It was really by lucky chance that I got to try out Kanagawa, back in 2016 at BGGcon. And I’m so glad I did, as it’s been a keeper in my collection since then! (Even receiving an honorable mention in my Games of the Decade.) The interplay of the card drafting along with creating your studio’s and painting’s tableaus is something I will never tire of. Throwing this together with a dash of set collection achieves a great balance in the game, and I love the choices that the game makes you take – either when grabbing cards from the draft or waiting to see what more comes out, and perhaps holding off on a bonus goal tile hoping you can do better and grab the next one. It’s kind of nice to have a game that centres around art that isn’t one that has players drawing, or merely collecting/trading it.
When I first saw that an expansion was being released this year, I honestly didn’t think the game needed anything else. With the secondary title Yokai, the expansion features new gameplay that centres on the “cunning spirits” from Japanese folklore. These can be put into play in a variety of ways – and while there is one diploma that scores you points for having all three at once, overall it’s a point-loser to have any of these at the game’s end. What I hadn’t been expecting was the introduction of three new types of lesson cards, and diplomas to go with them. These new cards and diplomas have symbols that will gain you a yokai, or allow you to move one to another player’s space.
The lesson cards themselves are honestly just a great new addition – and if you don’t feel like having the take-that aspect of the yokai, you can just mix these new cards in with the old game for some variety. The scoring of diplomas connected to the new cards offers a little bit more of a challenge and difference, and I have thoroughly enjoyed trying them all out. Kites will score based on having a certain amount of a certain colour, or just having 7 overall. Lanterns score by the combinations present in your print – if you have three cards with just one lantern, two with two, etc. So this requires jumping in on the card draft early if you see something you want! Finally, umbrellas will score if you have a certain number of them in consecutive cards in your print. Tricky!
The new offerings in Kanagawa: Yokai are not absolutely necessary if you own and enjoy the base game, but they do provide a fresh injection of tactics for gameplay. You may find it hitting the table more often due to new combinations to try out. And as always, the art is top-notch and quite frankly is a good 30% or so of why I love playing this game so much. If you’re looking to bolster a game you already know and love rather than adding yet another new game to the shelves to make decisions on what to play tougher, then give these cunning spirits a place in your home. (And admire that gorgeous landscape the boxes create when placed together!)
Kanagawa: Yokai is an expansion for the Kanagawa base game, which plays 2 – 4 players in approximately 45 minutes. Designed by Bruno Cathala & Charles Chevallier, with art by Jade Mosch, it is published by Iello. Thanks to the Iello team for providing a review copy for me to try!