Shrouded in myth and magic, the Ukiyo creative team brings us tales from on-high of the Fox Lords in our Kitsunedo boardgame review!
Kitsunedo is a snappy battle-royal board game that looks utterly gorgeous. If crackling visual flair is what you love to see in your board game collection, then Kitsunedo deserves its place on your shelf. Read ahead to find out all about it in our Kitsunedo boardgame review!
Opening the package was a treat! Loved the decorative rope.
Kitsunedo Boardgame Review – The Premise
The story is that at the core of the Spirit World, where a group of Fox Lords hold the reigns of power. They each possess their own domain, and each desires to grasp supremacy over the celestial New Year. Get your ink-pots ready and dive into a mist-shrouded forest full of fae creatures.
Kitsunedo Boardgame Review – Presentation
The Ukiyo creative studio is situated in Brunswick, Melbourne. They’re primarily known for their theatrically creative fantasy/sci-fi ‘Ukiyo Journeys‘ (similar to the idea of an escape room), but have turned their talents to boardgames. They kindly gave me a demo version of Kitsunedo, and now I’ve finally had a chance to experience the full game.
I have to canvass over the visuals first, as that is what drew me to the game instantly. The artwork on the character cards, items, rulebook etc all piece together wonderfully to sell the idea of otherworldly forest creatures embroiled in their own strife.
Studio Ghibli is mentioned as an inspiration, and that is clear through the entire design of the game. The artwork, done by Tea Fox Illustrations is luscious and rich with smokey colour. It almost reminds me of stylized woodblock prints of Youkai creatures. I also felt a strong aesthetic tie to the game Okami, a cult hit Capcom title that uses rich cell-shaded watercolours and Japanese myth to charm players, so if you love Okami, you’ll also love Kitsunedo’s visual spin on fox folklore. The title Kitsunedo 狐道 means ‘way/path of the fox’ in Japanese.
Kitsunedo’s creator, Mike Armstrong, had this to say about creating a boardgame vs. an Ukiyo Journey (Note: An Ukiyo Journey is a term used that is kind of similar to the concept of an escape room):
‘We wanted to create characters and stories that many people could access and connect to. The Ukiyo Journeys we create (that players are physically inside) are a very different kind of medium where they’re taking an active part in a fluid and personalized story. But in these, a main thread or plot exists already. In Kitsunedo however, the conflicts arise due to the players’ embodiment of the Spirit Lords.
On top of that, Kitsunedo is a little piece of Ukiyo people can take home with them. Most of our players come through the Ukiyo journeys and retain those memories, but physical items carry a lot of emotion and nostalgia and it lets the story continue in a different way. It’s a more social, more communal experience that ukiyo players can keep sharing’
The box has nice thick cardboard, and a glossy finish was applied to the product to give it that nice shiny feel. A magnet helps the box open and close, giving it a satisfying snap! Will it strain your arms as you stack it upon six other boardgames to travel to your buddies for boardgames nights? Nope! In terms of size it is a very compact bundle. So it’s easy to carry around with you.
Kitsunedo Boardgame Review – Gameplay
The main bread-and-butter of this game is stoked by lying. After choosing your Spirit Lord, players are given one of four Lantern cards, which allows them to take one of four actions. Crucially, though, exactly which lantern you have is always a secret, and you are permitted – even encouraged – to lie about which lantern you have.
You can claim to have all four lanterns in a single turn, as long as no one calls you (referred to as a ‘Challenge’) out on it. This mechanic hits a nice sweet spot between being simple enough to understand clearly but complex enough to allow for a great deal of interaction between the players.
For example, the Shadow Lantern card allows you to steal from other players, the Mist Lantern allows you to transform the Leaf card into another card, the Spirit Lantern lets you draw two cards from the deck per turn, and Ash lantern increases your defence against Scroll cards. The Sun and Moon Scrolls are your attacking cards. The Block card stops someone from calling out your lie.
If you pick off enough of a Spirit Lord’s health, you send them into a Diminished state, and then finish them off. So the game is essentially a round-robin of drawing from the deck and using your Lantern card, a Spirit Lord ability, lying, calling (‘Challenging’) out a lie, and attacking with Sun and Moon Cards.
Let’s take a look at the character cards: the Spirit Lords. You can choose one out of six to be your avatar in the game. Each has a personality and play-style that will fit you.
Is the meme ‘choose your fighter’ too obvious here?
My Fox Lord of choice was (unsurprisingly) Fox of the Celeste. Her description reads as: ‘Born under the omen of a falling star, heavenly fortune has ever shone upon this fox. They travel freely through the astral plane, a realm so expansive, so majestic that none have endeavoured to seek dominion over it.” Beautiful flavour text accompanies all the cards.
She had the most dainty appearance out of the six Lords, with fluffy white fur and blue willow-o’wisps surrounding her. She is known as the Equaliser, as her ability, ‘Empyrean Gift’, makes all players draw two extra cards once per turn. Only she can exceed the maximum number of cards held during this ability’s duration. Essentially this means she’s great at currying favour with others.
Other character cards have abilities that fit with their personality. The Tailed Shisu, known as the ‘Avenger’ (appropriately wreathed in swirling hellfire), had two abilities, Unfulfilled Grudge, and Vengeful Spirit. These two powers essentially rewarded the player for high-risk spiteful actions. Knowing you can come back from ‘death’ makes the player more willing to call others on their bluffs. The Fox of the Mirage has the ability, Unfastened Thread, that essentially got you to take back bluffs if they’re called on them. These kinds of unique move sets to the characters give a sense of individualised play.
My play-group was a mixture of experienced boardgamers and also novices. It did take us a while to get the game up and running, and we did make some mistakes while we figured things out. While the rules aren’t a behemoth to try and comprehend, they still can be a challenge to first get your head around. One player took to playing the trickster Fox of the Mirage, like a duck to water, so that was fun to watch. The rulebook does a good job at explaining all the elements one by one for the player to understand.
If you’d like to support a game that is compact, inspired by Japanese woodspirits, and aesthetically delightful, then put Kitsunedo on your list of must-have boardgames.
So, why should you play Kitsunedo?
- Studio Ghibli-inspired woodblock visuals and fox creatures having a mythological battle for supremacy
- If playing bluffing games against your buddies makes the friendship group tighter, not weaker
- You want a boardgame that doesn’t require any heavy lifting to get to your friend’s house
But why shouldn’t you play Kitsunedo?
- You want to play something more complex mechanics-wise
- Whimsical Ghibli-style aesthetic is not in your wheelhouse
A review product was kindly provided by the Ukiyo Creative Team for our Kitsunedo review. If you enjoyed this review, check out our other boardgame reviews and join the Qualbert Discord to chat with us about all these games!