TGN Preview: Dojo Kun 2nd Edition

By Polar_Bear
In Board Games
Aug 6th, 2016

The Year of New Editions sweeps its way into the media event that CMON held at their booth here at Gen Con. The next game on our preview program was the 2nd edition of Dojo Kun. If you’ve ever wanted to run your own martial arts school, this is your chance.

The game is divided into two phases. In the first phase, you’re working at building up your dojo as well as your fighters. In the second, you compete in a tourney where your fighters vie for supremacy, using all the skills they used in the first phase. The game consists of two seasons of those. So you’ll build, fight, build, and then fight.

During the first phase, the game is like a worker-placement game. You have your Athletes, who are the students at your dojo. Then you also have your Master. There are different things that both can do as part of this phase. For the Athletes, they will train, or they may do odd jobs in the town (which also counts as some training, lest we forget “paint the fence” and “wax on, wax off”) which will earn your dojo prestige. They can also gain ki, which is used as currency in the game. As for your Master, they can do things like recruit new Athletes to the school, or build extra extensions onto the dojo (in order to accommodate even more students), or create training apparatus to further enhance the work done by the students.

Then, in the second phase, it’s time to see whose training paid off the most. Masters pick their best Athletes to compete against one-another. The training you did earlier correlates to dice that you will get to use in the fights. Different sorts of training will grant different types of dice. There’s a hierarchy of punches, kicks, and grabs in a sort of rock, paper, scissors mechanic. During the tourney, you can bet on which fighters you think will win, which can create currency to be used in the second phase of building in order to further enhance your dojo.

The game is for 1-4 players, though even in multi-player games, there are rules for the game creating fighters to be placed in the tournament in order to make sure there’s a proper amount of competitors.

I like how it seems like you basically get two games in one. Many worker placement games give you various bonuses for what you do during one turn, but I can’t think of one, offhand, that changes so much where it switches to a dice-driven combat game in-between the worker placement rounds. It will be interesting to see this one in full action.

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  • hvedhrungr

    So, Dojo Kun is a really neat game, but it takes some explaining before the first turn. The reason being, it’s easy to mess up early and play catch-up.
    If you’ve played the game once or twice before, however, it really comes into its own: The worker placement part can become quite competitive (especially control over the first player marker), while the different techniques you can pick up for your prize fighter can make or break your entry in the competition later on. Do you go for maximum amount of dice, or do you try to round out your fighter with a special attack? Some of the fighters have quite punishing effects on them as well, so there’s a certain amount of mix-and-match combo building, too.

    So what’s to like about Dojo Kun?
    Once you have a basic grasp of the rules, it plays fairly swiftly. You can plan your placements ahead somewhat, and at least during the early stages, there are plenty of “almost as good” spots you can place your students and your sensei, if the player before you blocks that move you’ve been coveting.
    The fight mechanic is very basic, to be honest, but it can still put you on the edge of your seat. The championship rounds are usually really tense, because you’ve had time to build up your fighter. Or perhaps the competition was so fierce that everybody carries the wounds from previous matches, forcing you to drop essential dice from your pool and making those combos even harder to roll.
    The best part: Pulling off that one in a hundred combo on your last match, battered and beaten, with a special move that you just picked up because all the other options were even less appealing and you *had* to do something. Victory smells sooo sweet…

    What don’t I like about Dojo Kun?
    It takes a while to explain. There are a lot of special abilities, and while they are mostly on the character or special move cards, it takes a while to wrap your head around some of them. This can lead to significant down time while players try to weigh the options against their own abilities and training equipment.
    As is sometimes the case with worker placement games, the different facilities on the general board and your own dojo can put less frequent players in decision fatigue.
    The worst part: Realising early on that you *should* have picked up that third student when you had the chance, because you’re stuck with two basic choices while all the other kids have Chuck Norris and Aang running around throwing one hadouken after another.

    I picked the game up in Essen, after having played a few rounds. It came with colored headbands and a fair price, and it’s fun to take it off the shelf every now and then and have a go at being Mister Miyagi.
    If you like worker placement with a bit of card set collecting and dice battling, by all means, it’s a great little time killer.
    Just do yourself a favour, play with four people and have a short practice round (just until the first championship) before you get serious.

    • Thanks for the awesome write-up! I’d never had a chance to play the original version of the game, so I’d not had any previous knowledge of it to go on. And since we were just getting quick presentations about how the games worked, there wasn’t a chance to really go too in-depth about all the different choices being laid out before us on the table. It did seem like there were plenty of options, and I can see how that’d possibly lead to “analysis paralysis” if you weren’t careful.

      I look forward to trying out the game, fully, for myself sometime in the future.

      • hvedhrungr

        Definitely try it out! As I said, once you get the basic gist of it, it’s a really neat take on the worker placement shtick.

        • I have to say, I generally love worker-placement games. So this is one I’m definitely looking forward to.

  • Cziráki Balázs

    I have the original game and love it, though I don’t know if this edition brings anything new to have both on my shelf.