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Welcoming Spring With Kodama: The Tree Sprirts

Kodama: The Tree Spirits

Kodama: The Tree Spirits
(All photos of Action Phase Games product were taken and edited by KristaG unless otherwise specified)

It’s officially Spring! Though it is still raining, sleeting, and even snowing in various parts here in Northern California, I’m very excited to start writing about some great games that can be played to celebrate Springtime! The first one in this series is a game that is probably one of my favorite quick-to-play, filler games that is currently part of our rotation at game night: Kodama: The Tree Spirits from Action Phase Games! Though Kodama is a game that originally appeared on Kickstarter.com in 2015, I hadn’t really heard much about it since then until I came across it by pure luck at one of the nearby game stores. Once I picked it up and saw how the game worked, however, I just knew the game would be right at home in my collection (I love games that are unique and placing cards at various angles to create a growing tree is definitely something I don’t see every day). Needless to say, I was not disappointed!

Kigi

The cover art for Kigi, also by Daniel Solis. Kigi is similar yet very different from Kodama: The Tree Spirits.
(Image courtesy of boardgamegeek.com)

Kodama: The Tree Spirits is an abstract strategy card game where 2-5 players compete to earn victory points through careful tree cultivation and set collection based on specific card features. If this sounds familiar, that’s because the game was preceded by a game called Kigi, which was released in 2014 as a print-on-demand card game. Both were designed by Daniel Solis and feature similar mechanics, but, with the aid of Action Phase Games, Kodama sprang from the base that Solis had originally created while still offering completely different gaming experiences. Kodama’s beautiful illustrations were done by Kwanchai Moriya (who has also done artwork for Ken Rush’s Rumble in the Dungeon, Jon Gilmour and Brian Lewis’ Dinosaur Island, and Aron West’s Catacombs & Castles among many others) along with graphic design by Scott Hartman (some of his projects include Nick Little’s Dreamwell, Gil Hova’s Bad Medicine, and Dark.net by Richard Yaner). As stated above, Kodama was crowd-funded through Kickstarter. During the campaign, there was both the retail version and the deluxe version available for backers to choose from. The version I bought and am using for this review is the retail version, but several of the deluxe components (wooden first player marker and deluxe promo cards) are available for additional purchases.

Kodama 2-Player Setup

An example of a 2 player set up of Kodama (components have been squished together into the play area for this example)

When setting up a game of Kodama: The Tree Spirits, each player is given a random Trunk card and the corresponding player token that matches the feature (either mushrooms, caterpillars, fireflies, flowers, stars, or clouds) on the card. The Trunk cards should be placed so the bottom of the card is touching the edge of the table. The score track should be placed in easy view and reach of all players. To set up the score track, the season token should be placed next to the word “Spring” on the season track (near the bottom of the score track card) and each player’s player token should be placed on the “0” space. All Kodama cards are shuffled together before dealing 4 to each player. The Decree cards should be separated by season (Spring, Summer, Fall) and then each season pile should be shuffled separately. Only 1 Decree card for each of the 3 seasons should be dealt face down to the side of the play area. Any unused Kodama, Trunk, and Decree cards should be returned to the box. Next, all of the Branch cards should be shuffled and placed face down within easy reach of all players. From this deck, 4 cards should be placed face up to form the display.

A Completed Tree

A completed tree! Such a cool mechanic!

Taking around 30-50 minutes to play (depends on the number of players and how familiar you are with the game), Kodama: The Tree Spirits is really simple to learn and to teach. The game is played over 3 seasons. These seasons are, in turn, divided into 3 phases: a Decree Phase, Growing Phase, and Kodama Phase. While these are all explained at great length in the rulebook, it basically boils down to: reveal a Decree card which will introduce the special rule for that season (for example, the Spring Decree “Take Root” states, “After placing a branch card that touches your trunk card, gain 3 points”), take turns starting with the first player placing a branch card to grow your tree and then score the points for said card before refilling the display and moving on to the next player, repeat this step three times to complete the season, and then each player scores points based on a chosen Kodama card from their hand. Play continues in this fashion until there have been 3 Kodama phases (coincidentally, this also marks a total of 3 seasons). Players compare scores and the player with the highest score wins! Now, there are certain rules to card placement when growing your tree. First, the Branch cards must meet up with another section of the branch from a previously placed card. The Branch card also can only touch one other card, can not cover the features of any previously placed card, and can not hang over the edge of the table. Should a player be able to score more than 10 points by placing a Branch card (not including Decree card issued points), said card cannot be placed.

I just want to say, some of the trees my friends and I have built have been ginormous! Some have been wild, some have been long and short and reminiscent of a bonsai tree, and some have looked like they were pruned by a maniac because cards were placed without much thought to overall aesthetic and just on point values. However, none of them have been anything short of beautiful. This is a great game for playing with the kids, to bring out for family gatherings, a casual game night with friends, anybody and anywhere really. The only thing to keep in mind is that the game is kind of a table hog so you do need to have a decent amount of space – especially with more players! I really like that there is so much replayability in this game. I enjoy the construction/building mechanic that the game uses for creating the trees out of cards. It is one of my favorite aspects of the game Lotus from Renegade Game Studios as well so if you like that one, I highly recommend checking this one out! Pretty sure I’m now going to have to see if I can print up a copy of Kigi as well as this is such an amazing game that I am determined to try its predecessor.

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2 Comments

  1. I remembered you saying you had reviewed this game and had to look at it. Thanks for helping us choose this one! I can’t wait to play. And since we have your grandfathers HUGE poker table, we have plenty of room! ❤

    • KristaG

      We will definitely have to play! It’s gorgeous and tons of fun! I hope you all like it! 🙂

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