I absolutely love it when a small box board game’s size belies its greatness. If you can deliver a game that requires little to no setup that is easy to teach and play without being overly simple (and therefore quickly boring or lacking in the replayability department), I’ll happily give you some space on my shelves.
Kodachi from Wizkids crushes it in the small box game department, for sure. It marries elements of press your luck gameplay with a dash of deck building to deliver a pretty darned fantastic gameplay experience. It could hardly be more simple than it is, but it does not fail to pack an awful lot of fun into its 5×6″ box.
Set Up and Gameplay
All you have to do to set Kodachi up is shuffle a couple decks of cards and stack a few cardboard chits.
Seriously. That’s it.
Not only does this mean you can start playing this game in literally seconds, but it also lends itself to a super fast reset when the sore loser wants his second chance!
From there, the active player takes the shuriken token and flips a card off the top of the House Deck (where the treasures are) and the Guard Deck (where the defenders of said treasures will be revealed). He or she gets to look at the number at the bottom of the Guard card and decide if they’re going to try to use Stealth to sneak past them or Strength to take them out.
The tactic with which they approach this first Guard is the one they must use for the remainder of this round’s raid, so the decision must also be determined by the cards in their hand!
If you choose Stealth, you have to play a Dojo card from your hand that is lower than the value displayed on the Guard card. If you choose Strength, you must play a card of a higher value. You also start with a couple of Skill cards which can modify your Dojo card’s value higher or lower by one (in the starter deck) or more (on certain cards gained from the House deck).
If you manage to beat that number in the direction required by your choice of either Stealth or Strength, you have a decision to make: Flip over more cards and continue, or stop and collect your rewards.
This is where the press your luck element begins to shine! If you flip more cards over and you fail to either sneak past or defeat the Guard, you don’t get to claim a single card now on the display before all the players while they get to each take a turn either retrieving a Guard card for free (which have symbols on them that serve as the game’s currency) or pay for one of the face-up House cards (all of which double as Skill cards or Dojo cards and grant VP at game end). Purchased House cards go straight into your hand; ready for your next turn!
If you do mount a successful raid and call it quits before failing, you get first dibs on the cards and are able to pick up a number of them equal to the number of Guard cards revealed, minus one (with a minimum of one). So, yeah, there are some major perks to going on a run…but there’s always that chance that the next Guard will have your friends adding cards to their decks while you get a big fat nothing!
Kodachi is kind enough to give you a little bit of caution that a stronger card might be waiting for you at the top of the Guard deck by coloring the back of the Elite Guards cards red instead of the brown. Calling it quits before flipping that card over leaves you with the spoils and sticks your neighbor with a beefy encounter first thing which might just keep their raid to a minimum.
The game end is triggered when a single player picks up 4 of the clan tokens by purchasing certain cards from the House deck, or when the last of the 9 tokens is finally snatched up. Your VP score is simply your card values plus any clan token values you might have earned.
Kodachi Stealthed Its Way Into My Heart
Kodachi is seriously fun, yo. I love the elements of press your luck games when your opponents are goading you on and you just manage to prove successful after pushing in for one more shot at the spoils. These kind of games incite all kinds of fun communication:
- Genuine shouts of excitement from your opponents when your gamble pays off
- Lots of harassment as they peer pressure you into taking one step too many
- And the well known onomatopoeias of bad luck
The inability to change your tactic from Stealth to Strength or vice versa in the middle of the raid makes things super interesting, too. You’ve got eyes on your cards; which approach makes the most sense this round? There is a Skill card or two available in the House deck that will let you flip the shuriken over once that round and they are hot commodities and a godsend in a pinch!
I also really like the deck building mechanics of Kodachi, as well. They are there, but they aren’t complicated at all. You’ve got to snag Guard cards early to build up some currency and then choose from the available cards after the next raid which card might serve you best. Sometimes you’ll get first dibs, sometimes you’ll choose last, and other times you won’t be able to pick up any cards at all because either the display has been emptied before your turn to pick up a card rolled around or you can’t afford the only remaining House card(s).
The card selection mechanic also kinda has you rooting for the player sitting on your right! If they do well, you get first dibs on the leftover spoils and if they bomb you get first pick overall! To be honest, while you are definitely in direct competition with everyone at the table, it is for the best that all of your opponents go deep so your odds of adding a card to your resources is that much better.
And I think that is the real strength of this game: The way the deck building is reliant upon or tied to the press your luck element. Had these mechanics been totally independent of one another, it would have been a weak deck builder and an average press your luck styled game at best.
If we had played Kodachi first last night, I can guarantee you it would have been the only game we played last night. The instant setup, fun gameplay, and the table talk it generated made it a home run.
Easily worth the $20 price tag, so keep an eye out for its release!
Disclosure: Nerds on Earth was provided a copy of Kodachi by Wizkids games in exchange for an honest review.