Weekly PnP: Rokumon

  • Creator: Charles Ward
  • Where to Find It: BGG Forums

Luke: Rokumon is a unique game in terms of the content we cover. Submitted on BGG as a 9-card PnP title, this game presents a battle-of-wits that deserves to be published in a more official capacity. As it stands, this is a free download, but it’s also a game that you can likely play with the odds and ends lying about your house. It’s an impressive design that deserves to be talked about.

Phil: Hence why we’re discussing it here.

Luke: Rokumon presents its core gameplay loop over 5 quick games, and I mean quick; most matches of this will only last a few minutes. Players are presented with a random grid of cards. Each player has access to dice of specific values and colors. The goal? Make a line of 3 cards topped with your dice, make a stack 3-high of your dice, or make it so your opponent doesn’t have a legal play.

Phil: Easier said than done in many ways. Games may be short, but they’re also thinky, encouraging you to test new maneuvers and observe your opponent closely with each match.

Luke: On your turn you may take 1 of the following actions:

  • Place a die on an unoccupied card.
  • Move one of your placed dice to another card, potentially covering a die present on that card.
  • Fight by comparing the values of 2 opposing dice on the same card. The lower value is returned to the owner.
  • Surprise your opponent once per game by moving one of the cards to a new location, assuming it’s touching 2 cards after being moved.

Phil: While the actions will always be the same, the layout of the cards is important. You may only move a die to a card presenting the opposite color of where that die is currently, meaning you’re constantly jockeying for position to ensure you can easily reach any card. Additionally, covering an opponent’s die may be good to prevent them from scoring now, but you may find your die trapped there in the future, as moving it would immediately give your opponent a 3-in-a-row victory condition.

Luke: This is further compounded by the fact that the first and second players have access to specific dice. Player 1 has only 4 dice, but have higher valued dice on average (two 2’s, a 4, and a 6). Player 2 has 5 dice of lower values (two 1’s, two 3’s, and a 5), but one of their 1’s (differentiated by color) is the only thing that can defeat the opponent’s 6.

Phil: This dynamic can pressure the first player to be hyper-aggressive, trying to get a victory before their opponent can get their superior forces onto the board, whereas Player 2 is more likely to play defensively while striking only when finding an opening.

Luke: This game design reminds me a lot of the tagline Santorini used when on Kickstarter; “Learn it in 30 seconds, play it for life!”

Phil: It’s hard not to find yourself playing 3 or 4 matches of Rokumon at a time, either to one-up your opponent or simply because it can be that addictive.

Luke: Some players may be turned off by the more abstract elements of the game, but there’s a surprising amount of history injected into the mechanics at play, briefly described in the rules. It feels appropriate and well researched.

Phil: Frankly, this is a stunning example of a well-designed passion project. There is no excuse not to try this little title for yourself.

Verdict: Rokumon is deserving of high-praise, creating a compact puzzle that anyone can try their hand at. It’s easy to learn but hard to master, with a fair amount of replayability. And with each match being so short, you’ll be hard-pressed not to play a series of games each time you break this out.

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