In May I stumbled upon a post talking about the merging of two really great family games. Indie Boards and Cards merged the beautiful, whimsical style of Kodama with the game play of Avenue, a game that was published originally in 2016 by Aporta Games. The minute I saw this Kickstarter, I knew this was a game our family would enjoy.
In Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama, you are trying to clear paths and score points by linking these paths to different “sanctuaries” around the board. The concept is a little abstract and the theme can seem a little odd to explain. However, this doesn’t hold back the game from being an absolute joy to play.
Feels a Little “Puzzley”
Each of the 5 rounds of the game will challenge you to link to one of 6 different sanctuaries defined by the card in the middle of the table. Players create routes by drawing lines on a grid and cross paths with flowers and worms. You’ll score 1 point for each of these items linked to a chosen sanctuary during that round.
The game honestly feels like a puzzle that is slowly being revealed over the course of about 20-25 minutes. Each time you draw a line on your map, you’re using part of the grid and that square cannot be used again. No two games will be the same since every round of the game is controlled by the deck of route cards.
There are 6 different route cards that will show up during the game. There are 4 different right angles, a horizontal and a vertidal line. Each round ends when 4 yellow cards have been revealed. One round may only last 8 cards while the next round may reveal 20+ cards before ending. This really adds some tension to every round! Players will be screaming “I just need a 4!” as a new card is flipped over, ultimately disappointing someone at the table.
Kokoro challenges players by forcing them to outscore their previous round. If you score 5 points in round 1, you must score 6 points or more in round 2. If you don’t outscore your previous round, you’ll record zero points for that round and receive a -5 points at the end of the game for each zero on the board.
I love this mechanic because it forces players to plan ahead. Just because someone starts the game with a big round doesn’t mean much by the end of the game. I’ve had many games where I could score 6 to 8 points in the first round but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to sustain that number in the second round. There’s definitely a strategy in holding back during a round to set yourself up for future turns.
Some people would be turned off by the randomness of the cards while other players will see this as a real challenge. Players can score points by linking sanctuaries during a round or they can gain points by having their routes linked to the guardians at the corners of the board. I’ve found that even during a frustrating round of Kokoro, I was still able to plan ahead and formulate a strategy that would give me points at the end of the game.
The game comes with a deck of cards that bring some different elements to the game also. These “decree cards” will give players special rules or allow you to score points in unique ways. This adds a ton of replayability to a game that is already fantastic with a double sided player board.
Dry Erase Boards > Paper
The components of Kokoro are really top notch. The cards are sturdy and the 8 dry erase boards that come with the game will definitely hold up over with lots of play. My only disappointment was that the dry erase markers haven’t held up under normal use. After a dozen games, we have 4 markers that will only write a couple of lines before they die. This isn’t a big deal since I’m just going to run to Staples and replace these with Expo markers.
Indie Boards and Cards did a wonderful job of publishing a game that makes you think and challenges you to plan ahead. I love that the game supports up to 8 players and is a really solid game even if you choose to play solo.
This game would be a great fit for families with kids that are 8 years old and up. Kokoro is a fantastic filler that supports a large player count and plays in about 20 minutes. It’s been very common for us to finish a game, erase our boards and shuffle the cards for another game.
You can find Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama at your local game store or it can be ordered on Amazon today.
- Challenges you every game and is highly replayable
- Great artwork from the cute Kodama universe
- Lots of options to make the game more complex
- The dry erase markers included in the game had a very short life
- Random nature of the route cards may turn some people off