WBG Score: 7.5
Player Count: 2-4
Published by: Helvetiq
Designed by: Tim Rogasch
Helvetiq have two types of games it seems. Small fun after dinner games that are simple to play and great fun to enjoy with friends after a meal. Or even smaller games that look unbelievably cute and are even more simple to play, but still offer some clever and enjoyable experiences for families to enjoy. It must be such a joyous brief to work to, and they always deliver. Here are some of my favourite games from Helvetiq as well as my thoughts on some of their other games. But what about this game? Kinoko. The latest in their line of small box games? Let's get it to the table and see.
But before we do that, can we all just come together and say well done to artist Polina Ozean for creating the cutest little mushroom we have ever seen? Ok, great, on with the review.
The first thing to get to grips with in Kinoko is which way to hold the cards. The concept of the game is very simple. Collect three mushroom cards in your colour. But you are doing this without being able to see your cards. Similar to games like Hanabi, you must hold the cards facing outwards, so all other players can see what you have, but not you. You can see other players cards, but not your own.
To set-up, collect as many sets of cards as required for your player count, four for a two player, five for a three player, and six for a four player, and shuffle the cards together. The cards will either be a one, two, or three value card, three for each colour of mushroom. Then deal each player in secret one blank colour card. They will look at this, but keep it hidden from all other players. This will be the colour they need to collect in the game.
You will then deal one card of each value to each player so that everyone has a one, two, and three value card in their hand. The remaining cards are placed face down in the centre of the table, again in order, one, two, three.
How to Play
Players then need to try and identify where their three colours are and get them into the same set. On your turn, you will roll the three dice. You can chose one of the three dice and carry out its action. This will either be to exchange one of your cards, either the one, two, or three value card, with any other card of the same value on the table. Or you can chose to enact one of the three special powers.
The first allows you to re-roll all the dice. The second allows you to swap all three of your cards with any other set of three on the table or from any other players hands. The final one allows you to sneak a peak at one card anywhere in play. From your hand, or from the table.
When you are swapping cards with those held by other players, you obviously are doing so knowing exactly what you are taking. But also, you are going to find out what card you have given away, as the player taking the card from you will immediately flip it and hold it out towards you in their hand. This is a great way to learn about more cards in play as well as putting something you want into your hand.
Now, what is crucial in this game, is that the set of three you are trying to build in your colour does not necessarily have to be in your hand. It just has to exist in the game somewhere. It could be on the table, in your hand, or in your opponents hand. This is a tricky concept to get your head round, and can add a fun dynamic if players around the table are trying different ways to win. If you are trying to get a set of three in your hand, but another player is trying to get a set of their three colours also in your hand, there could be a funny back-and-forth, before both players realise what is going on!
You will always know which colour of mushroom you are trying to collect somewhere in the game, but won't know for sure which colour your opponents are going for. Although, seeing everyone else's cards gives you an idea as to their plans once everyone starts taking turns. As such, the ability to spoil other players plans becomes quickly apparent as the game develops.
As soon as one player thinks they have three colours of their mushroom together somewhere on the table, they can stop the game, announcing their hope/knowledge of their set. Then, all cards are flipped and revealed and if they were correct, they score two points. However, any other player who also has a set of three anywhere in the game at this point will also score two points. This could of course happen with their knowledge of this being the case, or not!
But you have to be careful. If you make the announcement and stop the game and you do not have a set of three, you will not score any points. Rather all the other players around the table will score one point each, irrespective of their own status at that point.
The game is won when the first player scores four or more points. If two players get to four at the same time, the player who stopped the last round wins. This game is very much a set-collection game, but also a race game. You are looking to achieve your goal of a set of three quicker than anyone else, round-by-round, but also overall getting to four points first in the game.
Looking at other players cards feels cheeky! It's a fun way to learn information about the game, but will take some time to get used to. Especially if you haven't played a game with this mechanic before. Each time you pick up your cards, your brain will instinctively do so with them facing you! So, you must check yourself, and restrain your instincts.
Swapping cards with other players in order to see what cards you were holding is a fun way to gain information in this game. It also feels like the right thing to do as you are not giving anyone else any new information bar the person you are swapping with. All other players could see both cards you are swapping before hand anyway, they are just now in different locations. Although of course, the person you are swapping with gains information as to the card you took from them, which they can now see in your hand. Although, if you took it, you probably want it more than they did, so it is unlikely they will take it back. Unless of course, you are both trying to get a set into your hand!
The game plays very quickly, and as you have seen, can be taught in minutes. It takes up very little room, both in and out of the box, so is the perfect game to take out with you to restaurants or pubs.
Everything looks great. The art is bright and vibrant. There are no icons or special rules to master. It's just a bunch of different colours with sets of one to three. Everything is very simple, but also a lot of fun.
Playing Kinoko, like all Helvetiq games, is a joyous thing. I love everything about this game and will happily play it anytime. It firmly sits in the filler category, so it wont take up much of your time. Or indeed, much space on your shelf or bag. But it certainly will take up a large space in your heart.