Quick Look: KAMI

June 12, 2019 by cassn

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Cass takes a Quick Look at KAMI, a strategic card combat game based on the principles of Goita Shogi!

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KAMI was originally featured on Indie Thursday back in February. A card game for 1-4 players, KAMI recycles and updates mechanics from the ancient Japanese game of Goita Shogi to produce a beautifully strategic combat game about Japanese feudal life.

While KAMI can be played as a two-player or three-player game, the traditional rules focus on a four-person mechanic. Players are divided into two teams, and teammates sit opposite each other. The deck is shuffled, and each player is dealt eight cards which form their army. There are eight different forces which can appear, with forces varying in number and strength within the deck.

For example, while the weakest force is the soldier with only 1 strength, he is also the most common card (ten are included in the deck). Conversely, the Empress has 5 strength and is the strongest card, however, there are only two in the deck. Furthermore, the Empress can be beaten by either a Spear or a Soldier, providing parity to the gameplay.

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The space in front of each player is where they will place their defensive and attacking forces. The first player places a card face down on their defensive line (to prevent card counting), before placing an attacking force. The next player clockwise must then counter that force through their defense, or pass to the following player. The first player to place all eight of their cards wins that round for their team.

The points awarded to the team are based on the strength of the last card placed, and the first team to reach fifteen points wins the game. While KAMI may sound simple, there are several fascinating strategic options which make this an incredibly cerebral card game. For example, it may be strategically advantageous to pass your turn even if you have the card to counter an attack, allowing for fewer combined cards to counter your hand on the next turn.

KAMI caught my eye earlier this year partially because of the stunning artwork by Pauline Berdal, but mainly because I have a soft spot for small games with big strategy. If I had one gripe, it would be that the points tokens are made of rather flimsy cardboard, but these are easily upgraded to metal tokens. The star of the show, the cards, are high-quality and aesthetically stunning.

Also, the rules could perhaps be translated clearer from their original French, however, once again I am nit-picking. KAMI is a game which is easy to learn and play, and the odd mistranslation becomes irrelevant when playing such a wonderful game. Overall, I can say that publisher Oka Luda have outdone themselves with the quality and design of this game; KAMI really is a gift from the gods.

How do you feel about small size/big strategy games? Comment below!

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