Review: Kodama Duo – branching the trees


I’ve heard they live somewhere in the tree trunks. They are hidden, so that an ordinary person can not easily see them. Only those, who believe and care for the welfare of their tree all their life, will eventually get a chance to look at them. Perhaps they could even sit on your shoulders for a moment, if you are worthy!

We are, of course, talking about beings called Kodama. They are main characters in a new board game by designers and . Release of this was made under logo of , but also with support of two other companies: and . It was published near the end of and brings it to all treehuggers in Europe.

On the lid of the small box, players can see the Kodamas, who are enjoying view of their tree in the moonlight. Players will first reach into the box for a scoring board, that also has a tracker of seasons at the bottom. Nearby, participants also prepare a supply of tree spirit tokens, a stack of branch cards, and three decree cards – one for each season to come.


Both opponents then get one big card with a trunk. Every rival hides four randomly distributed Kodama cards in his hand, so that the opponent can not see them. There are a total of twenty-one Kodama cards in the box, so they will certainly not be used all in one two player game. Each opponent will mark a zero space on the scoring scale with his token. Final step of setup is to split roles – one player becomes Chooser and the other Splitter.

At the beginning of each season, players will unveil a new decree card, that introduces a special rule active for the duration of that part of the year. Divider then draws the top three cards out of the deck of branches and divides them into two groups according to his tactics – one pile will contain two cards and the other only one. His opponent (The Chooser) will react to that by choosing one of the piles for himself. The other is left with the Divider.

Then it is up to both players to connect one of their cards to their trunk or branches, that have already grown in the previous rounds. With this placement, new card can overlap just one card. Fortunately, at least branch width does not have to match.


Each part of the tree contains a number of elements, that sooner or later start to repeat on the tree and particular branches. This is the moment, when a player first receives points: for all the elements, that repeat in that line of cards without interruption. Scoring therefore always concerns only the branch, that the player has extended in his current turn and only those elements, that are repeated in an unbroken line of cards. The more cards make up the chain, the more points a player gets.

A player who had two cards at the start of the draw would discard the one, he did not choose to place. At the same time, however, his opponent must pick a token with a corresponding icon from that discarded card and place it on his tree. With its help, he can cover up any icon and create a whole new situation on his tree – a new series of icons for further turns.


Before the next round, players switch their roles and continue until the season ends after round four. Now a player chooses one of his four Kodama cards, that he would like to score at that moment. And at the end of the twelfth round, the third season, the game is over. Players get points for their third chosen Kodama card, fourth is obliterated and they compare their total point gains. Whoever has more points becomes the winner.

is a beautifully looking card game, that allows two players to compete in a tree building. They have seemingly the same task – to look for a growing tree, where new flowers, mushrooms, fireflies or caterpillars are constantly appearing. But they are most importantly trying to satisfy tree spirits as much as possible.


At the beginning of each round stands a very simple, but insidious draft. There are only two players, but each has some control over, how the turn will unveil. While one can influence the composition of the groups and attempt to give the opponent a combination, that they will not be interested in, the second player will choose first, thus maybe doing choice his rival did not see coming. And sometimes, Chooser can choose to lose a little better card to hurt his opponent, who does not need it.

For this reason, players must watch carefully not only their own, but also their opponent’s tree. It is at this very moment, that much of a tactic takes place. You can not go wrong with its placement. It is usually clear, which position on the tree is the most advantageous. This is because you do not see into the future and do not know, which cards will be offered next round. However, the tree is sufficiently shaggy for other cards to be used sooner or later.


In addition to the points made directly from the cards, there are also the Kodamas, that are held by the players. Well, the correct planning of their mating and adjusting the tactics of the ones, you’ve just received, is the second pillar of success.

Moreover, just the duel has the result, that the game ends in reasonable forty-five minutes. That’s because the rounds are quite quick. Every tree gets a total of twelve cards at the end of the game, which really make it bigger.

An interesting part of the whole game is, when the rules for setup tell you, to place a large card with the trunk on the edge of the table. This ensures, that you will never put the card below the level of the ground, from which the tree grows. But constant placing the cards on trees means, that you will accidentally slide them over and have to correct their poisition pretty often.


In terms of rules, everything is beautifully simple. Although the box recommends to play the game from age of fourteen, we do not understand. The rules are really unpretentious and even ten year old will quickly understand, what to do. And because it is a game purely for two opponents, the child will certainly not refuse the chance to measure strength with one of the parents. The game is easy to understand by any beginner board gamer and will definitely delight even more experienced players. It offers a surprising depth, which makes it a real treat combined with game time.

Processing is simply beautiful. The whole game looks great on the table and delights anyone, who loves colors and cute graphics. Additionally, the set of components serves as an expansion for the sixth player for the original Kodama’s big game: The Tree Spirit.


Kodama Duo is a beautiful game for two players, that simply has no big trouble to get your attention. It combines tactical possibilities with simplicity and coincidence. Thanks to random cards and tokens of goals, the individual matches are a bit different, so we can only make a single complaint: there is a constant need to manipulate cards, making the game a little fiddly. But it definitely can not spoil the overall amazing impression of the Kodama Duo game.

DesignerNick Little (I), Daniel Solis
ArtistKwanchai Moriya
PublisherAction Phase Games, Indie Boards & Cards
Year Published2018
# of Players2 - 0
User Suggested # of Players Best with 0 players
Recommended with players
(6 voters)
Playing Time30
Mfg Suggested Ages14 and up
User Suggested Ages3 and up
(2 voters)
Language DependenceModerate in-game text - needs crib sheet or paste ups
(1 voters)
CategoryAbstract Strategy, Card Game
MechanicSet Collection, Tile Placement
FamilyCrowdfunding: Kickstarter, Game: Kodama, Organizations: Game Designers of North Carolina, Theme: Nature, Versions & Editions: Two-Player Versions of More-Player Games
Primary NameKodama Duo

Infos courtesy of More Infos.

Review: Kodama Duo – branching the trees
Final word
Kodama Duo is a story of two trees, that grow side by side. And because spirits residing in their branches are very competitive, they are trying to make their tree the greatest and the most beautiful. This is why the branches are decorated with bright mushroom hats and flower tufts. Everything looks great at night and its not easy to pick a winnter. It is enough for players to look at this game with pleasure, because its graphics are also very good. Fortunately, there is also great gameplay and that's why we like Kodama Duo and recommend it everyone who likes dueling in two.
Reader Rating0 Votes
great game purely for two
simple rules guarantee accessibility for all
extends at the same time the great Kodama: The Tree Spirit game
smart draft of cards at the beginning
secret Kodama cards in hand
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