#179 – Kobayakawa

Box

Base price: $22. (Less for the Iello version.)
3 – 6 players.
Play time: ~15 minutes.
BGG Link
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?) (Iello version)
Logged plays: 3

Another Oink game! I’ve already reviewed a bunch, so let’s add another one to the pile. This was one of the many Oink games I picked up at Gen Con, so, excited to get this one reviewed.

In Kobayakawa, you play as warring clans vying to control the land via your wealth, influence, and strength (I guess). That said, being strong isn’t enough, as the powerful Kobayakawa may seek to thwart you even if you are the strongest. Will you be able to outsmart them and take control?

Contents

Setup

There’s almost nothing in this box. You’ve got the medals:

Medals

Give each player four. Now, shuffle the cards:

Cards

Flip one face-up and give one to the other players.

You’re ready to start!

Setup

Gameplay

If you thought that was easy, just wait until you play the game. On your turn you have two options:

  • Flip over a new card. Flip a card on top of the face-up card. That card is the new Kobayakawa card.
  • Draw a card and discard a card. Draw a card from the deck and choose a card from your now two-card hand to discard face-up in front of you. Do not put this card on top of the Kobayakawa card.

That’s pretty much it. Once every player has taken a turn, you decide — do you want to fight, or stay out of this one?

  • If you fight, bet one medal. If it’s the final round, bet either 2 medals or all the medals you have, whichever is lower.
  • If you pass, you don’t spend any medals. You just pass. You don’t participate in the fight. Note that if every player but one passes, that player wins by default.

Now for the fight! Every player reveals their cards:

In Progress

Now, normally the player with the highest card wins. However, the Kobayakawa always favor the underdog, so they’ll add the card in the center to the lowest card played. That means in this case the 1 gets a +10, so it’s actually … 11! That’s still not higher than 13, so, the 13’s owner wins and gets all medals bet and one from the center. Ironically, if 1 hadn’t participated, then the 5 would have gotten the bonus and 15 > 13, so they would have won.

The player who won starts the next round. Play until you have two medals left in the center. This starts the final round — in this round, everyone must bet two medals to fight. If you don’t have two medals, you may bet your one medal. If at any point during the game you run out of medals, you’re out of the game. Be careful!

Once the game has ended, the player with the most medals wins!

Player Count Differences

Honestly, the only place I have a problem with this game is at three players. There aren’t quite enough players to prevent one player getting enough medals that nobody can catch up with them, and that makes the game kind of moot. That said, at higher player counts (6) you end up with a final round that usually, whoever wins, wins. That makes the rest of the game kind of feel irrelevant, which can be a bit frustrating. I’d stick to this game at 4 or 5.

Strategy

  • Bluff. You should never let people know what you have. If the Kobayakawa card is high, make them think you have a low card. If it’s low, make them think you have a high card. If you can put enough pressure on them, they might pass and just give you the win. Sometimes you might have to put on a bit of an act to sell this, but that’s the game, sometimes.
  • Know when to draw and when to flip the Kobayakawa. If you’re going later in the turn order, flipping the Kobayakawa card can really wreck other players’ strategies, especially if it changes from a 1 to a 15 or something. Other times, you may want to draw so you can attempt to bluff.
  • Beware the 15 Kobayakawa card. That means whoever has the 1 wins, so try to just change that to anything else.
  • Do some math. I skipped the final round last game because as long as another player skipped it too, I won by default. Just do that math fast so you don’t slow the game down. That’s just polite.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • Cool box color. I love the blue. Then again, Oink is really solid at making cool box colors.
  • Easy to transport. Another staple of the Oink Games line.
  • Easy to learn. There’s not much to it, which is kind of a meh at times, but it IS very easy to learn and plays fast.
  • The metal medals are really cool. They feel nice in your hand, like the coins in Near and Far.
  • Cool art scheme. There’s not much art to it, but what there is is pretty cool.

Mehs

  • This game would not be nearly as cool without the metal medals. It’s just 15 cards, otherwise.
  • The theme is just kind of … there. It’s kind of just pasted on, which is disappointing. I have seen some neat re-themes, where essentially the Kobayakawa card is just like another character helping you out from a show or something.

Cons

  • Kinda random. You can get screwed by luck of the draw, but I suppose you should try to account for that and not participate if you don’t think you’ll win. That said, sometimes you’re just unlucky.
  • Not that fun at three players. You can get forced into having to participate or else the last player just wins for free (which, admittedly, can happen at higher player counts but is less likely), which kind of sucks, and it’s, like I said, easy to get enough medals to just win the game by only passing, which isn’t that good, either.
  • Having the game be won or lost in the final round is kind of dissatisfying. It makes the buildup feel kind of pointless. I wonder what would happen if the first round was the “bet two” round?

Overall: 7 / 10

In Progress

Overall, Kobayakawa is pretty solid! I think as far as light bluffing games I probably prefer things like Cake Duel, but I don’t think this is a bad game to pack with you if you are playing with more people than the two that Cake Duel allows for! It’s short, light, and easy to play, and it’s pretty fun! I’d say it falls well within the bandwidth of the Oink Games line, and if you’re looking to add it to your collection, it’s not a bad pick!

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