What is this game about?
Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama is a roll and write (draw and write?) game about connecting shrines to various features around them, then scoring for the pathways you have made. Each player will create their own set of pathways on their player boards, using cards from the draw deck that dictate the shapes that are available each turn.
Every round, one of six shrines will be scored. One player will act as the "caller" and draw cards from the deck, one at a time. Each player then has the option of either drawing the shape on that card somewhere on their board or "passing," which enables them to look at the top card of the shrine deck and find out which shrine will be scored next. Once four cards with a gold background have been drawn, the round ends and players score the shrine drawn for that round. You get points for every flower and caterpillar connected to the chosen shrine by your pathways. However, you must score more points than you did in the previous round. If you don't, you score a 0 for that shrine--plus take a five-point penalty at the end of the game. Brutal. You should also pay attention to the caterpillar and flower guardians, who grant bonus points at the end of the game.
For advanced players, there are also some options that spice things up. The player boards are double-sided, and on the "non-standard" side you can randomize the placement of the flower and caterpillar guardians. You can also play with "decree cards" which give you a little more challenge when it comes to building your pathways.
How does it play solo?
Kokoro is essentially multiplayer solitaire to begin with. It's possible to play it solo by playing the game on your own and trying to beat your highest score.
Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama is a charming game, and one that is very easy to teach to others, including very inexperienced gamers. For that reason it may have a future with me as a classroom game. Its art is charming, and the varying ways to play are nice additions. This is definitely a family-friendly game with a little bit of added challenge for when the base game is exhausted.
But I still worry that it's too easy to exhaust the game too quickly. I've played Kokoro a lot, but not addictively—it's just not the most exciting game of its kind. You can definitely do some advanced planning when building your pathways to chain a lot of things together, and that can be satisfying. But Kokoro doesn't have that bite that my favorites tend to. (Among path-building roll and write games, I still favor Metro X, which can be hard to get but is a great game.) Nor does it have a strong sense of buildup over time—if anything, you can be penalized for peaking early if you have a great round but can't profit off of your previous successes. Kokoro is a fine game overall, but it's only fine.
Do I recommend it?
If you love roll and writes or are looking for a low key, family-friendly game, then Kokoro may be for you. As a solo game, I'd pass it over for more thrilling fare.
Overall Score: 3 stars
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh.