The times when board games were reduced to their basic playful structure are long gone. Modern games rely on a combination of graceful optics and exciting gameplay.

Kanagawa von Iello is one of the prettiest representatives in the field of tactical board games and at the same time the first title that Iello has released in Germany under its own label. That Kanagawa The following review of the board game shows that it was right to excite players and critics at the last fair in Essen Kanagawa by the authors Bruno Cathala and Charles Chevallier.

Old Japanese master painters

You don't have to be a manga fan or comic book lover to see the look of Kanagawa To be liked. The tactical game by the authors Bruno Cathala and Charles Chevallier was already one of the highlights of the for many players SPIEL'16 in Essen - and it still regularly finds its way onto the gaming tables of countless board game groups. The background story of the stylish tactical game is quickly told: In 1840, the old Japanese master painter Hokusai decided to open a school in which young talents should be trained to become master landscape painters. Master Hokusai was looking for a location for the painting school Kanagawa, Tokyo Bay. Where one of the largest harbors in Asia is now located, things were far more tranquil in 1840. Impressive natural landscapes and a mild climate caused by warm ocean currents provided ideal learning conditions. The competition among the 2 to 4 students was so great that only the right decisions at the right time were decisive for the possible success of the training. The board game Kanagawa relies on two alternative courses of action that repeatedly demand wise decisions from the players: do I stay at school and learn from the master or do I use the knowledge I have gathered to work on my painting in my studio?

Illustrations as part of the game concept

The Kanagawa The authors Bruno Cathala and Charles Chevallier did not add the illustrations as a neat accessory, but instead included them as an integral part of the game idea. In any case, with every new release, the impression that it is part of Iello's philosophy to stage games in a visually impressive and artistically meaningful way is strengthened. For the illustrations by Kanagawa is the Swiss Jade mosch responsible, who has achieved great things. The graphics of Kanagawa are more than just pretty: they are impressive and charming, but above all stylish. 

The central element of a game is the personal school sheet, on which four lesson cards are placed in each round - partly visible to all players, partly hidden. Right from the start, it's all about decisions. The active player in each case has the choice of either taking cards that are displayed or waiting.

Board Game Review: Kanagawa by Iello

You always have to consider whether you choose the safe variant or hope that the other players will leave the matching cards behind. Each round ends as soon as all of the 2 to 4 players have left the school and expanded their painting. The highlight: recorded cards must also be used. As a result, players are again presented with alternative courses of action. Either a player uses the colored side to perfect his landscape painting or he improves his studio and expands the color palette by using the brown card side. Color specifications and the number of brushes determine the framework conditions for painting and therefore require some strategic considerations.   

Kanagawa in the test: no purely superficial beauty

The card motifs and the seasons are added as additional elements. Different motifs are depicted on each of the cards: trees, buildings, people, animals or landscapes. Individual motifs must now be combined to form a total work of art so that players can achieve the highest possible number of points with a total of 11 cards. The final accounting follows the creation of the eleventh card of one or more players, so that the playing time of Kanagawa* always remains limited and manageable. Points are awarded for different scoring rules.

Board Game Review: Kanagawa by Iello

Basically, players receive points for the number of motif cards displayed and for card chains consisting of the same seasons. The so-called diplomas create tension in the game. Awarded tokens are awarded to players for fulfilling certain conditions, but no more than one of each type. And so, at certain points in time, new decisions are required from the painters, which have a direct effect on the final score. And so few safe points or risky, but higher scores go to the respective player account. The selection of the diploma is always binding and unique, so that players can decide for themselves about their level of tension.

Katsushika Hokusai: The Most Famous Artist in Japan

Anyone who previously thought that Master Hokusai was spinning will be taught better at this point in the board game review. Katsushika Hokusai actually lived, namely from 1760 to 1849. He is considered one of the most famous artists in Japanese history and was the master of woodblock prints during his lifetime. because Kanagawa plays in 1840, it becomes clear why it must have been so important for Master Hokusai to find a new master student. With a total of 30.000 works, creative breaks are unlikely to have been part of Hokusai's conviction. Around 337 works per year and thus around one work of art per day illustrate the artistic urge of the master painter who lived and worked across the Sumida River.     


Number of players: 2 to 4 players
Age: from 10 years
Playing time: 35 to 50 minutes
Difficulty: medium
Long-term motivation: high

Published by Iello
Author: Bruno Cathala, Charles Chevallier

Year of publication: 20176
Language: German
Cost: 30 Euro


We assume Kanagawa would be a playful disaster. The optical brilliance of the board game would still convince. Fortunately, however, Kanagawa by Bruno Cathala and Charles Chevallier is a game for the eyes and the mind - perhaps even for the heart due to the charming illustrations. The two authors, who already developed the Abyss board game together, have created a real highlight for game enthusiasts. Behind the relatively simple framework of Kanagawa there is much more to it than you would initially assume. The tactical depth becomes clearer with each subsequent game, so Kanagawa always motivated to new rounds of play. Everything always revolves around decisions that have a direct and lasting influence on the course of the game.  

Still is Kanagawa not a perfect game. This fact becomes noticeable in games for two, because the available card display is larger. The course of the game is less tense and less interactive due to the small number of players. As a result, the bonus system loses a little of its appeal; At the same time, however, the card management becomes more complicated - an extensive card display is therefore not a real advantage, at least with regard to the course of the game. Developed with three or even four players Kanagawa however, the full potential.

Games like Kanagawa reinforce the impression that Iello combines entertainment with amazement while playing board and card games. At the same time, this game is an excellent introduction to the world of gaming, simply because it becomes clear what high quality modern board games can achieve in terms of play and appearance. Even the names of the authors proclaim playful aspiration: titles like five tribes, Shadows over Camelot or Mr Jack are just a selection of the projects that Bruno Cathala has left his mark on. With Kanagawa, together with Charles Chevallier, he created a board game that is timeless and unforgettable in its kind. With this game, Iello has made the perfect choice to get started with self-publishing games on the German toy market.