By Raymond "DuMeeple" Dumee on March 26, 2019
These are troubled times, dear readers; Mount Fuji is on the verge of erupting and the hidden sacred temples are in grave danger! They are soon to be consumed by the seemingly unstoppable flow of red-hot lava. The shogun send out his most noble and gifted samurai warriors on a quest to go inside the volcano in order to save the precious relics and sacred scrolls from these secret and sacred places...
The Samurai must make their way to the temples as the volcano already starts to rumble and the walls starts shaking. Sayonara, my good (but probable not long for this world) friends! Are they a little bit slow in the head? Okay, I get that the Samurai have "honour" up the proverbial wazoo and a somewhat unhealthy taste for kamikaze actions, but this is ridiculous! I mean, as if descending into an erupting volcano wasn't already the brightest idea ever, the cavern the Samurai end up in also just happens to be fully filled with bad ass dragons! But it seems, just as the leopard can't change its spots, these Samurai can't change their kamishimo; Seemingly unafraid of ending up like a smoking pile of ash due to dragon-related accidents, onwards they go!
Fuji Koro is a truly beautiful game, set in Japan around 1700. The game is designed by Jerome Demeyere and features artwork from Miguel Coimbra. Belgian board game publisher Game Brewer is going to take the helm on publishing duties. Fuji Koro comes with a two-sided board, one side for competitive and the other side for cooperative play. The game can be played with 1 - 6 players, each taking the role of a loyal and brave Samurai. The box contains six player boards and six samurai, thirteen dragons and a whole lot of dice, tokens, cubes and cards. The deluxe version comes with samurai and dragon miniatures and wooden components for the tokens instead of the standard cardboard ones.
The setup of the game is quite something, so I was happy to get the help of the Game Brewer demo team and get a quick tour through the draft rules. I hereby suggest that every board game gets delivered with a cool demo team! Who seconds this motion? Everybody? Good, then we're in agreement. Guys, you know what to do! In any case, after the initial setup, playing Fuji Koro is a fairly smooth ride. All samurai begin their adventure on the starting volcano tile, from where they can start exploring the inside of the volcano.
During your turn, you can perform two actions, which can be chosen from the four types of basic actions; move, explore, gather and rest. By using explore and move, you expand the game board field with more volcano tiles as you scout the new areas. While you are wandering around in these newly discovered areas, you can use your gather action to obtain some resources. When the volcano tiles link up with a sacred temple tile, you can enter that temple and rummage around in there, in search for the much sought after magic equipment cards.
Your player boards are equipped with three action discs. If you are running low on, or run out of, these action discs, your samurai needs to rest and, while doing so, can work on their gear by using the gathered resources and reset the action discs. The player board shows your backpack, where you can store your loot. It even has room for your gear, like your helmet, sword and sandals. You can improve this gear by using gear cards and magical blueprints cards, which you might have obtained from scouring the sacred temples for cool stuff.
While exploring the cavern and the sacred temples, the samurai can (and most probably will) encounter dragons. Now, these not-so-friendly fiery lizards come in all sizes, ranging from small and somewhat feeble to very large and "OH MY GOD, IT'S EATING ME ALIVE" type of dragons. No matter its size, the Dragons you encounter can be fought with a roll of the dice. Now, while fighting dragons might sound all heroic and cool, be warned; during battle, your gear, and let's not forget your body, can sustain damage. The dice have a very good strength system; depending how your sword is built, determines which colour dice you are allowed to use for the battle. It's a simple matter of the better your sword, the stronger your dice.
The game enters its final phase when the Volcano finally erupts and the red-hot lava starts to flow everywhere, turning the entire mountain into an oversized Teppanyaki. After this happens, a timer on the board gets set in motion and every time a round passes, more lava starts to flow. This, as you might suspect, is the opportune moment for you to get your heroic ass back to the palace and see how much relics you saved from the fiery disaster. Each saved relic earns you victory points, and the player with the most victory points wins the game.
To give you guys a good impression of how I experienced Fuji Koro; I played a demo version of the game at a convention and, although I had a really nice time with this the-floor-is-lava, samurai and dragons type of Eurogame, I have only played it once which, alas, wasn't a complete game. Having said that, I really liked how the mechanics work together to offer you a really cool (or hot?) game experience. I like the way in which you gather resources to craft and improve your gear, as well as the game's end phase, where you have to escape the volcano, because it literally gets too hot under your feet. I also really like the large amount of dice used in the game when it comes to battling the Dragons.
At the time of writing, our friends at Game Brewer have just started their Kickstarter campaign for this project. They will use the gathered funding for the deluxe version of Fuji Koro only. The retail version will be released during Spiel Essen, later this year. As I've mentioned before, I played an early version of the game; it had the deluxe board but not all the deluxe components. On the last image in this review, you can get an impression of the miniatures, which look very cool, by the way! And why not head over to the Fuji Koro Deluxe Kickstarter page (silent like a ninja, of course) and back this awesome game?
Year of release: 2019
Designer: Jerome Demeyere
Artist: Miguel Coimbra
Players: 1 - 6 players, ages 12 & up
Playtime: approx. 90 minutes