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The number of good games entering the market from self-published designers is staggering, and the sad part for gamers is that all too often we don't even become aware of these titles, much less have a chance to play them to see whether they fulfill the designer's promise. Sometimes, though, such a self-published game will trickle down from one gamer's hands to another until someone finally decides that the gaming world needs to see more of this design.
Such is the case with Kenichi Tanabe's Inotaizu. Former BGN columnist Scott Tepper played a friend's copy at a convention, then managed to snag the game from a prize table as something had triggered in his head. Now, months later, the renamed Kaigan will be the first release from Tepper's Ascora Games with a Spiel 2010 debut.
Kaigan is themed around Tadataka Ino's efforts to survey and map Japan starting in 1800. The players work for Ino, and they have surveyors in their employ to map the shoreline and bring honor to them. To start the game, ten map tiles are placed on the map game board in pairs; each map tile has a value of 2-4 along with an artist, government or travel icon.
Each of the five rounds starts with players taking turns to place action cards on available spaces on the central game board. Any space already holding an action card or bearing a preprinted action symbol cannot be covered. After placing a card, the player can claim the actions in any row that hasn't already been claimed by placing a colored marker in the left-hand column. (This row may or may not contain action cards placed by this player.) This player is now finished for the round, and the other players continue placing cards until each person has claimed a row. In a three-player game, the bottommost row is not used.
Once everyone has claimed a row, players resolve the actions by moving down the columns from top to bottom, starting with the leftmost column. Each card has a main action – spend Ryō to place surveyors on map tiles or map markers on map tiles where you already have surveyors, earn Ryō, buy Honor points, advance on the artistic or government track – but a player can ignore this action to take a card's secondary action: spending two Ryō to place or move one Surveyor on a map tile. Preprinted actions allow no secondary action, and a player can also choose to skip an action and do nothing, if desired.
After all the actions are complete, Tadataka Ino comes to lend a hand to his assistants, rolling two or three dice and placing a neutral map marker on each tile in the column that matches the die roll. Any map tiles that now bear a number of map markers equal to the number on the tile score. Artistic and government tiles earn players points equal to the value of the tile, and each map marker on such a tile advances that player one space on the respective track at the bottom of the game board. Travel tiles earn a player points equal to the value of the tile and the number of his markers on that tile; in addition, the player advances on the travel track equal to his markers present on the tile.
Players receive income equal to the sum of their placement on the artistic and government tracks, and after the second, fourth and fifth rounds players earn honor based on their position on these tracks. After the fifth round, players receive a bonus based on their relative positions on the travel track. Additional bonuses are divvied out for the player holding the most Ryō as well as for all surveyors and map markers still on map tiles. (Tadataka Ino gives points for effort – work hard!) Whoever has the most Honor points after five rounds wins.
Description written by W. Eric Martin and used with permission of BoardgameNews.com