Usually when I do one of these One Play Reviews, I talk about a game after just one play because I know it may be a few weeks or even months till I get to play the game. In the case of Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama, it’s a much different story. This quick review is going out now, just the day after I played it because I want people to know about this little gem as soon as possible.
Continuing their trend of small box games, Kokoro is one of the latest releases from Indie Boards and Cards, publisher of The Resistance (also The Resistance: Avalon), Aeon’s End, Flash Point: Fire Rescue, and Kodama: The Tree Spirits (which takes place in the same setting as Kokoro. Kokoro is a reimplementation of Avenue, a 2016 release that eluded me because like many good new games from a small publisher, it was out of stock everywhere before you could even blink and eye.
In Kokoro, players simultaneously draw lines on a small white board, connecting sanctuaries to caterpillars and flowers, but also connecting those caterpillars and flowers to guardians in opposite corners of the board. Each round, a sanctuary card is flipped, telling everyone which sanctuary will be scored. Then, a path card is flipped, telling all players what path must be drawn (these paths must be drawn in the exact orientation as shown on the card and cannot be rotated). The players can draw these paths anywhere on the board and do not need to be connected to another line and/or the sanctuary being scored. Alternatively, players can peek at what the next sanctuary card will be in instead of drawing. When a fourth golden path card is drawn, the round ends and the current sanctuary is scored. Here’s the catch: each player must score more points on that sanctuary then they did on the previous sanctuary or they otherwise score negative points for the current one at the end of the game. This is a scoring system that highly encourages long-term strategy and careful play.
This is a fantastic game. First off, it is incredibly quick to play and very casual. Although there are excruciatingly tough decisions and basically no player interaction, the game encourages fun social interactions in a way that is explainable. It’s about like sitting around playing Bingo with friends, except that Kokoro actually has meaningful decisions and is fun. Also, Kokoro has a really low MSRP of $20 and plays up to eight people. Kokoro is a winner for me, and I think for just about everyone from casual gamers to more hardcore gamers alike. It also has new special scoring cards that the original version of Avenue didn’t have, an advanced player board, and obviously white boards and dry erase markers compared to pencil/paper like the original version. For the low price, small box, great art, and quick play time with a high player count, this is a huge success of game design. I’m giving it a 9.5 out of 10 and can’t wait to play it again!