Board Game Review

Grabbing ‘Shrooms (Kinoko Review)

This review is also bunched into Zatu’s blog and can be found here!

When it comes to not seeing what’s in front of you, I’m a bit of an expert. Not to brag, but I’ve been half blind for years and have learnt the subtle art of almost navigating the world with minimal injury and only minor swearing under my breath. So surely a board game centred on an inability to see what’s in your hands would be in to my advantage? Well Kinoko by Helvetiq certainly tested that and allowed for lots of fun whilst doing so! It’s a 2-4 player light set collection game that takes about 25 minutes to play.

Playing the Game

Kinoko is a game centred on collecting a set whilst avoiding specific cards of another – simple, right? Well the twist here is that you play with your hand facing everyone else. At no point can you look at your own hand and, as such, may need to be clever with how you manipulate the cards’ placements. Players are aiming to have their secret set all together in one hand. This doesn’t necessarily need to be their own so there’s lots of scope for manipulate the whole game situation.

To set up, players deal remove sets from the main deck based on player count. There should always be two more sets in play than the number of players (a three player game would use five sets). Then, players are dealt a secret family objective from the sets available – this dictates which set they’re aiming to collect. They’re then dealt three cards with unique values (one to three) and all remaining cards are laid in rows face down. Cards for players’ hands should be picked up facing other players. Remember! You never see your own hand! Finally, one of the unused objective cards are played face up. This is the avoided family which will cause players to earn less points if in their hand at round resolution.

Actions and The Goal

On a turn of Kinoko, players roll the three dice and decide their action accordingly. Numbered results allow players to swap two cards from any locations, including other players’ hands. You can swap others’ with those on the table, with yours or with others’. The blank result allows the player to take no action, the eye let’s them peak at a face down card and the three cards let’s them swap their entire hand with a set from the face down selection. The two arrows let’s them re-roll the dice.

Players take turns until a player is certain they have a set somewhere in someone’s hands. At this point, players reveal hands and score. All players whose sets are together get two points for being correct. Then, all players lose a point if they’re holding one of the forbidden set cards. In the rare instance there are no sets together, everyone except the caller gets a point. Forbidden sets aren’t considered in this situation. This continues until any player has five points, at which point, they win!

How It Feels to Play

Kinoko is a great bit of filler fun. Pure and simple. It’s got a lovely theme with lovely illustrations, a well executed gimmick as its focal mechanic and is swiftly on and off the table as any filler should be. Helvetiq have a great track record with light fillers, and Kinoko holds that standard wonderfully.

Stocking ‘Shrooms

I’m normally not one for fillers. My group has the poison chalice of obsession with good fun without down time. We’ll play a filler, love it, and probably play it a few more times. This leaves my need for crunchy tactics, deep meaningful plays and a huge build up unfulfilled. We’re obsessionists! Luckily, Kinoko manages one of those three with ease – tactics.

There’s something beautifully simple about the staple element of this game that makes it so much deeper. By knowing what you don’t have, you’re put into a position of obscure power. You know your target, you know (mostly) where those are and you know what die results will aid you best when aiming for a win. But you can never wholeheartedly know what you actually hold. Everyone else, however knows exactly what you have… and yet are in the same position as you. We’ve played games where folk chased for cars they were holding, games where someone accident play created someone else’s set in their own hands and a single game where someone had their own set and didn’t know it. You’ve really got to have your wits about you.

This simplicity adds in so much complication and tactical analysis to players’ needs. Almost to the point where you’re bordering on the dreaded “Analysis Paralysis!”. Almost being the operative word. Your actions aren’t free flowing and are dictated by a die roll. This balances out that unknown element gorgeously by ensuring you can’t overanalyse your options. Just by limiting them! It’s simple, but oh so effective; making for an excellently fun and very satisfying experience every time.

Don’t Be A Toadstool

As with any set collection game, you’re always competing for a limited resource. There’s only one of each card and you’ll only know what you don’t have for sure. Hidden cards in your hand and on the table are what causes the chaos and the troubles for players. Usually in this sort of card hunt, players would be moving cards to spite enemies and stocking up on what others want. Set collection is quite a spiteful business in reality… Kinoko somehow avoids this beautifully.

Players get one action per turn, determined by a wild dice roll. You could spend that action upsetting the good folk at the table. You could spend the game doing that. But if you do, you will not win. Limiting the actions a player can do, both in quantity and choice, ensures the game drives towards a natural end with everyone aiming to win. Any deviation results in a guaranteed loss. Like many things in Kinoko, it’s so simple and yet works so excellently. And since the resource you want is as finite as all others, there’s next to no scope for active malicious acts.

I’m All Out Of Puns

Kinoko is a game all of its own with its blind and open hand style of play, and it’s one I feel lots of people will get on with really well. But not everyone. We found that there’s a solid need for memory and remembering in this game, particularly when playing with larger player counts. The games no more complicated in objective as it only increases cards in game and cards you can see. (It may even make finding your cards easier!) However, having those cards move around so frequently from hand to table can make it hard to track your desired mushrooms. One moment of distraction and the whole game situation changes massively. Almost to the point of “blink and you miss it!”.

The flip side of this is that it’s a superb mental workout. Tracking and tracing card moves and establishing what needs to go where… lower player counts do reduce this need as cards move less between your turns, but the full experience with four is certainly my favourite.

In A Nutshell

Kinoko is a great set collection filler with a lovely execution. It sets itself out from similar games with its gimmick of you not seeing your own hand and, in honesty, that’s more than enough to breathe fresh air into a crowded category of games. Fast, fresh and fun. The three Fs to describe this fungi themed game!