This week on a He says, She says review we take a look at Kamisado. Kamisado is an abstract game that like so many others is played on an 8 x 8 game board--and that is where the similarities end! The board is divided into 8 different colors that will be used to determine which piece each player can move. The players will start with 8 “dragon towers”; each matching one of the 8 colors on the board. The towers are differentiated by the dragons on top of the tower; one set is black and the other gold. To begin the game, one player will move any of their own pieces forward or diagonal any number of spaces they want. Whatever color square they land on is the color of the dragon tower the opponent must move.
This means that if Amanda moved her pink dragon tower to a brown space, Ryan must then move his brown dragon tower. If he stopped on a green square, Amanda must now move her green dragon tower. Towers cannot jump over each other nor can they move sideways. This goes on and on until eventually, one player will reach their opponents’ "home row"(their back row that their pieces started on) and the game is over. There are also three other variants included in Kamisado that revolve around victory points and stronger pieces. So did Kamisado make us want to embrace this rainbow colored game or did we simply wish we were color blind?
Components – High quality material with low quality execution. The materials from the box, to the pieces, to the board are all very high quality in how sturdy they are and how they hold up. Ryan feels the boards and the pieces look tacky as all get out though.
Value – The value of Kamisado is kind of a tough call. We bought the older version which ran around $40-$50. We would both say that is rather steep and place that value on the low range. We have not played the newer version but the $20 asking price would put the game in a much better bang for your buck range.
Length – Around 10 minutes for us. The box says 20 minutes per round but we found that it rarely if ever lasted that long after our first few games.
Skill to luck – Amanda feels there is almost no luck involved in Kamisado; the ratio for her is around 90/10. Ryan meanwhile has a very tough time with this category. Kamisado has no card draws nor does it have dice or anything else that makes for traditional luck. When you move, you know what your opponents options are. But through most of the game, there are so many options it makes for too many variables. With that said, Ryan reluctantly says 70/30 or maybe even 65/35.
How often does it/will it hit the table? – Amanda said that since it only lasts about 10 minutes for a round, she could see Kamisado hitting the table once or twice a month and that it would get in 2 or 3 matches each time it does hit the table. Ryan agrees that the length of the game helps it hit the table more often but feels like he would not want to play it more than once a month unless someone else wanted to.
Accessibility & Rules - Kamisado deserves the highest praise for accessibility and rules. The rules are an incredibly quick read and if you look up a video review or play tutorial, you can understand the game in a matter of seconds. That obviously means you can also explain the game to anyone in a matter of a minute or two. Even younger children should do well with Kamisado. Really all the game comes down to is you move a piece straight or diagonal, whatever color you land on your opponent then must move. Repeat till someone lands on the other players’ home row
Two ways to play - Kamisado offers up two ways to play. There is the way we explained in the rules and then there is a way that adds rings to the game that let you push other pieces on the board. It’s always nice when a game offers another way to play. We, in our dislikes, cover how with Kamisado the "multiple ways" to play do not offer enough of a change, but it’s still nice that the Sumo Rings are there for people that want some variation.
Certain win conditions are incredibly enjoyable - It is incredibly enjoyable when you do get the pieces lined up juuuuust right and manage to put your opponent in to a situation where they cannot move at all, so you get to move again and thus win the game. It is also satisfying whenever you put your opponent in a situation where the only thing they can do is move to a color they know hands you a win!
Kamisado makes you think differently - This is one of those games that can be a bit of a brain burner despite how simplistic it is. Moving the piece of the color your opponent landed on is just an incredibly different gameplay mechanic. It makes you think outside the box many board games put you in both because you have to recall initially to move the right piece, but then you also must remember he will be doing the same. You must also consider all of the options you are handing him and how they effect you. Very simple, yet so different and brain burnery good--at times.
I enjoy playing multiple games - Kamisado is one of the rare games that I enjoy playing several quick matches back to back to back. We can usually finish up a game in just under or over ten minutes. Combine the fast play time with the fact that it is so different from much of what we own and I enjoy playing 3 or 4 rounds when we break Kamisado out.
The colors are neat-o - That’s right I said neat-o, deal with it! Seriously though, I really like the multi-colored board. It is very different from anything we own and just looks very cool. I also enjoy that the board looks gaudy and bright—it keeps my attention and makes me focus in ways that I did not know I could.
I beat Ryan on my second turn – Ok, ok so this isnt a pro of the game, but I still want to mention it! I should also add it was the first game we played, but I totally beat Ryan on the second turn one game! Felt so awesome--then again he turned around and beat me just a night or two ago in two rounds as well....but I was tired! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Kamisado comes with an example rulebook - I always love whenever rulebooks have a lot of examples and pictures in them to help you learn the game and clarify rules. While with Kamisado I did not feel it was as necessary as many other games, it came with a really large rulebook full of pictures explaining all sorts of scenarios.
OHH the colors and pieces - The dragon towers are quite large. I feel powerful moving my pieces around the board—almost like commanding an army (though the game play is NOTHING of the sort!).
The colors are garish - Amanda may like the large number of colors on the board, but I certainly do not. I am a colorful guy-- I have a freaking rainbow colored hearts and stars tattoo around my entire neck for Pete’s sake. This board just is not done effectively IMO; it is without any subtlety and is far too in your face for my tastes.
Far too reactionary - I feel like there is some basic strategy involved in trapping other player’s pieces and trying to force extra moves, but overall Kamisado just feels too reactionary. The idea of a game mechanic based on moving the color your opponent lands on is cool but far too often, it translates not to working with what you are given but instead choosing from an extremely limited number of options. Worse, I feel it is just way too hard to plan very far ahead since you may never get the chance to move any of the pieces you are trying to plan for ever again.
The pieces look nothing like what they are meant to - I watched Tom Vasels’ review of the updated Kamisado and the new pieces with the Chinese characters may be the better option. While Amanda enjoys the large pieces in this older version, they are decorated with what frankly looks like a gold nugget for one player and a turd nugget for the other. I think I’d much prefer the Chinese lettering to poo
People win far too often without meaning to - I have played quite a few games against both Amanda and others where they won without even meaning to. It is incredibly frustrating either pointing out to your opponent they have a winning move or them suddenly stating "O, looks like I can move that piece to your back row". To me, when people utter those words it means there is an issue with the game.
The 2nd way to play is kind of lame – When playing the variants, if your tower hits the opponent’s home row it gets a sumo ring (or more depending on the variant). This tower can now “push” other towers to spots that are colored the same as the sumo tower. The sumo rings really add far too little to the game and we just do not find it an interesting way to play. I really can take or leave this addition and frankly for how annoying it makes storage, I wish they were not in the game at all.
Ring storage - The rings for the sumo’s are just a pain in the butt! We have started just storing them under the boxing because it is so annoying taking the extra time to put them all back in the box as intended.
Not for the color blind - Unless we are overlooking something, there just really is no way to play Kamisado if you are color blind. We looked and I just do not see special markings or anything. Even if there is though I imagine it would be a serious pain!
Wins feel shallow - Even though Ryan beats me more often than not, I still feel wins are shallow. Most games when I beat Ryan I feel a sense of pride; I feel thrilled, I feel ecstatic if it’s a game like Tzaar with deep strategy to be had. When I beat Ryan at Kamisado, I more just feel—well, I feel like nothing. I win a game and I just ask if he wants to play again with no real emotion. The wins just feels mostly shallow—though I guess I still at least beat Ryan; that counts for something!
Looking around at the other Kamisado reviews, this game is thought of quite highly. We actually picked Kamisado up based on Tom Vasel and Ender Games strong recommendations. Sadly, I just do not feel the same as them. It is not that I believe Kamisado to be a bad game, I just feel it is woefully average. The positive reception from other reviewers I deeply respect, combined with my experiences from playing this game make me wonder if it is a game that just never "clicked" with us. Every time we play it I find myself thinking "maybe this will be the game it clicks. Something is going to happen and it is going to stop feeling so reactionary and I will see some deep complicated strategy I never noticed". In the few dozen games we have played that has yet to happen. I FEEL like I understand this game on every level I am ever going to, but at the same time I wonder if I am missing something. So, think of this as a game I can’t give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to. It is a game I want to give two thumbs up but instead I feel like I have both thumbs sideways and trying not to point downward. For how fast it plays and with a newer cheaper version out, I would still recommend Kamisado, but only because I have seen so much positive praise from other reviewers (and only if you have exhausted Yinsh, Tzaar and other abstracts which are far superior IMO).
I know Ryan and I sounded very negative with our review and truth is, we just feel that Kamisado is an average game. With that said though, it is an average game I am happy to have in my collection. The move a tower that is colored based on what color your opponent landed on mechanic is very different and it draws people’s attention when we play. More importantly, the game is so simple that I feel that in the short time people pay attention to the game while we play it, they can pick up the rules and play against us the next game. Unlike Ryan I actually enjoy reactionary games at times and it helps when they are this short. I am also a sucker for abstract games, and this is one of the good ones. I would like to recommend Kamisado for those that are looking to add a quick game to their rotation, bulking up their abstract collection or just wanting to add a game that is as colorful as a rainbow and want to use it as artwork!