules and taught my avid gamer husband. I was a little nervous about learning and teaching a game, but Kanagawa has a very small learning curve. After about 10 minutes of reading and another 5 of explaining, we were ready to roll! Er, I mean paint.



Each player randomly draws a starting tile that provides you with a landscape you've already mastered (Forest, Mountain, Plain, or Ocean), two brush pawns, one movement, and a plains Print with a season. Scoring happens at the end of the game and points are awarded based on the point symbols in your Print and studio, total number of cards in your Print, longest sequence of identical Seasons, completed Diploma tiles and ending with the Grand Master pawn.

Each round, the first player (denoted by the Grand Master pawn) draws the same amount of Lesson Cards as there are players, and places them on the first row of the board. They are face up or face down based on how the mat tells you to lay them.

The choice is then immediately made to either Broaden Your Knowledge (pass your turn and wait for more cards) or Put it into Practice (choose a column of Lesson cards, play the cards, take the appropriate Diploma.



If you choose to Put it into Practice, you must immediately play all of the cards from the column you choose. You can either add a card to improve your studio, which could give you more brush movement, the apprentice pawn (which may give you Master Apprentice aka start player), or master a new landscape.

If you choose to add a card to expand your Print, you must be able to match the combination of Brush and Landscape shown on the new lesson card. As you can see from the above image, the Print I placed has the "plains" landscape, and I have a brush pawn on my "plains" landscape in my studio, so I'm kosher.

You can move a brush to be able to place a new card on your Print based on how many movement symbols you have. Brush pawns can only be moved once per round, and brushes can only be used on one print per round, so this is definitely the tricky part and where the bottleneck of wanting to do things vs being able to do things happens.

One of my favorite aspects of the game are the Diplomas. They're scoring tiles based on things you accomplish from either your Print or Studio after you place lesson cards. If you qualify for a Diploma, you have tho select it immediately or lose it FOREVER. For example, let us say you've added 3 trees to your print, which means you may immediately take the Diploma that gives you points for having at least 3 trees in your print. Awesome. Great. SO DO IT, right? Buuuuuuuttt if you take that Diploma, you're done with that section of Diplomas forever. Even if you build more trees, you cannot take another Diploma from that section. Thus, the press your luck portion. Do you take the safe points OR do you roll the dice and hope the right lesson cards come out with the corresponding landscapes to get more trees and more points? DICEY. And awesome.

Once you've passed on a Diploma, you can never choose that one again. So if you pass on the 3 trees Diploma thinking you'll be able to paint more trees, but you never DO paint more trees, TOO BAD. You passed on that Diploma and its moved on with its life and so should you. Also, if you take a Diploma but end up building more than 3 trees, TOO BAD. You only get one Diploma per color.



Here's my game board a few rounds in. It's really not great, you guys. The cards coming up just didn't mesh so I have a LOT in my studio (as you recall, you HAVE to play the cards somewhere) which makes brush movement more challenging. Sigh.

Anyway, the game continues until one of two conditions is met: The deck is empty or when one or more players have 11 cards in their Print. Because we played two player, we met the second condition.



Thankfully, things came together a LITTLE bit more for me near the end. You can see the Diplomas I ended up with (ignore the one on the right. I started cleaning up and then had to reset the game to take photos and that one got thrown in by mistake), though I didn't get as many as I would have liked.

Overall, I liked the flow of the game and the artwork is engaging and pretty to look at. The game pieces are unique and the theme makes sense. Start player moves around too based on who has the Master or Apprentice (determined by cards or Diploma completion) so that kept things interesting.

What I didn't love was playing with just 2 players. It didn't make sense to take a column of lesson cards before it was full since we weren't competing as closely for certain combinations. So we ended up "Broadening our knowledge" every time until the tableau was full and then taking the full compliment of three cards every time. I think this game would be a lot more fun with 3-4 players and then card competition would be a little more intense, as Diplomas would be a little more scarce.

Overall, this is a quick to learn and fun to play game that's low stress and provides a lot of variability and awesome components.

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David Janik-Jones
Canada
Waterloo
Ontario
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Combat Commander, Up Front, Julius Caesar, Fields of Fire! The Raven King (game publisher) ... that's me!
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Great review. Just ordered my copy yesterday from boardgamebliss. Should arrive next week.
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Lisa Schensted
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Lakefield
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DaveyJJ wrote:
Great review. Just ordered my copy yesterday from boardgamebliss. Should arrive next week.


Awesome! I hope you enjoy it!
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Jon Ben
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Of course I've been up all night! Not because of caffeine, it was insomnia. I couldn't stop thinking about coffee.
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Nice review, and annotated pictures!

We found that the waiting for a full column problem still exists in the 4 player game. A few 2-card columns were taken in the later game, but no one ever took a 1-card column. The lack of tension in this aspect of the game was disappointing. In theory people will want to snag a diploma from you so leaving early to do that makes sense. This situation didn't present itself much.
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juan c marquez
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I just ordered it, but I also have my doubts as a 2p. I bought it because it looks great and I know my wife will enjoy it a lot. Hope I'm wrong about the 2p experience.
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Patrick C.
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Milford
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I can't comment on the gameplay, but I have to disagree on the rule book.

The rules are written with thematic jargon instead of just saying things in a straightforward fashion. I've learned and picked up games that were twice as heavy as this in half the time. So far I've gone through the rules twice and I still don't have them down yet. I'm going to have to watch a play through video.

I don't think any of this suggests the game is hard to play. It's a light game. But for me this is easily one of the worst rule books I've read this year.
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Pas L
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Coloretto: The Eurogame?
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Jon Ben
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Of course I've been up all night! Not because of caffeine, it was insomnia. I couldn't stop thinking about coffee.
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lamaros wrote:
Coloretto: The Eurogame?


That would be Zooloretto.

Kanagawa lacks the defining feature of the players creating the piles. Although that would be a great variant that might actually improve the game.
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Andy Szymas
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Good review: but why is there a random photo of three women in bikini tops ?

Edit: looks like the photo link was fixed.
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Flawed Hero
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heylisarenee wrote:
Overall, this is a quick to learn and fun to play game that's low stress and provides a lot of variability and awesome components.


Lisa, I really liked how you labeled the pics with the component names. The hardest thing for me when reading a review is trying to picture what the reviewer is talking about as they describe the gameplay. I found your pictures to be really helpful in that regard, similar to a rulebook's pictures and examples. (I guess this is why video reviews are so popular!)

My 11-yr-old daughter loves all things Japanese, so having Takenoko, Tokaido, Machi Koro, and Matcha, this game is definitely next on the list!
Thanks for the review! cool
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Lisa Schensted
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Jim K wrote:
heylisarenee wrote:
Overall, this is a quick to learn and fun to play game that's low stress and provides a lot of variability and awesome components.


Lisa, I really liked how you labeled the pics with the component names. The hardest thing for me when reading a review is trying to picture what the reviewer is talking about as they describe the gameplay. I found your pictures to be really helpful in that regard, similar to a rulebook's pictures and examples. (I guess this is why video reviews are so popular!)

My 11-yr-old daughter loves all things Japanese, so having Takenoko, Tokaido, Machi Koro, and Matcha, this game is definitely next on the list!
Thanks for the review! cool


Thank you much!
 
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Lisa Schensted
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AndySzy wrote:
Good review: but why is there a random photo of three women in bikini tops ?

Edit: looks like the photo link was fixed.


Weird! Thanks for the heads up! Sorry it's PG again...
 
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Lazy Mountain

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Thought this looked great for play with my SO, but your comment at the end that 3-4 is the better range week keep me from buying. Thanks for that tip!
 
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