3 Chits, 4 Giggles
Anyone who has seen the Studio Ghibli film 'Princess Mononoke' will know that Kodama are the cutest creatures ever imagined. They are little tree spirits that live in the forests of Japan. I adore them!
Kodama: The Tree Spirits had a successful Kickstarter campaign, and I'm sure the theme of the game helped it gain support from the gaming community. It's a game about growing a tree to please the Kodama of the forest. Different Kodama like different things; caterpillars, fireflies, mushrooms, flowers, clouds and starlight. Each creature has different conditions for you to meet depending on what they like., and meeting these conditions as best you can scores you lots of points.
There are some lovely thematic touches I enjoyed in the game. Each season has a special 'decree' rule which may give you extra points as the winds change.
You get to grow your tree by picking branch cards. The way you place these cards dramatically affects the points you score. It is lovely to watch your tree grow throughout the game and gives a real sense of the game progressing. Finally, a Kodama pops along to inspect your tree at the end of each of the three seasons. Planning your turns to keep these little guys happy is the core of the game. You have to grow your tree always thinking ahead to the Kodama that will be visiting you. You select from a hand of four Kodama you are dealt at the beginning of the game, this gives you lots of time to plan ahead to keep those Kodama happy.
They are just toooooo cute to disappoint.
The art in this game is gorgeous! Each Kodama is unique and a joy to look at. The artist has put their own spin on the Kodama look that works perfectly. I would say that the only difficult part of the game is planning forward to meet your Kodama's conditions. It takes time to really get how this works and to understand which Kodama are best to play early and which to play during the last season. However, this mechanic really adds to the personal challenge of the game. There is also a slightly simplified deck of Kid-Kodama to make the game easier for little 'uns. This is a really nice touch and emphasises the family fun feel of the game. I would definitely recommend Kodama: The Tree Spirits to those who like to game with their family. It is also a great game for light gamers as it doesn't take very long, about 30-40 minutes, and there is no real 'take that' element to the game.
Kodama captures a real atmosphere. It's super cute and it helps you to notice the 'magic' of nature. After playing you'll want to run outdoors and hug a tree!
I give Kodama: The Tree Spirits three Chits as it is a very simple game to teach and learn with the bonus of a nice simplified deck of Kodama cards for younger players. There are many fantastic scoring mechanics that work really well together. It gets four Giggles for being a whole lot of fun with a stunning theme that stands out from most games.
It is unbe-LEAF-ably good! (I couldn't resist.)
Review by Dave Murcutt