Quick Look: Okko Chronicles : Cycle of Earth
Designer: Frédérick Condette, Hub
Publisher: The Red Joker
Year Published: 2023 (Due to hit Kickstarter in March of 2022)
Okko Chronicles – Ramparts of the Empire features the legendary Rônin and his fellow travelers who, taking refuge in strongholds scattered throughout the mountains, must fend off the countless invading armies of Karasu before they breach the Pajan.
During a game, each player will choose to embody one of the Heroes. Together, they will have to make the best decisions to ensure that the fortress can withstand the repeated assaults of the undead.
Okko Chronicles – Ramparts of the Empire can be played in cooperative or semi-cooperative mode:
In semi-cooperative mode, one of the players will play as Black Tiger, an evil ninja, a former hero corrupted by necromancy, who has infiltrated the fortress to facilitate the arrival of the Karasu era!
In cooperative mode, a deck of Black Tiger Reaction cards will allow you to make this dangerous opponent act.
During a turn, each player plays one or two of their action cards; these cards give them advantages to perform the 3 actions they have.
A game ends:
– when all the Heroes are put out of action or when one of the fortress walls gives way completely, leaving the Pajan Empire to the undead,
– or when the last wave of the Karasu army breaks on the defenses of the fortress, thanks to the arrival of the Pajan army.
But beware, other parallel objectives can also influence the course of the story.
The game is part of the same range as the Okko Chroicles Water Cycle. It can be considered as its sequel but the game mechanics are different and they can’t be played together.
Okko Chronicles – Okko foreword
Okko Chronicles are franchised games based on the Okko Comic book. And so it started you’ll have already spotted it, I said “are” not “is” and it isn’t because I want to say that in the box there are multiple Chronicles (although there are), no, no, no … This is because its a series of games. The first one, OkkoChronicles : Cycle of Water, was launched successfully through Kickstarter in 2017 and was followed by a second successful Kickstarter campaign in 2019 adding solo/coop mode.
Okko Chronicles are asymmetric dungeon crawling boardgames in which players take on the role of the demon hunter heroes from the books.
All game art is drawn by the creator of the comic book, Hub himself.
Okko Chronicles : Cycle of Water
RPG-like and with well differentiated characters, Okko Chronicles : Cycle of Water offers the player the ability to play through 10 different chronicles all set in the first events of the book series.
One of the player takes on the role of the “bad guys” while 1 to 4 other players take on the role of the good guys in each scenario. The game plays really smart, letting you plan actions with a personal deck of cards that serves in all actions, although you’ll quickly find yourself with difficult choices and tough decision making as when to sacrifice your best card.
One of the most innovative parts of the game is one I generally don’t care much about—the scoring mechanism. In short, the whole play through is influenced by multiple goals, and as the story unfolds, you’ll understand that you were never truly victorious. This innovative mechanism was reintroduced in Okko Chronicles : Cycle of Earth so more about it later on !
Okko Chronicles Material
Well, as for most Kickstarter campaigns, I am reviewing a prototype. For the playtesting of the Earth cycle (the up coming Kickstarter campaign), the minis were not ready yet while writing this article. Never the less, it is to be expected that the quality will be the same as the material from the first Kickstarter campaign for the Cycle of Water.
Moreover on the set up images that follow, the minis I used to play are the ones from the cycle of Water, although not the correct ones, it felt right to use those and not take minis from other games.
So let’s have a look at those minis. In many ways at first glance, the Cycle of earth is similar to CMON’s Zombicide games. If I describe it badly as “You know the game with minis where you fight with weapons against the hordes of undead” you would certainly agree … but allow me to say it, Okko chronicles are better in many ways. Many ways including the material, it is clear from the minis and dice alone that here, the quality prevailed on the quantity.
The cards are well finished and you don’t even need to ask if the art style is in accordance to the comics as they are both drawn by the same person :).
And for the people that have interest in such things : here is the insert of the first game while unboxing.
Whereas the water cycle was more of a search and destroy the demons, the earth cycle clearly introduces the idea of holding your ground against the undead.
In Okko Chronicles : Earth Cycle, you’ll be playing on a team of 1-4 players against the undead (a team of zero to one players) in a stand-alone game that realy puts a big A in Asymmetrical.
In Okko Chronicles : Earth Cycle, heroes will need to complete a special goal all while defending the castle against two potential threats: the army of undead that is laying siege to the castle in which they are situated and Black Tiger, a rogue Ninja that found himself in the castle and aspires to nothing but the death of Okko and its companions. The first challenge is an automated threat of mass zombie production that is somehow easy to predict. Nevertheless Okko’s undead Japanese soldiers make good use of ninjutsu as they are capable of generating decoys. Introducing some uncertainty in the wave to come and randomising furthermore the exact amount of Zombies that players will need to send back to their graves.
Black Tiger is played by a player … or not. This possibility alone allows you to choose from semi-cooperative, one against the others, or fully cooperative, all against the hordes. And that’s good ! The only possible type of play left to develop would be to allow a solo player to play Black tiger alone against four automated samourai maybe an idea for a Stretch Goal in the upcoming Kickstarter ? who knows …
The game is set in a number of pre-defined rounds. Each round a wave of undead is generated and players take actions in turn: moving, attacking, summoning and interacting with objects on the map. The use of the map is particularly interesting as the map movements are bound to zones or rooms but each room contains a finite amount of space where players and zombies alike can be placed. This is a smart way to limit the amount of undead in a room once again privileging quality (even for zombies) over quantity. Note also that in each room not all spaces are alike and that colored dots identify special uses, interaction with objects or capability to shoot through the windows are two smart examples.
Near the end of the game, Black tiger, the rogue player/automa ninja will reveal its monstrous form leaving the hero player with a decision to make: to fight or flee while still needing to defend the castle.
Strategy and group decision making are in the center of the game and it isn’t easy to identify an optimal strategy thanks to randomization and the fact that one of the opposing forces might actually be a real player. Should the players stay together to defend against black tiger or should the players spread out to be able to face the undead from the 4 corners of the squared castle? Should you focus on killing Black Tiger with the risk of losing the castle or defend the castle with all your strength with the risk of getting stabbed in the back by the maleficent player? Those are questions that will be asked, more than once …
Moreover those strategical questions are linked to an important amazing feature of the game : the winning conditions. Let me introduce you to the set up. The purpose of epic samurais is not only to get rid of evil in all it’s forms but also to be remembered ! The winning conditions are actually how the story of your battle will be remembered for the ages to come. And as all good stories it is made of the best and the worst of you, both individually, through personal battle goals, and as a team through more obvious goals like “did you hold the castle or was it taken by the undead” or “did you allow Black tiger to flee and terrorize another village or did you defeat him once and for all?”. Of course some of the goals make up a bigger part of the story and are worth more points but according to my opinion, this point attributing system is one of the best possible !
Disclaimer, the dice and miniatures displayed here below are coming from Okko : Water Cycles, The Earth Cycle is still a Work In Progress, nevertheless they are expected to hold the same quality levels.
I wasn’t sure I even needed to talk about it but, still I decided to because all drawings and graphics are drawn by none-other than the comic book author and artist that invented the Okko Universe. Which leads to great quality and certainly fidelity between the comic book and the game, in both art style, colour pallet and general feeling from the surroundings.
Cards and punch board
Good overall thickness, easy to punch and not degrading while being used, while also upholding the colors correctly, quality as should be, nothing special to report but some pictures.
Here it gets a little more complicated, because let’s be honest, we are talking about a group of heroes fighting hordes of zombies, I’m certain you know another plastic loving franchise that sells games that would fall under this description. Come On ! I’m sure you can find it on your own. Got it ? right … Well, if you are looking for the same quantity of plastic you’ll be disappointed, it feels as half as much a Zombicide box? I didn’t count because the feeling of it is more important that the actual number. But, the quality of the miniatures is far superior to any Zombicide game, being first or second generation.
And I would abide by my saying that this is better, I prefer to see a lot of minis that are beautiful on my board game than way too much that become unmanageable each moving turn, once again quality beat quantity. And not having to find a bizarre way to fit all those 15 zombies in that tiny room is a relief, not a constraint, with respect to playability !
Well, I might be a big kid, but I love custom dice, I love the idea of not needing to play with a standard 6 faced dice and needing to refer to a conversion table to know what happened. I love the idea to be able to read “Ki” on a dice and not just think “yes I slayed it with my double 6”. The weight and size is right and quite standard, colors and shape allow for easy distinction, all in all good board game dice.
A look at Okko’s Water Cycle Kickstarter
From looking at Okko’s Kickstarter here are the type of things that you may expect to see (and to get), more Chronicles. Base game comes with 10 chronicles (aka scenarios, aka set-up/goal), the Stretch Goals will most likely introduce more chronicles for free, likely not Kickstarter exclusives.
More playable characters, most definitely you would get an add on hero with your game that would be sold separately afterward. It is like Kickstarter 1.0.1 at this point for that type of game, and the Red Joker proved they were more than capable to handle a Kickstarter properly in the past already.
Exclusive enemies? Very likely, it might occur as a free Stretch Goal or more likely as part of an additional expansion adding chronicles and minis alike.
A full box purchasable expansion, most likely, yet again, offering that kind of content for already implemented board game company in their Kickstarter is part of Kickstarter 1.0.1 for that type of game/game content.
So what should I buy?
It depends what type of game you like of course, but I would guess that if you read until now you are here to check your convictions rather than see what type of game Okko is.
Well if you are a fan of Zombies in plastic and all sorts of game that look like that and the many Kickstarters that overloaded you with minis these last years, I would go all in, for two reasons— I have no doubt that this is a good game and on the other hand you might not get enough plastic otherwise.
If you are a hardcore fan of the comic book and you are just here to check that the game is at least “playable”, well of course the same applies, the game is at this point way over just “playable” .
If you are interested to own that type of game battling zombie minis on a board with weapons and turn based action for a few heroes, I would go for the Corebox with the Stretch Goals and why not throw in an additional hero should one count as an add-on. Because Okko Chronicles being Water or Earth are the best games of the genre to me.
Then comes the last category of people that would read this article, if you really like Asymmetrical game play on board, killing zombies and so on but you don’t fancy miniatures and that kind of fancy stuff, then don’t buy it. If you compare it to non mini holding games, and if you can’t appreciate the details of the minis, it is way too expensive. At least to that use, Okko Water cycle is way too expensive and you should rather buy another dungeon crawler that comes with more cardboard and less plastic.
Disclaimer : I didn’t try the solo mode and can’t recommend buying or not buying for the purpose of playing solo.
Last shout out
Although I didn’t test it, I feel it is a real progression that board game developers include the solo mode in the Core Box, as becoming “normal” it has to be available and to stop being an add-on. So, a big thank you to the developing team !
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QuelqunQui (literally Someone who in French) is an eclectic who can’t stop doing more than one thing at a time.. Quelqunqui is a harpsichordist and gamer at heart that doesn’t abide by rules he doesn’t believe in. When not playing he’s traveling the world for the Belgian Air force.
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