Kohaku is a tile-drafting game from 25th Century Games. - SahmReviews.com

Every day as I wash dishes, I stare out the window at the birdfeeders hanging right in front of me. There’s something serene about watching the birds swoop in and perch on the edge, feasting on the black sunflower and safflower mix I’ve put out for them daily. When we lived in California, I remember researching to install a Koi pond for the same reason. It’s relaxing staring at the beautiful creatures as they canvas their home. Sadly, that isn’t a project I was able to tackle once we moved to Iowa. There are too many winter factors that made it an unreasonable addition to our yard. When a game about Koi was released a few years back, I reminisced about my love of fish and enjoyed the game as a result. But as with many of our games, they cycle in and out and it’s been a while since we’ve gotten it to the game table. Now there’s a new Koi-themed game that’s moving in: Kohaku from 25th Century Games.

Kohaku game setup is quick and easy. - SahmReviews.com

While Kohaku has Koi, flowers, dragonflies and lily pads, the similarity between this game and the prior ends there. Kohaku is a tile-drafting game where you collect fish and features from the central pond board then create your own pond design in front of you. Setup is extremely simple. Sort the tiles into two stacks by their type, Koi Tiles and Feature Tiles. Remove Koi tiles according to the player count with special attention given to the ones marked for three and four players. (Three or four small pebbles appear in a grouping in the lower right corner of the card to distinguish these.) Shuffle the stacks independently then randomly place one on each of the spots on the board, matching the iconography on the back of the tile. The pond board is set within reach of all players, making sure there is room for each person to create a tableau representing their individual ponds.

Drafing Koi and feature tiles in Kohaku, a koi-themed tableau building game from 25th Century Games. - SahmReviews.com

Turns are extremely quick, too. On your turn, you must select two adjacent tiles. One will be a koi tile. and the other a feature tile. Tiles collected during your turns will make up your pond. On your first turn, you’ll place them next to each other. All subsequent draws can be placed anywhere as long as they alternate type and connect to your existing pond. Once placed, they cannot be moved.

Refilling the board in Kohaku, a Koi-themed game from 25th Century Games. - SahmReviews.com

At the end of your turn, if there are any tiles in the center, move those to replace the pieces on the edge of the board. Fill in the now-empty center spaces with their respective type tiles. This process ensures the board doesn’t become stagnant and there are always different pieces to choose from.

Koi and feature scoring tiles make up a player's individual pond in Kohaku from 25th Century Games. - SahmReviews.com

As your pond gets larger, you’ll need to pay more attention to which types of koi you want next to which existing feature tiles. You’ll also want to focus on grabbing new feature tiles that will provide the most points based on what you already have in your pond.

Turns continue in this manner for 14 (2-player game) or 12 (3-4 player game) rounds so everyone has an equal number of turns. There won’t be enough tiles to refill the board at that time. Once this happens, return the remaining pieces to the box and flip the board over to the scoring side. Each player calculates their feature tiles (left to right, top to bottom to prevent confusion) while another player records their score on the board. Addition points are scored for coins on single koi fish and the player with the most is the victor.

Kohaku is an extremely quick game to learn, setup and play. These features make it great to have on hand when you don’t have a lot of time or are playing with individuals who prefer a shorter gaming session. Copies are currently available direct from 25th Century Games, but we encourage you to support your local game store if they stock it. As a backup, you can snag a copy off Amazon. 25th Century Games has been fired up and is proving they aren’t just a small fish in a big pond. Keep your eyes on their news and announcements to see what else they’re making a splash with.

Have you ever wanted a koi pond?

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