Published by Queen Games, Kokopelli is essentially a card game but there are boards which are used to represent each player's 'village': the four spaces to which they'll be playing cards. There's a thin veneer of a theme about tribal ceremonies but you don't need to trouble yourself with that. From the 16 supplied, you pick at random the 10 powers you'll be playing with and each player assembles their own individual deck comprising three cards for each power plus six Kokopelli cards, which count as wild. Each player is therefore playing with their own individual 36 card deck.
Players all have a hand of five cards (your maximum hand size: if you ever end your turn with more than five cards you have to discard the surplus to the bottom of your draw pile). On your turn you take two actions from the five available, and you can take the same action twice: draw a card; 'open a ceremony'; play a card to an existing 'ceremony'; cancel a 'ceremony' or exchange cards (put the cards in your hand on the bottom of your draw deck and draw the same number of new cards).
To 'open a ceremony' you play a card to an empty space in your village. The card cannot match any of the cards already there or in either of the two spaces of your immediate neighbours' villages. Once a 'ceremony' has been opened (ie: you've started a set), you gain the power that goes with those cards. You retain that power all the time the set remains open and you can have up to four powers in play together. You lose a power once the set is completed (usually when a fourth card is played to it) but you also have an incentive to complete your set because you earn victory points, particularly for being the first and second to complete that power's ceremony. There are circumstances where you might simply want to 'cancel a ceremony' (discard it, even tho' it's still incomplete); for example, to open another ceremony that might be more useful to you.
If that was all there was to Kokopelli, it would be an interesting enough game but designer Stefan Feld hasn't left it there. Players can play cards not just to their own village but also to the two spaces closest to them in each of their neighbour's villages. This means that an opponent can play a card that closes off your ceremony to deprive you of the power and even steal the bulk of the points for its completion. Completing an opponent's ceremony might also allow you to open up the same ceremony in your own village... Suddenly, Kokopelli becomes a highly interactive 'take that' game, and one where players are forced to make 'push your luck' decisions: if I play a third card to my ceremony, I am taking the risk that my neighbour might be able to close the set and take the points...
Kokopelli takes 2–4 players, tho' from our Board's Eye View plays, the game is at its best with three. We liked the art by Markus Erdt. The box is larger than it needs to be but production is of the high standard we've come to expect from Queen Games.
We love the way in which players are able to build up their extra powers, even those these will come and go during the course of the game. We like the balancing act between building powers that optimise your turns and completing sets to nab points, and we've enjoyed the clever player interaction. Because you don't use all the powers in every game, there's the potential for a lot of variety between games, and games play quickly - around 40 minutes - not least because there's a 5-point bonus for being the first to exhaust your 36-card deck.
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