I rarely support games on Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms. Over the years that crowdfunding boardgames has been popular, I’ve supported fewer than ten games. This year I supported A Kindly World from Japan partly because I like the art style. I like that it is a little quirky and has something a little different to offer. I have never played other games by the designer. I read the rules before deciding to pledge.
I was a little worried whether my package was lost in transit. Some supporters in USA had received their copies when I was still waiting for mine. It was a relief when the game arrived. I rarely receive mail from Japan so I couldn’t help feeling a little excited about it. The box was slightly larger than A4, more or less the size of a a standard board game.
The actual game is quite small, as you can see above. It was well protected by the mailing box. The mailing box was big enough for the game rules and the clear holder.
The rules were not stapled into a booklet form. They are in loose sheets. The rules don’t fit into the game box. I later created my own rules summary and made it small enough to fit inside the game box.
The rules came in three sheets of paper.
The last page is the card manifest.
The English version is actually just the Japanese version with an English obi, i.e. the black paper belt above with English text, and rules in English. There is only one version of the actual game and it is in Japanese. The cards do have Japanese text, but the game is very much playable even if you don’t know Japanese.
The back of the box (and obi).
The game is pretty small, and the cards too.
The rules summary I made can fit inside the game box.
A Kindly World is a push-your-luck set collection game. You collect cards during the game, and you win by collecting 7 different types of item cards. Every player gets a role card. You can also win by completing the mission on your role card.
The first row are the roles, the second row the items. The items have patterns along the edges, and this is how you differentiate them by type. In addition to the patterns, you can also tell them apart by the number at the top left corner. The number specifies how many cards there are of that particular type. The number of cards of the various types range from 5 to 9. Two types have 8 cards. In this case one type has the 8 written in a solid font, and the other has 8 written in an outline font. So you can still tell them apart using the number.
On your turn, you must create a row of cards, and you try to claim these cards before any clash happens. Once there is any clash, you must end your turn and without claiming any card. All cards in the row are discarded.
A player’s turn starts like this. The top card of the draw deck is face-up. The rest still remain face-down. When I first read the rulebook I didn’t understand why this was necessary. Only upon playing the game I appreciated why this was practical. The active player must move the top card of the deck to the right at least once. Cards on the right of the deck form a row, and these are what you try to claim before your turn ends.
The card which was on top of the deck has been moved to the right, and the top card of the deck is now turned face-up. If you compare the patterns on the edges of the cards, they are different, which means there is no clash yet. They are cards of different types. At this point you may decide to claim the card on the right and end your turn. Or you may decide to be greedy and move the top card of the deck to the right again.
Now the new top card of the deck is again a new type and does not clash with any of the cards on the right. Now you may take both the cards on the right, or you may gamble again and move the top card to the right. What all this means is if you want the top card of the deck, you will need to gamble and hope the next card doesn’t cause any clash. This is tantalising. The exact card you want may be dangling right in front of you, tempting you. If the top card of the deck is not what you want, and the cards on the right include some which you do want, it may be a good time to stop and claim them while you can.
If you continue to move cards to the right, you may end up with a situation like this. Now the top card of the deck clashes with the card immediately next to it. That means you have failed and will leave empty handed. All three cards on the right must be discarded.
This is how you collect cards. Once you have all 7 item types, you win.
The other way to win is to complete the mission on your role card. Everyone is dealt one role card at the start of the game. This is initially kept secret. The missions are related to collecting cards too, but the requirements vary. The child wants to collect three cards with toy cars. Mr Pumpkin needs 2 cards in one type, 2 in another type, and 3 in yet another type. You have two goals to work towards.
These are the trees of light. There are 4 such cards in the game. The rightmost card is the final tree of light, and it is shuffled into the bottom 10 cards of the deck. The rest are shuffled into the rest of the deck. When the first tree of light appears, role cards which are unused are revealed. This helps you narrow down the possibilities of your opponents’ roles. You know which roles are in play, but you may not know yet who’s having which role. When the second tree of light appears, everyone reveals his role. Now everyone knows for certain what everyone else is trying to do. The trees of light are relevant to some of the roles, e.g. the city person needs to collect two trees of light.
These above are all the cards with a solid 8. They all share the same border pattern. The drawings are all different. I like this and think it is lovely, even though it is not exactly practical. Three of the cards of this type have the toy car icon at the bottom right. In the whole game there are 8 cards with toy cars.
These are the cards in the outline 7 series, and they are all related to music.
If no one has won by the time the last tree of light appears, you follow a tiebreaker procedure to see who wins. You check for fewest trees of light, then the most toy cars, and finally the most cards.
My first game of A Kindly World was a 2-player game with Chen Rui. The 2-player game is a variant and is a little more complicated. The game is primarily designed for 3 or 4, and having played both 2- and 3-player games, I would recommend first timers to start with 3- or 4-player games. In the 2-player game, the role cards are shuffled into the main deck instead of every player being dealt one before the game starts. You collect role cards in the same way you collect item cards. You can win be fulfilling the mission of any one of the role cards you have collected. The 2-player game may be slightly more strategic than the standard 3- and 4-player game, but I think A Kindly World is meant to be a light game. I prefer to play with the simpler standard rules.
2-player game in progress.
The game plays briskly. This feels like a five-minute game. Both times I played, once with two players and the other with three, we played three games back-to-back. Otherwise it doesn’t feel like we’ve sit down long enough to have played a game. Many games take longer to set up than this game takes to play!
Despite being a simple game, there are some clever bits to discover. It is useful to try to guess your opponents’ roles. If you know what the next player is trying to collect, you will avoid leaving cards that will help him. Whether to move another card to the right seems like a brainless decision, but there are actually a few factors to consider. It is not just a linear decision of few cards meaning low risk and many cards meaning high risk. Sometimes you keep revealing cards and risk failing because you don’t want to leave a good card for the next player. Sometimes you are happy to collect just one card. Sometimes you bet against the odds even when the odds are horrible.
That pile at the top is the discard pile. Now three cards have been moved to the right and there is still no clash among all four visible cards. This is rare.
My character was Mr Pumpkin. I was still far from completing my mission.
In a 2-player game, role cards (rightmost in this photo) are shuffled into the draw deck. When you see such a card, you don’t turn it face-up (unless the second tree of light has appeared).
This many cards revealed and still no clash! This is a minor miracle.
The role card is still kept secret since the second tree of light has not appeared.
The village elder can substitute one tree of light as the 7th card type. I have 6 types now, but unfortunately no tree of light yet. I need a tree or the 7th card type to win.
Chen Rui was curious whether all the different drawings within one type of card can be linked together to form a story. She grouped the cards by type and tried to sequence them into stories. Kickstarter supporters will be getting a digital comic book. It is expected to be released in Feb 2022.
This is a 3-player game. Everyone gets one role.
A Kindly World is novel. Despite being simple and light, it has some endearing quirks. Sometimes I feel I get more fresh ideas and experiences from playing these clever little games than those typical 2-hour point salad Eurogames. There is a market for such heavy Eurogames, so many companies continue to make samey stuff and they continue to sell well.
One reason I like A Kindly World is this is the kind of game I am learning to create. Something that works for non-gamers and casual gamers. Something that works at boardgame cafes and non-boardgame gatherings. But it must also have something new and interesting to offer. There has to be a certain catch. A Kindly World feels super simple, but it is not as innocent as it looks. It is no deep strategic game, but it does have a little spark of genius.