Dale Yu: First Impression of two quick Japanese card games – Kobayakawa and Villannex


The writers here at the Opinionated Gamers are still in heavy-duty playing mode, trying to get in plays of all the new games so that we can write about them!  This is a process that will take weeks; probably until at least Thanksgiving.  One thing that happens every year is that the shorter games end up getting more plays early on because they fit in as fillers and closers.

Thus far, two short Japanese card games have hit the table already multiple times…


  • Designer: Jun Sasaki
  • Publisher: IELLO/Superlude
  • Players: 3-6
  • Ages: 9+
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Times played: 4, with review copy provided by IELLO


Kobayakawa is a simple little card game with an interesting twist.  Players are dealt cards from a 15 card deck (numbered 1 to 15).  A single card is flipped up in the center – this is the Kobayakawa – this card is added to the value of the player with the lowest value.  There is first a draw phase where each player has the option to either A) draw a card into his hand and then discard one card face up OR B) replace the Kobayakawa card with the top card from the deck.

Once all players have done something with a card, then there is a round of betting.  Each player, in turn, decides if he is going to stay in the round.  If so, you must bet a coin.  Once everyone has decided, then the cards of the betting players are revealed.  The lowest card still in the round gets to add the value of the Kobayakawa to their total.  The highest total wins the pot as well as an extra coin from the supply.  In the 7th and final round, you must bet 2 coins to stay in and you get 2 coins from the pot. After 7 rounds, the player with the most coins wins.

My thoughts on the game

This is a fascinating little game – there are only a few rules, but the amount of mind games that goes on each round can be huge.  You can gain a little bit of information from reading what the players do with the draw phase… If they draw a card and then discard a low card – maybe they are keeping a high card in their hand?  If they flip over a new Kobayakawa card – maybe they have a low card and are hoping for a high card in the middle to add to their hand?  Maybe they are just screwing with your mind and trying to get you think something that isn’t true?

I have played it with varying numbers of players, and I think it works best with 4 or more players.  The betting is a bit stagnant with 3 – the game is a lot more interesting when you’re less sure if you have a low card or not.

The production quality is fine, and the game comes in a nice small box.  Admittedly, the coins in the IELLO version are cardboard punchouts as opposed to the metal coins in the original version – but this doesn’t matter to me at all.  The cardboard coins also keep the cost down and make this a very affordable game.


Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:


Joe Huber (1 play, of the original Oink edition): Dale’s summary is quite accurate; how you’re likely to find the game depends heavily upon how much you enjoy mind games.  I don’t, therefore I didn’t.  But for the right group, I can imagine this being quite popular…


Lorna: This is the essence of poker.  Makes a decent filler.




  • Designer: Takahiro
  • Publisher: Kogekoge Do
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 6+
  • Time: 5 minutes to play, 5 minutes to score
  • Times played:  10+


In Villannex, players act as mayors of neighboring villages – each trying to be the best.  At the end of the game, each player will look at his village – comprised of 2 cards – to see who is best.  At the start of the game, players are dealt 6 cards.  Each card has two possible production options at the bottom as well as some sort of scoring rule in the center of the card.  The majority of the scoring rules change the values of one or more of the commodities in the game.  There are also some job cards which score points for certain combinations of commodity production.

But, back to the game – at the start, everyone is dealt 6 cards.  Then, these cards are examined, and two cards are discarded face down.  When all players have chosen their discards, the  remaining 4 cards are placed face up on the table for everyone to examine.  When all players have looked at the cards still in play, the hands are taken back up and two more cards are discarded.  You now use your special village cards to determine which of the two production options will be used on each of your cards.  Cards are revealed simultaneously and then the scoring phase starts.

To score, there are a number of things that need to be done.  First, you have to total the number of each resource produced by the villages  Then, you look at the scoring rules and determine the value of each of those commodities.  Each village will score points for the commodities that they produced.  Then, you look at the different job cards and score them if the criteria on the cards are met.  The player with the most points wins.

My thoughts on the game

This is a game that would love an app or spreadsheet to make the scoring a bit easier.  As it is, it may be the only game that I own which takes longer to score it than to play it!  But – there is a fascinating game here – trying to read your opponents and keep your options open as your hand continues to dwindle in size.

When you get your initial draw, you have to look at your options and see if you have cards that work well together.  You’d also do well to look for a plan B in case you see a card out there that might thwart your strategy.  The bulk of the strategizing though comes when all players show their 4 cards.  You need to quickly figure out both what you want to do with your cards as well as trying to figure out what your opponents are doing, and then figure out what the best play is for you.

In the end, luck plays a huge role in the game – but that’s OK with a 5 minute game.  But – having said that – there is still a fair amount of skill and reading of intentions that play a part in this game.  I’m not yet sure if I like it or not, but the fact that I keep trying to play it to figure it out makes me think that I like it…


Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:


Lorna:  I’m not sure what to think of this one yet. The rules are so simple and it takes about 30 sec to play but figuring out the scoring is a challenge. It’s a bluffing game with simultaneous card selection. Not particularly my favorite mechanisms but then again it’s so fast it seems fun.

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Essen 2014, First Impressions. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dale Yu: First Impression of two quick Japanese card games – Kobayakawa and Villannex

  1. I love the Japanese emphasis on graphic design and it’s great to see that games from the East are seeing more of an audience in the West. It’s still hard to get a hold of them, but I hope they become more readily available.

  2. Ben (chally) says:

    I recently got Villannex to the table for the first time and I was quite impressed. As Dale notes, there is considerable space for skilled play in such a short game. It has the same addictive quality as One Night Werewolf, but drastically different dynamics (and Larry Levy’s invocation of The Princess Bride is not wholly out of place). If there were a few more cards in the box, It would probably fall into the “Love It” category, but I am a bit worried about it getting stale quickly with most or all cards in play every game. Let’s call it a “Like It” for now.

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