Kanagawa Yokai – Iello – Review

Kanagawa Yokai is a great expansion.  It adds a dimension to the game I wouldn’t want to play without.

Heather Swanson



Theme and What is it?


Kanagawa Yokai is the expansion to the base game Kanagawa.  It is a game about being in a painting school in Tokyo in the 1800’s.  In beautiful Japanese style, players gather paints, earn diplomas, and design beautiful seasonal artwork.  The Yokai expansion adds in new painting skills and some mischievous Japanese spirits.

Gameplay Mechanics


The mechanics in the Yokai follow suit with the base game.  There are three new sets of lesson cards which include umbrellas, lanterns, and kites.  These have associated diploma tiles.  However, you do not play with all the lessons and diplomas.  You chose two from the base game and two from the expansion.

Besides the new lessons and diplomas, there are three Japanese spirit figures called Yokai.  They can be gained by painting certain pictures or adding things to your studio.  The only problem is that they count negatively towards your final score.  The trade off is that if you earn three you gain a diploma.  They can also be passed around between players in a strategic manner.

Initial Impressions


This game is beautiful.  I was immediately drawn in by the incredible artwork.  The Japanese theme is also very appealing.

Once inside the box the unique pieces delighted me.  I loved that the main board is like a Japanese bamboo mat which is rolled up in the box.  The little paint jars with brushes sticking out are made of wood and are aesthetically pleasing. 


Game Build Quality


There is a lot of charm in the pieces of this game.  The bamboo mat seems sturdy for what it is.  The wooden paint jar pieces are fantastic.  Also made of wood, the three yokai have faces painted on them.

The diplomas are made out of cardboard.  The cards with the artwork and studio are good quality.  They are square and a little smaller than a typical deck of cards which makes shuffling a little difficult.  It isn’t much of a problem, however.

Artistic Direction


The artwork is inspirational to me.  I want to pick up some watercolors and start painting.  They are just stunning and beautiful.

It is such a creative idea that you actively take part in creating a painting.  You add the pictures in a line to create a mural.  You can paint following the seasons, the content in the images, or just whatever pleases you.  It is satisfying at the end of the game to admire your handiwork.

Fun Factor


Kanagawa was already a great game but Yokai takes it to a new height.  The addition of new artwork allows the game to feel fresh.  You can make different combinations with the expansion.

Adding yokai to the base game allows for some take-that action in the game.  When you are required to take a yokai you choose which opponent to take from.  Choosing to leave them with players who appear to be in the lead will cause points to be subtracted from their score at the end of the game.

The base game did not have as much player interaction as the expansion affords.  Players who want a little more influence over the outcome of other players will like this addition.

Age Range & Weight


The age range is listed at 12+.  I think younger kids can play the expansion if they have learned the base game well.  It will take repetition and familiarity for younger kids to do well with the game.  However, they can play without being strategic if they just like to play. 

The game is simple to learn but requires strategic skills to do well.  The Yokai add in a new level of strategy.  At first you may try to gain all three near the beginning of the game to earn the diploma.  Towards the end you want to get rid of them.



Kanagawa Yokai is a great expansion.  It adds a dimension to the game I wouldn’t want to play without.  I particularly like the variety of artwork and the ability to have influence on other players.

A few things set Kanagawa and its expansion Yokai apart from other games in my mind.  The artwork is beautiful and ties into the theme perfectly.  It is a game about painting and you get to create your own mural.  I love the pieces and in particular think the bamboo mat is really special.

I enjoy the kind of drafting system included in the game.  When you pass, more cards are added.  However, if you are the last to choose you have to take the leftovers.  Finally, who can pass up the cuteness of little pots of paint with handles sticking up?