Mattresses are quiet. All the fighters have gathered in the preparation room, because only some of them can take part in a renowned tournament. Everybody trained without rest, but I still have to choose only the best ones. Representing our dojo is an honor, that nobody should take lightly!
Road to tournament with your fighter is theme of board game Dojo Kun, which has been prepared by Roberto Pestrin for all sport fans and strategists. The box originated in 2015 in Yemaia’s production. But it took only a year for second edition (and purely English) of the game launched by Cool Mini or Not. The new version comes to the European market thanks to Esdevium Games and its graphics was done by Saeed Jalabi and Giovanna Guimaraes.
On the lid of a relatively massive box, players will see a fighter in the middle of a jump kick. This female warrior will help us open the box and we can look inside. Whole adventure begins with four big boards, which together represent village, tournament progress, battle board, but also activities for trainers and athletes. Each participant then selects his color and places a single dojo board in front of him, with a place for two fighters, special attack and equipment. Individual participants will also get two expansion boards (picture side down), but also cards and tokens.
Then they put together game board in the middle – cards of adventure and special punches are placed on an athlete board (sorted into seasons) together with a secret technique token, and numbered tiles placed on the battle board. Trainer board is equipped with training gear and athlete characters. Players then mark first round and battle begins.
Whole match is divided into two seasons. Each one has three preparation rounds first and then it all ends with final tournament. As part of the training rounds, players put their tokens on action boxes and instantly gain some advantage. Efforts, of course, include improvement of the gym and abilities of athletes themselves. Individual fighters have four numerical values of experience levels (sum of all four is called a “dan”), but each character also has a special ability and a set of ki tokens. Players can improve athletes numeric skills, get them new ki tokens, practice hidden moves (bonus for the tournament), collect prestige for their dojo and also venture to adventure.
In addition to fighter tokens, players have also trainers available. With their help, they will then acquire new training equipment for more effective training, hiring new athletes or expand their dojo. Players can also take admission token, that guarantees them a seat in the final tournament. It is a classic spider elimination, where fighters of individual dojos are deployed. Reservations allows for selection of opponents for the first round of elimination phase.
Depending on their skills, players get red, blue, green and purple dice. They roll them and get a number of successes – icons of available actions (block, hold, jump and collecting ki). Depending on their amount, player moves token to the fighting board up and uses any special moves his warrior knows (paying with ki energy). Players will cancel out some of their skills, guided by arrows on the battle plan and find out number of successful hits, they dealt. The one who has more hits wins the round and moves to the next stage of the tournament.
At the end of the tournament, individual dojos get prestige points awarded according to the achieved final position in battle spider. Then the game moves to second season. Even here, all participants improve their fighters and gyms to rejoin the retaliatory battle on the other part of the tournament board (gold). Second one offers higher rewards. Players add final points of prestige, adding rewards for successful adventures, athletes, equipment, special moves and dojo expansions. Player with the highest amount of prestige becomes winner of the game!
Dojo Kun is a terribly interesting and unexpected combination of two games. In the beginning, it’s all about activating actions with the help of workers, this time split into two types of tokens. Each provides its specific choices. And some are limited, so you need to be as quick as possible in choosing them.
All this building up is quite complex. First of all, the training of fighters is absolutely essential, because distribution of strength will be reflected in the second phase of the game. But nothing can be accomplished without a well-equipped dojo. Very different part of the game is a dice battle consisting of several matches with enemies. Even after the elimination of one warrior, dojo is not yet out of the game, because each participant has two representatives in the tournament and all the players involved are involved in the battles for more time. But it may happen, that one player gets elimianted sooner and has to wait..
The overall impression is, that this is a very original game. Atmosphere works great because at the end of the three preparation rounds, everyone is looking forward to the tournament. Players are working their way to a clear goal, which at the same time limits time to prepare their pupils. There is not enough turns and players will definitely not be able to do everything they want. Therefore, they have to choose the most important actions.
Combat system itself is solved very cleverly. Every ability has its important place. Players also need a bit of luck in the duel to roll a convenient combination of icons. This is the only time when coincidence plays some role. That’s why it is possible to see unexpected surprises in seemingly decided battles.
The only real problem is the lack of variability. In a game with maximum of four opponents, you will use all fighter cards, that makes the game repeat in next match. And there are only six adventure cards in the box. But on the other hand, in two players, players must use virtual fighters to keep the entire combat spider full. This means a greater amount of handling, that spoils otherwise an excellent impression of the combat each season.
We did not even get into the details in the description of rules. Dojo Kun rules are relatively long and complex. Above all, fight and its evaluation has great deal of text and pictures devoted only to it. And the fight is also toughest part of the whole game. That is why you should play with more experienced players and matches are then best in four players, although all other numbers succeed as well (and entertain).
Graphics of all components are top notch. Thanks to a large number of components, setup game is really massive and awe-inspiring. In addition, the overall impression is complemented by nice plastic tokens (a minor disadvantage in legibility) and beautiful colored dice. So you will not even be sorry for this time, that will do not get any miniatures in your hand. Although the ultimate goal is to collect winning points (prestige), the way to them is paved with interesting choices based both on strategic euro decisions and dice.
Dojo Kun is a fantastic combination of worker-placement, dice, combat, and smart choices. It all creates a really tuned and fun mix, that will get to you. You will return to it with a smile on your face. The game is not unnecessarily slow and it can be played in around ninety minutes. Dojo Kun is a smart combination, in which better player always wins despite the dice.
+ great theme and processing
+ smart battles
+ strategy with dice
+ great atmosphere
+ lots of small options
- somewhat lacking variability
- need of virtual fighters in the tournament in two player game
- player gets eliminated in tournament (waits for others)