Without fail, every time I visit an establishment with a koi pond, I stop and observe. My mind clears as I listen to a trickling waterfall and gaze at big, bright, multi-colored fish aimlessly swimming back and forth. This experience is very relaxing and tremendously calming for me. I cannot scientifically explain why this is, but I believe that is its intended purpose. I am there until I snap back to reality and usually realize I am late returning a movie to RedBox. I know I could use Amazon Prime to stream the movies I rent, but then I wouldn’t get to see any fish. Kohaku encapsulates as much of that feeling into a tile placement and drafting game as I have ever experienced.
Kohaku is a tile drafting and placement game being funded through Kickstarter by Gold Seal Games on October 21st. The game was designed by Danny Devine, whose previous releases, such as Harvest Dice, Topiary, Circle The Wagons, and Ghosts Love Candy, have been absolute hits. Danny is also a wonderful artist and, as per usual, he has designed all of the artwork for Kohaku as well.
I must say that while Gold Seal Games provided me with the prototype which included Danny’s prototype artwork, the artwork for this copy is still beautiful! The final product will offer a pledge level with 3D acrylic tiles and all of the pledge levels tiles will now have lots of unique artwork them.
Kohaku contains two types of beautifully designed tiles which are laid out from a shuffled stack on 4×3 central pond. Those tiles will be Feature tiles, which have a printed scoring condition, and Fish tiles. This pond will have an even distribution of those two tile types.
The pond board is filled from the shuffled stack of Feature and Fish tiles in a way that each tile in the draft pond will be adjacent to the other type. In other words, no like tile types will be orthogonally adjacent in the pond. To help with this, the pond has printed artwork to display what type of tile should be placed in that area.
On your turn, you will draft two tiles, one of each type, following the rule that they must be orthogonally adjacent. After you have taken a Feature tile and a Fish tile from the main pond, you will place them faceup in front of you and start to create your own koi pond. The two tiles that you draft must always be placed adjacent to an existing tile in your own tableau with the understanding that your first two tiles will always be placed next to each other to start your pond.
Before the next players’ turn, the remaining tiles in the pond shift in what I would best describe as sort of a leaking out from the center of the board to the edges. Once the tiles shift and fall into their new positions, the two center spots will be left open. The pond is refilled from the stacks of tiles, and play passes to the left and repeated.
Placement of these tiles in your tableau is very important as there are many different scoring elements to decide on. The Feature tile offers the scoring condition and the Fish tile is what garners you victory points. You may be scoring based off things like color of adjacent fish, set collection, count of dragon flies or little fish, pond décor, and so much more.
Kohaku is a gorgeous, peaceful tile drafting game. It offers a very Zen like, almost transcendental experience, creating a very relaxing environment. With all of that said, it also offers an extremely satisfying draft with many options which will help players never feel left out of any turn. You are constantly able to provide yourself a way to score victory points. The tiles you decide to take and how you place them is how you maximize those many options.
You will exercise a lot of strategic planning in what you draft from the main board, creating a wave of congenial water-filled wonder, while gazing at beautiful art work. Kohaku is strategic serenity.
You can visit the Kohaku Kickstarter page starting October 21, 2019.
Gold Seal Games provided us with a prototype copy of Kohaku ahead of the Kickstarter campaign. This in no way influenced our opinion of the game. Previews are a glimpse into an upcoming game with the pros and cons that we experienced prior to production of the game.