Colors of Kasane is a Japon Brand game designed by Hinata Origuchi that was available at Essen this year. I wasn't able to attend, but a very generous person offered to pick up my preorder and post it to me. I played it for the first time last night, and while I'll wait for a few more plays before I make a full review I'd like to offer a look at the game and my first thoughts on how it plays.
Colors of Kasane is a 3-4 player game, themed around an annual festival being held at the Emperor's court for which the players must make their own beautiful robe. The gameplay itself is a mix of hand management and set collection of certain combinations of fabrics (numbers) - on their turn a player must pick up a card, and may "meld" a number of cards from their hand to score points.
For a 4 player game, each of the four rounds will start with 16 cards being laid out as below (for three players, a 3x5 grid is laid out, and 3 rounds are played). Cards are numbered 1 to 9, and there are also +1 point cards.
In clockwise order, each player will then take one of the four available cards, placing it at the front of their hand. You may never change the order of your cards, and when melding you must play from the front of your hand - a "last in, first out" system. The only exception to this is the +1 card. If a player takes one of these, it is immediately played in front of them and grants them an extra point - this counts as both their card and their meld for the turn.
After taking a card, you may choose to meld and score. To meld (play) cards, a player must meet the requirements on one of the cards shown below and then scores the indicated amount. These scoring cards allow placement of groups of even numbers, odd numbers, the same number, ascending / descending cards, cards summing to 10 and cards of specified numbers.
For example, melding three even numbers from the front of your hand would award 2 points. Once a specific combination is completed, a marble is placed on it to indicate that no other player can score it.
One additional rule about melding: after you have melded once and have cards placed on the table, the card at the front of your played cards (the 8 in the above example) can be used as the first number in your next meld. If that player were to pick up another 8, for example, they could meld it as two of a kind and score 2 points.
When there are 4 cards left in the pool with 4 players, or 3 cards left with 3 players, the round ends. Remaining cards are discarded and a new grid is dealt. Over the entire game, you will only ever pick up 12 cards, so you have to make them count.
At the end of the last round, players may be awarded bonus points. For players who managed to meld at least 8 cards, they are granted a bonus based on how many colours (numbers) they used in their robe.
Additionally, any player who successfully melded all 12 of their cards gains 2 bonus points. In the example below, the player used eight different colours in their robe and so earns 4 bonus points. However, they had a 6 remaining in their hand and therefore do not earn the 2 point bonus.
My first impression
It's always difficult to judge a game after a single play, especially when everyone else is also new to it. But I enjoyed this game a lot, and I have a feeling it's going to last in my collection.
In the first round, and especially for the very first card pick, none of us really knew what cards we should be aiming for, or how to choose a direction out of the many that the scoring options provide. In subsequent rounds, we got better at looking at the cards that were available and trying to craft a feasible strategy around that - there's no point going for 6 even cards if there's only one available for that entire round. There was also an interesting "push your luck" element - do you meld your cards now while you can, or do you wait and risk ruining your hand for the opportunity of adding one more to your set? As we play more, I imagine we'll start trying to remember the cards that have already been collected and played, to calculate the odds of completing certain sets.
The gameplay is also very tight - as I mentioned, you only get 12 cards. That doesn't sound like a lot, because it isn't. For every card selection, you have to be thinking about how many colours you're playing into your robe, the sets that you're going after and crucially trying to integrate your last played card into your current set. Using that extra card to boost your melds by one point category could be enough to push you into the lead. The game isn't very high scoring, and first and last place in our four player game was separated by a mere 2 points.
About halfway through the game, we also realised the hidden value of the +1 cards. We'd scoffed at them at the start, thinking their single point inferior to the opportunity of actually building a set, but they became immensely valuable once we started building our hands and increasingly valuable combinations. They help you avoid ruining the hand you've been carefully constructing for the last two rounds by picking up a card you can't use, and let you delay until a later turn where you might be able to add to your set and meld.
The other thing I love about this game is the theme, and its beautifully themed components. The fabric patterns on the cards are simple but eye-catching - they remind me of origami paper. The score track is colourful, with handmade fabric buttons for each player and for the start player.
The box itself is compact, and constructed (possibly by hand?) from a delicate pink origami paper. The final thematic touch is the character cards, which are wholly unnecessary for the actual gameplay but add a touch more flavour to a game that could have easily ended up as entirely abstract.
I'm definitely looking forward to playing Colors of Kasane some more. The whole game is beautifully made and thematically interesting, with some clever set collection and hand management mechanics. I have a feeling it will stand the test of time!