Whenever something happened, that was a reason to celebrate, I always knew what to wear. We had one festive garment in our times and it looked elegant at first glance. Kimono. Today is a different time. Clothes are surplus, some even go in torn things and call it fashion. But I would never change my comfortable robe for anything.
Same name as the aforementioned suit carries a new board game created by Hisashi Hayashi. Its name is Kimono. Game was published by Zoch Verlag. Michael Menzel took care of the illustration. Originally, game was released under the auspices of the smaller Okazu Brand label (2015 as Zooscape by Curio Collectors). Yet, for most players, it was novelty from the Spiel 2017 in Essen.
Small blue box with the figure of a Japanese man in a blue kimono with arms full of various objects. Whether its a cat for luck, katana or sun, he seems to need everything. We can find similar items inside the box. Each player chooses two discs of choice in color as desired. One of the participants will then become a master, who will also receive a figurine, group token and apprentice card.
In the middle of the table, space will be needed for several decks. Smaller cards make up pile of colored kimonos. Much more interesting is a set of business cards (money, actions and equipment – here called curios), which needs to be shuffled and divided into five piles. Each will belong to one of the upcoming rounds. On both sides, players place trash and backpack cards.
Each of the five rounds will begin by player currently in master role takes the deck for the current round and spreads these cards in middle of the table – pictures and digits up. Value in the circle means number of points and therefore value, that card has at game end. This line of cards is then split into two groups, so they are umambiguously separated in one place without changing their order. Each group is marked with a token, making them group one and group two. One of them is then supported by adding an apprentice card.
Each of his opponents now secretly chooses token belonging to one group of cards – that’s group he wants for himself. Once everyone has chosen his group, all reveal their choices and based on it decide, what will happen next. If no one is interested in one group of cards, it is discarded on the bin card. If only one player has expressed interest in one set, he immediately collects all cards for himself.
Only in situations, where more players are interested in one group, the round must continue. Now the master will again get to act – he regroups cards, for which more players are tied, in two new, smaller sets of cards. Players vote again and reevaluate their interests according to the same key. Gradually, someone gets more and fewer cards, some cards are lost in the process, but eventually all players come to the point, where they can no longer choose.
If someone has managed to get a picture of a servant among his cards, he will be the champion for the next round. In addition, he also gets all the cards, that have been bumped into the bin. If no one has received the servant card, role moves in clockwise direction.
Players continue with other rounds with new cards from other piles. Gradually, all participants try to collect sets, but they do not want too many cards of any kind. For all items, that fulfill this condition, they will receive points printed on the given cards. Maximum allowed number is shown by flags hanging at the top of the card. If a player has more than two lutes, then one point is subtracted for each card. Fire subtracts other points, while dwarves add something again. Overall, it is only left to find out, who has the most points after getting all totals.
Kimono is a card game about collecting sets. Fortunately, the way you get to these cards is quite interesting in itself. One player divides the groups and other auction for them. The one, who is first to be the only person interested in a group will get those cards. So all players can always choose between multiple groups and can significantly influence, what their hero will hold in his hands.
But because he is not able to hold too much items, there is a new interesting mechanism – an upper limit for each type of card, after which you will not want to collect more of that type. That’s because you will lose all the points and deduct some additional penalties. Therefore, players have to be careful about which group they are voting for not get into this situation.
Role of the master is the most important. Player can influence a large part of the course from this position, and even can increase his chance to get cards he wants. Usually there will not be too much, because he will be dragging with some of the rivals for groups. But he’s the one, who decides the division, and he can get rid of unwanted cards. However, the decks are randomly mixed and sometimes there is simply nothing, that would make the player happy.
Game unfortunately does not allow any planning. In addition to the master, everyone else is just guessing blindly and trying to be the one, who chooses the set of cards for themselves. Only in this way, cards can be obtained. The only one, who has a sense of control is the master, and even him just a little. Thanks to this, the game is much dependent on coincidence.
The ultimate rule is the maximum of cards of any kind. The player sometimes is even more hurt by getting new card and can lose a number of points because of that. In the context of the match length, there is not such a problem, but it is chaotic and its often not possible to influence that moment. On the other hand, these upper limits make the game much more exciting.
There are also four different action cards shuffled among the cards. We have talked about fire, but there is also a lucky cat, that lets players take randomly card out of the pack. As players wear their stacked items, sometimes they fall and break. And here’s the card, that forces them to return two cards they’ve already won. This may sometimes be beneficial. In addition, there is a copy, that can be seen as a duplicate of the most common item in the player’s collection. Overall action cards add even more chaos and unpredictability.
Matches are not long. Yet individual turns can be stretched several times. This makes it play for at least twenty minutes, especially if you are playing with more players. And that’s what we recommend, because with more players, everything is more interesting. At the same time, however, you have a very small chance to collect a big group for yourself. That’s why we would not recommend less than four participants.
In the rule description, we have forgotten to emphasize, that players can comments on their choices and even make deals. They are not binding, but this element of bluffing and communication in the game is definitely important and suits the theme.
The picture shows an experienced illustrator’s hand. However, Japanese drawings are obviously not Mr. Menzel’s strongest suit. Its not exceptional. The game will therefore be enjoyed mainly because of wooden stones for groups and betting.
Despite significant randomness, Kimono is still a solid fast-paced card game and as a filler, it can certainly settle on some tables. Players are constantly dividing the pie on the table, smaller and smaller slices are possible. Everyone gets their share. Someone bigger, another smaller. But everyone is interested in playing. The game is especially fun with a larger number of players, where Kimono can truly shine.
Kimono is a pretty interesting battle in collecting sets. Players do not just decide for themselves, what cards they get. They are voting for groups of cards and not individually. They therefore need luck and, above all, bluffing. Without it, Kimono remains only a play of pure coincidence. Manipulation from the master, who divides the cards according to his own, will be very important. Players should enjoy this role. Everybody wants their piece of cake, even if it's just a set of items. Kimono is ultimately quite a surprise, though it is not without error.