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Subject: Kanagawa, a zen like experience rss

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Steven Green
United Kingdom
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Hi all. This is second review I have done so please leave comments on the content or giving me advice, you can always learn. Thanks.



Starting this review is hard. How to introduce Kanagawa. Well imagine a card drafting game with push your luck elements. Problem is it feels more than the mechanics suggest. I called this review a zen like experience because playing Kanagawa can give you that feeling. Yes I am playing a game but I am also so relaxed that the game doesn't matter as much as being part of the experience it delivers. If that sounds a little arty for you I would still recommend giving it a go, just don't expect to be part of growing a massive culture or blowing stuff up. Its just not that kind of game.
OK so what is it. In Kanagawa players take the role of students at an art academy in Kanagawa. Each turn students have the option to have lessons and implement these in order to create a grand painting that will make them the best in class. On the journey students can claim certificates (points) before other students and when the end game has triggered the student with the most points is declared the winner.
Now lets get to the review.

Components and Set-up.
Wow, just wow. The art work on the cards is stunning. Iello have gone the extra mile with this and having nice touches like actual wooden paint pots for markers and not just card tokens. The main board is looks like bamboo (in fact a family member commented that it looks like something you could make sushi in). All this screams theme and effort on the designers part.

Lets look at the player area (not the best picture but I hope you get the point).

Again component quality is amazing. Nice thick cards for diplomas and player start tile, fantastic art work, great paint pots and the board is great.
Set Up is super fast and easy to follow. Each player takes a start tile, the cards are shuffles, the diplomas laid out, good to go. The rule book does a great job and give good explanation of how to implement the rules. Overall a great job.

Rating 9

Game Mechanics

The nuts and bolts of this game is card drafting and push your luck. On each turn a player will be the master (this is designated by the rules and can change, and will, during the game)and will get first pick of any cards that come out. However its not as simple as that. On the player board there are multiple places to place cards. Some can be seen and some unseen (a clue is on the back as what may appear on the card). For example in a two player game, first card draft, two cards are placed face up. the master chooses to draft or pass. Then the next player has the same option. If both pass a second card is laid out in each column. Again draft or pass. Final round a third is placed and then drafting mandatory. However if you are not the master and they pass you can take the cards in a column laid out if you want them, or press your luck and hope the master does not want the column you do. This is a good mechanic that does not always give the master the option you think they will have. Maybe the master takes early to block you, in which case they don't really get what they want. Or maybe the student drafts early and in essence hand the master a bonus card. Choices.
Then what to do with these cards. Cards have two functions. You can place them as lessons and gain access to more styles of paint or you can actually paint them and place a new part of your painting. But wait we haven't discussed seasons. Seasons are the little picture in the top right of the card. If you can get a row of these you score points at the end, this should be your objective. Suddenly the draft appears really important and having the right paint style essential. But there is more, some cards give you extra paint pots, some allow extra paint moves, some allow you to become the master. I said at the start of this just calling this card draft and push your luck does not do this game justice.
And I haven't even mentioned the diplomas yet. So much in such a small game. Diplomas are extra points and abilities you can earn throughout the game. For example if you are the first to paint three trees you can take the diploma for this feat. However, here's another push your luck element, you can only have one diploma of each type. If you take that three tree diploma you can't get the four (which is worth more points and may have another paint pot for you to use or a storm which can change one of the seasons on you picture to any you want). Here's another point, if you qualify for a diploma and don't take it you can't backtrack if some one takes the one your working towards before you can. Once your qualified you use it or lose for the rest of the game. Decisions decisions.

Rating: 8

Game-play

All this may seem like a recipe for analysis paralysis but it really is not. The mechanics flow elegantly and easily. You are almost making decisions as the cards are flowing. You are working out what do I need to create a chain of seasons, to qualify for a diploma and to become the master. Once you draft your cards, placing them is second nature because the mechanics flow so easily. Experienced players can easily have a game finished in 30 minutes and I have yet to go over the 45 minutes on the box even with four players. Overall game-play is smooth and logical. Any queries are quickly sorted with the rule book and final scoring is not a complex maths puzzle but a simple extension of the game.

Rating: 9

Conclusion

I called this a zen like experience because it is. The whole package (which by the way is really good value for money) just screams theme. the components, the mechanics and the gameplay all say "hey, just relax, paint a picture". For those people who watch Bob Ross painting films because they say they find it relaxing and have no talent or feeling for painting, this game is for you. Its chilled, its relaxed and with a lot of conflict games out there it is the perfect tonic to a stressful day. I cannot recommend this game highly enough. that being said if you really want to screw your friends over or roll hundreds of D6s to kill the latest monster/alien/zombie (which I will admit on occasion i do) this may not be for you. However if you want a relaxing time, open a bottle of wine, grab some snacks and play Kanagawa. You won't regret it.

Overall Rating: 9
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Luiz Cavalcante
Brazil
Maceio
Alagoas
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Excelent review!
 
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Kevin Garnica
United States
West Covina
California
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Good review. Under the game mechanics section, I would like to see clearer paragraph breaks.
 
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Steven Green
United Kingdom
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Thanks for the feedback, looking at it I can see your point. Hopefully this didn't ruin the review for you.
 
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