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Hisashi Hayashi (design) & Michael Menzel (artist) have done a wonderful job for ZOCH zum Spielen with this 3-6 player 30 minute family & gamer card game.

KIMONO is a very clever bidding card game. There are 87 cards in the deck, made up of Market Curios, Gold, Action, Kimono cards plus one Apprentice and the "bookend cards" (1 x sack & 1 x bin). These cards are not only nicely illustrated they are of such good quality that they will withstand a lot of regular playing. The other components are a stocky wooden stand-up Master Meeple shown in the Lotus Position and 14 wooden discs, 2 of which are the grouping discs and all of which are marked with either a I or a II (7 of each). The cards are full of necessary information - card value, how many of the type in the deck and how many of the type a player can safely collect.


The player chosen to be first turn takes the Master Meeple, the Apprentice, the two Grouping Discs plus two personal discs of the same colour - all players take 2 discs of the same colour so they each have a I and a II disc. The Kimono cards are all the same and are collected in a slightly different manner to the other cards, ie they aren't bid for.

All cards except the Kimonos, the Apprentice, the Bin and the Sack are shuffled together and dealt out into 5 separate equal face-down stacks (how many cards per stack depends on the number of players) which are placed in a row in the centre of the table and flanked on one end by the Bin and the other by the Sack, the Kimonos are placed nearby and any remaining cards are placed on the Sack card face down. Now the game begins.

The player who holds the Master Meeple and the Apprentice selects any one of the stacks in the middle of the table; as there are 5 stacks there are 5 Rounds in a game, one stack being used for each Round. Once the Start Player has selected a stack they carefully lay out the cards from into a face up row, dealing them one at a time until all are visible. Now the Start Player separates the cards into two Groups, the only rule is that there must be a minimum of one card in a Group; thus if there are 9 cards you could have Groups of 1 and 8, 2 and 7, 3 and 6 etc the only other rule about the Groups is that the cards must be kept in the same order they were originally placed in. Once the player has separated the cards into 2 Groups they put the Apprentice card into one of the Groups - either at an end or slipped into the Group in any position, again without rearranging the cards. Finally the Start Player decides which of the 2 Groups will be Group I and which will be Group II by placing the Grouping discs in associated positions, one for each Group.


Now each player, including the Master, secretly selects one of their own Discs, either the I or the II, keeping both face down so their selection cannot be seen by the other players. When all have chosen, the Discs are flipped over and placed next to their chosen Group. There can only be one of three possibilities for each Group: a) No one has chosen the Group, eg if it is Group I and the players have all chosen Group II. b) Only one player has chosen this Group , eg there is only one player Disc next to the Group or c) Multiple players have chosen the Group (as in eg 1 above).

a) No one wants the Group. If no one has placed their Disc next to the Group the cards are removed and placed face down in the Bin (on top of the Bin card).  b) If only one player selects the Group they take all the cards in it and lay them face up in front of them, creating separate overlapping stacks for each card type. (Place one card on top of the same card type leaving just enough of the under-card so that it can be seen how many cards are in the stack).  c) If multiple players want the Group there are two possibilities depending on how many cards are in the Group. If there is only one card in the Group the card is put in the Bin and each player who bid for it is given a Kimono card instead. If there is more than one card in the Group the player with the Master separates the Group into two again, keeping to the same rules of not rearranging their order. Then each of the players involved (those who bid for the original Group) once again Bid for either Group I or Group II as the Master has now named them. A Group may be split several times before the cards are either claimed or thrown in the Bin, one of these possibilities is a definite eventually.

Players who win cards place them face up in front of them as already described. After the cards have been placed any Action cards are resolved in whatever order the owning player wishes. There are four Action cards, all of which could be Good or Bad for you; Fire costs you 4 points per Fire card at the final countdown, Breakage costs you 2 of your already collected cards - this can be good as you may take the cards from stacks where you have gone over the limit. Lucky Cat requires you to discard it out of the game and draw the top card from the deck (Sack) and Copy which is placed at the top of the stack of cards of which you have collected the most of already - if tied, choose.
The secret of the game is to outguess the other players when bidding for the Groups. Sometimes it is obvious which Group is likely to be the most popular but other times a clever splitting of the Group gives the players awkward choices - being the Master is quite a powerful, fun position and it means you can split the Groups hopefully to your advantage. The Group with the Apprentice in, for example, can be used as a carrot to the other players if you, as Master, want the cards in the other Group - for they who collect the Apprentice become Master next Round (if the Apprentice gets dumped in the Bin then the player to the left of the current Master becomes Master next Round).
Once all five decks have been used the game ends and the scoring begins. For every stack that you have either the correct number of cards or less in (according to the flags at the top centre of the card) you multiply the card value by the number of cards in your stack. If you have gone over the number of cards in your stack you disregard the type value and count only the number of cards in the stack, then reduce your score by this number. The scoring sounds complicated but it isn't because all the information is, as I  have already said, on the cards. Gold cards count one point per piece of Gold shown on the card.


KIMONO is for 3 players minimum but we have played it as a 2-player game without changing any of the rules; the only thing we did is reduce the number of cards in each Deck at the start of the game, we suggest six cards per Deck (30 cards in total). As a game it is great fun to play and it doesn't change in the amount of entertainment it gives no matter how many players there are. It is thoughtful and clever, there is more Bluff than Strategy and just a little Luck. Using your power as the Master Meeple (ie the splitting of the Groups) can be evil fun as you can see what the other players need and you can often manage the split to cause them pleasure and pain. 

ZOCH are renown for their Children's games but they are also building a reputation of publishing family/gamer games - games like BEASTY BAR, MANILA and NIAGARA - and KIMONO is another of this range. Definitely one for your collection. You should be able to locate it in your local game store or online for between €12.00 - €30.00 though if you type "Kimono" into's Search bar you will be directed to Zooscape. I couldn't find Kimono on BGG only Zooscape with a mention of the alternate names. Thus in all fairness I should say that if the games are all the same but with different themes then it should not matter which edition you purchase, though of course being a fan of ZOCH games my preference is for KIMONO.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015