Iki is a new boardgame that will be coming to Kickstarter soon. I was drawn to the Japanese art the game. While the theme is nothing new to gamers: it’s about the marketplace, I love that the designer of this game was inspired by an old scroll of Nihonbashi. It’s nice have the background setting during the Edo period.
The game plays over 13 turns, which cover the four seasons and the New Year. Players may hire traders, visit booths in the marketplace and deal with the traders and shopkeepers there. At the end of the season, you must pay your workers, but you will also collect income.
The close confines of the market made trading easy but also left it vulnerable to fires, so players must be prepared and have firefighters ready.
Resources can be used to build end game buildings.
Along the way players try to earn Iki points and the player with those Iki points wins.
In Iki, the game poses strategic choices from the beginning. Choosing artisans and deciding where to locate them is tough. The basic resources are money needed for hiring and trading, rice to feed your people, and sandals which allow you to walk along the market place faster. Wood and gold can be used to build towards the end game. Fish and tobacco can provide valuable Iki points during the end game as well.
In addition, gaining firefighter points not only helps you protect your investments but it plays an important part in turn order. The fires will occur in 3 of the 4 quarters of Nihonbashi over the course of the game.
Each player’s Oya travels the marketplace in a closed loop of 8 spaces. There are 8 shops, two in each quadrant, with shopkeepers and spots for 16 traders, 4 in each quadrant of the board. The gate marks the starting space or as I think of it “Go” à la Monopoly. In turn order, players choose how many spaces to move, 1 to 5, in a 4 player game. Only one player can choose a particular number. Then in order of movement, each player may hire an available artisan/trader and then move his main meeple. Movement may be augmented by using sandal tokens. On the space where the player ends movement, they may use the shopkeeper and one of the trader’s abilities. If a player uses another player’s artisan, the income from the artisan will increase. The other way a trader’s income moves is when a player’s Oya passes the gate. At the end of 3 months or turns income is paid and players must feed their artisans one rice each or lose an artisan for each rice they are short.
There are 3 fires during the year. The player ahead on the firefighting track gets a number of benefits. They go first in choosing movement. They also randomly pick one of the fire tiles. If you do not have enough firefighting power you may lose some of your traders if they are in the line of the fire.
There are numerous ways to earn point during the game. Some points are awarded as income. Some may be obtained from traders or thru buying shop wares like fish or tobacco. You also earn points for having sets of traders in the different areas of the board-these points are awarded after each season of 3 months. You can also earn points from various buildings that are available to be built during the game.
So I really had fun with this game. The current art is very thematic. I like the way the designer worked the art of the scroll into the game. That said, the board does appear a bit busy initially but it adds so much to the theme of a busy marketplace. There are lots of tough choices to be made like retiring an artisan to free up the worker for a new trader or keep the old one for its ability you may need to use. The artisans/traders seem fairly well balanced. The game is definitely a Euro in the way it plays, and one of my gaming buddies remarked that Iki is a bit like Caylus and I agree. Plenty of ways to get points.
The fires may seem to be a little harsh but you have plenty of advance warning and can plan accordingly. Sometimes it’s even helpful to free up a worker.
Note: I was playtesting a prototype so some of the art or design may change before the final production. Pictures are courtesy of designer Koota Yamada.
I am looking forward to the final published version.
Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers
Joe Huber (4 plays): I had a chance to playtest this as well. I think Lorna has summed things up very well – I have little to add. First, I did not see the comparison to Caylus. There is very little resource conversion in IKI, and none of the destructive provost/bailiff play that so annoyed me about Caylus. And we did not find the fires too harsh – if anything, I think they’re a little too forgiving, though I don’t see that as an issue. I too am looking forward to the published version.
Lorna (5 plays total with 2, 3, and 4 players):The comparison to Caylus was made in that others may use your artisans and you get a benefit and the traveling along the road.
Joe: Ah, OK. It’s still not a comparison I personally see – the road in IKI is a loop, more similar in my mind to the rondel games, and the benefits received are fairly minor (and sometimes not truly beneficial, as they can prevent you from using your own artisans). But that does help me to understand the source of the comparison.