This week, the On The Tabletop team take a look at The Red Jokers’ Okko Chronicles boardgame, which comes out of a successful Kickstarter into retail. Okko was originally a French comic, set in the Empire of Pajan, a Japanese-esque setting with demons (Oni as they are known in Japan) and a subtle technological boost. Okko, a ronin (masterless samurai) is the star of the comics and he leads a group of Oni-hunters.
A host of mission expansions are available, but this article will focus on the Core Game box. At the time of publication, The Red Joker are running a second Kickstarter for Okko Chronicles – Beyond the Gates of the Jigoku, which adds an additional campaign and a cooperative/solo mode.
The comics are for a mature audience, and as the artwork is done by HUB, the same great production team behind the comics, this carries across to the game. There are levels of nudity and gore that aren’t suitable for younger gamers and while we will avoid the most extreme artwork in this article, readers should be aware of their inclusion.
Off The Shelf / On The Tabletop articles come in two halves. In Off The Shelf we will look at what’s in the product along with covering how the game plays. This is followed by On The Tabletop where we talk about our first playthrough games and finish with feedback from the On The Tabletop team.
The On The Tabletop playthrough articles catalog our initial experiences with a game; as a result, mistakes will be made. On The Tabletop should also not be taken as a full review. These articles are simply our first impressions of a game.
Off The Shelf
The components for Okko Chronicles are superb. The miniatures are great and full of detail and the art by the same team as the comics, is fantastic. There are some issues with bleeds on borders, and some cards not being centered, but they are minor.
Okko Chronicles was described by one of the On The Tabletop team as Cluedo, with demons and violence, and it’s not far off. Okko Chronicles is a 1 vs Many game where one player takes on the role of the Oni player and everyone else takes on the role of a hero trying to stop them. 4 hero characters are included in the Core Box for use. An expansion is available that gives the Oni-player AI control, enabling solo or cooperative play.
Each game of Okko Chronicles begins as a mystery game, with the Hero players trying to find out which particular Oni is trying to spread its influence in the area and also which member of the household has been taken over by it. This happens while the Oni player spreads their influence around the map while increasing the strength and abilities of its minions.
If the players don’t discover the Oni within a set amount of rounds, the Oni player wins that section and the final battle begins with the Oni’s influence at full power. If the players discover the Oni, they win that section of the game and enter the final battle better prepared to fight that Oni.
Throughout the investigation phase, the Oni player is limited on which minions they can try to stop the players with. The evil creatures can operate without impunity, but to activate the human adversaries, there needs to be a corruption token on the tile with the minions on. Corruption tokens are gained every even turn, with the first being gained on turn 2. These corruption tokens can be moved to a different tile at the start of the turn, but their placement does let the players know the areas of danger in advance for them to avoid or engage.
The two standout mechanics in Okko Chronicles for us are the combat mechanics and the victory points.
Combat has a couple of factors. To attack, a number of custom dice are rolled depending on the Might skill of the attacker, plus any modifiers from equipment or abilities. The custom dice have a number of slashes (usually 1 or 2), blank faces and the Ki symbol. The Ki Symbol counts as 1 slash and is rolled again (as an exploding dice mechanic). If the total number of slashes equals or exceeds the defense stat of the defender, they take 1 damage.
Only a single damage is received, no matter the number the defense is beaten by. This really gets across a ‘death by a thousand cuts‘ feel, that separates the minions from the heroes. Minion guards, called Ashigaru, can be defeated with 1 hit by the heroes, but a concerted effort from an enemy samurai or Oni is required to damage the heroes. Three Ashigaru attacking the heroes pose a threat, but a single Ashigaru isn’t too much trouble.
For adversaries, once the amount of damage received equals their stamina stat, they are defeated and removed. For heroes, once they have an amount of damage equal to their stamina stat, they receive a wound card. If a player has 3 wound cards in their hand, they are defeated and are removed.
The clever part is that the wound cards have to be in your hand to count, which means that you can ‘use’ them during your turn to get them out of your hand, alongside action cards. Action cards have 2 effects. They can either be used to boost stats, by playing on the Stat side of the character card or can be used to provide a special ability, by being played on the other side of the character card. Wound cards are the same and can be played to give a stat modifier or a negative effect.
Every turn, each player has to play 1 action card, but they can play up to 2. Or they can play an action card and a wound card. Any card played is discarded at the end of the turn. When a player’s hand is empty, or only contains wound cards, all cards in the discard pile are taken back to hand. This leads to some very tactical choices while playing. Playing a card means that you won’t have access to it until you’ve played all of your other cards. Playing 2 cards a turn means that you will get all of your cards back quickly, but there might be some wound cards in that pile that you don’t want to pick up, because if you have a wound card in your hand, and two in your discard pile, and you pick them up, you’re out. There are also situations where you have several wound cards in your discard pile, and you’re playing a single card each turn, hoping to survive long enough to achieve the quest.
The whole combat system can lead to some great moments. The Oni player trying to swarm the heroes with minions while they try to battle through to the final boss. A hero fated to die in several turns, trying not to exert themselves by playing too many cards, but still trying to remain effective. The heroes swatting aside their enemies, wave after wave, taking damage slowly as they cut through to their goal or exit.
The other mechanic we like a lot is the Victory Points system. Throughout the game, a summary is built up with art cards. These are known as Tikku’s Memoirs. Some cards are double-sided, with events in blue being pro-heroes and red pro-oni player. Each card is worth a different number of victory points depending on the size, of which there are 3 sizes. Cards are earned for different stages of the game, for the heroes reaching personal goals, which are randomized at the start of the game and for various story elements. At the end of the game, the card points are totaled up and the winner declared. It’s a great visual representation, using awesome artwork, rather than a simple victory point marker.
On The Tabletop
As is standard for our on The Tabletop tests, I read through the rulebook a few times before we played the game. The rules all made sense, there are some errors which are probably a result of the French to English translation, but nothing that caused any issues. But setting up the first game, even the introductory scenario, was a prolonged affair. There are a lot of tokens and card decks. Some of the tokens and cards are only applicable to certain missions, but there’s no token breakdown or list, so you would have to read over every scenario before playing to know what some of the tokens are. This lead to a lot of rulebook flicking, trying to see if we needed to keep any tokens handy while playing.
The first introductory scenario does state what you need for that mission and what to put back in the box in regards to the common components, and I would advise players to just go with that and keep the rest of the tokens handy. The board setup itself was very straightforward, with the tiles and tokens required very clear on the scenario pages. Because I had read the rules, I would be the Oni-player and the rest would be the heroes trying to stop my evil plan.
The first introductory mission didn’t use any of the investigation rules and is just a mechanics tutorial for movement and combat. So once the players had selected their characters and gathered all of their components, we began. Their mission was to simply get across the map to a courtesan, receive a piece of equipment from her and then return to the start. There were some samurai and ninjas on the map, but nothing too threatening.
Usually, movement through the tiles is impeded when the players move into an area with an enemy, this stops them rushing through a map and makes them chose their movement tactically. In the first turn, Kit played a card that meant he wasn’t hampered by enemies in areas, and rushed 90% of the way through the map, leaving the rest of the party to keep the enemies busy. Kit got the permit required from the courtier and began making his way back to the entrance, covered by the rest when the Oni Miryoku appeared. Her special power is manipulation, and she made Fillippo attack and nearly kill his own follower.
Kit was a few turns away from completing the mission, so we decided to start another scenario, just so we could see the investigation rules within the test session we had.
Setting up the first mission of the campaign, which comes after 3 tutorial missions, was a lot easier with some experience with the game and our second scenario was underway very quickly. There are some confusing setup instructions with some of the civilians on the mission plan not being clear if they were randomly assigned, or just unknown to the players.
The first scenario of the campaign put the players against an Oni trying to complete a ritual. There’s a Bakemono, a large demon on the map already and the heroes have to deal with that while they investigate. But they were still able to get through the clues quickly, by turn 4, by dedicating everyone to investigating. We ran out of time for our limited test session, but I was in a bad position going into the final battle as the Oni player, having hardly any upgrades on any of my minions.
Adam – After the initial buzz of the artwork, awesome miniatures, and straightforward rules, setting up the first game became apparent that Okko Chronicles is a lot more involved. It is much better for the group if the Oni player has a firm grasp of the rules and understanding of the components. Learning on the fly as you play is hard and hampers the game experience. Okko Chronicles is initially difficult to get into and most of the enjoyment will be had from extended campaigns. Persevering through the early staggered games before you get to the scenarios proper is a must.
During our early games, a lot of rules and mechanics felt convoluted and we could see what the game was trying to do, but felt like it was just missing the mark of what it was trying to achieve. The two stages of the game are interesting and the jarring feel when the game changes gear to the final battle is great, but a slower, much more straightforward pace to the investigation phase may have improved that.
The combat during the early stages of the game does feel strange. Heroes are running around talking to members of the household, looking at clues, while battling enemies in plain sight. With some imagination, the combat isn’t as open as it seems on the board, but it still hampered the immersion slightly.
Okko Chronicles is a game I’d really like to play again. I think that after getting through your first few games, you’re in a much better position to enjoy it. It’s not a pick up and play game, it requires investment to get the full enjoyment out of it.
Adam is the righteous leader of the On The Tabletop Team and is an experienced tabletop gamer. He has played physical and online CCGs to a very high competitive level. He also has a background in roleplaying, board and wargaming and has playtested and produced content for several companies. A veteran tabletop writer who’s favorite games includes Dark Souls the Card Game, The Legend of the Five Rings LCG, Shadespire and Bushido. You can read his work here on TechRaptor and follow his exploits on Twitter – @StealthBuda.
Kit – I felt Okko Chronicles tried too hard to be too many things which made it overly complicated and cumbersome. It’s a dungeon crawl, come Cluedo, come Resident Evil board game. However in saying that, I actually enjoyed it. We played a few of the intro scenarios, the first I felt is too “dumbed down” for an intro. The second we started using the investigation and clue mechanics. This was actually a great aspect. The movement and combat seemed to be very disjointed with ‘bad guys’ able to attack you, yet if you attacked back the alarms would be raised. The movement was based on areas rather than squares. We did find a flaw with the investigation as one of our party could look through the last few cards without drawing them all, this made the accusation stage fairly easy at the end as we then knew ‘who dun it’.
The miniatures are gorgeous sculpts, the painter in me actually wanted to spend the time slapping the paint on. The main action dice were really rough to read the symbols. Dark red icons on a black background. I normally have pre-established hatred of proprietary dice, but with this game, I actually liked what they had done.
All in all a fun game, I’d like to try again but I would probably jump into the main scenarios rather than any of the intro parts.
Kit is the owner of ABZ Games, Aberdeen’s gaming community hub. He has been playing board/card/war/role-playing games for near on 25 years. Currently, his favorite game is Wild West Exodus by Warcradle.
Kyla – To start with the positives, although I’m not familiar with the source material the game comes from, the artwork on the various maps and cards is fantastically done. I also loved the style and quality of the larger scale miniatures.
However, this has been my least favorite game to test play thus far. Normally I come away from a session having a basic but good understanding of how a game works, unfortunately, I’m still completely unsure of how a regular game of Okko Chronicles would work, and what the main objective of the game is as it differed largely between the two starter scenarios we played. The two focussed on individual mechanics (combat and investigation) and looked at these too much in isolation to get a good feel for how things might play out in a real game.
The first scenario which focused on combat and retrieving an objective ended too quickly as one of our players was able to use an action card to travel across multiple areas towards the objective before a corruption tile could even ‘influence’ Palace inhabitants to turn them into enemies that would attack us. The scenario ended and I hadn’t even had a chance to make any sort of attack roll or feel like I had usefully aided the other players.
The second scenario focussed on investigation and I much preferred this and I was able to make some investigation rolls and collect clues. Unfortunately, I also felt the scenario ended too quickly to let us all have a good grasp of the gameplay.
In my opinion, the mechanics for the game seem horribly convoluted and as if they are a combination of every other board game out there. Less is more! I think the game would have benefitted from being massively simplified and stripped down to just have the players investigate areas of the board to pick up 1) clues to solve the demon possession and 2) weapons to make attacks, but also have the risk drawing cards that will spawn enemies on the board. This would remove action cards and Onis, corruption, recollection and personal objectives which really bogged gameplay down and gave both the Oni player and heroes too many (mental and physical) things to handle.
Kyla is a 3D Artist and VFX Compositor. She is also known around the UK convention scene for her costume and prop making work. She’s been a regular DM and player of Dungeons & Dragons for the last 3 years, and when she’s not busy writing her own homebrew campaigns she can be found playing Zombicide with friends. You can find her on Instagram at @HallowStudios, and on her website.
Ewan – I’d never heard of Okko Chronicles before I played this and I have to say I enjoyed the art style and setting for this game, I was instantly hyped for an anime-style adventure. I chose to play as Noshin the drunken monk because his mini was, of course, the coolest one. Instead of just being boozy his abilities are based on summoning different elemental spirits that either deal damage or buff your allies. I actually really enjoyed playing as him and trying to think up strategies on how to get through the missions. However, it quickly dawned on me as we played the intro that it’s not really that intuitive to keep track of what you’re doing.
I feel this would be a fantastic game if some mechanics were toned down a bit just to ease the gameplay though. If you’re a fan of this series I reckon I could probably see past the flaws and have a blast. But as a newcomer, if this game didn’t have the awesome art I’d probably forget about it pretty quick sadly.
Ewan is severely visually impaired, which makes playing some games difficult, especially when there is a lot of small text on the board. Having his input is very important to us as it can be something that is overlooked in gaming. He’s been gaming for a while and enjoys Talisman and Camelot. He has also played a few CCGs and is currently loving Warhammer Age of Sigmar Champions. He tries to get some wargames in when he can.
Filippo – Okko Chronicles is not a game for casual players. The rules are numerous and complex, and the game includes many different cards, tokens, and dice that are not easy to identify (a legend in the rulebook would be helpful). In fact, our trial session was slowed down to continuously check the rules.
The game initially feels a standard “dungeon crawl” game, despite being set in a Japanese Samurai-era with demonic elements. Mechanics are not innovative, each hero has the usual movement, attack, defense, and life points stats, movement/life points being obvious, an attack being the number of dice you roll and defense the score you need with the dice roll to inflict damage. Equipment, abilities, and cards can alter stats or add a special effect to the hero’s actions. The game adds an additional stat that determines the investigation ability, as the game was already complex in the “starter mode”, we did not include investigations in our trial.
What feels unique in the game is its “stealthy” nature, the key of the game is not advancing butchering every enemy the hero’s faces but achieving the missions without causing too much commotion. This is one of the few games I experienced where the average enemy is stronger than the heroes, so, apart from the ninjas (cannon fodder) it takes some effort to defeat the enemies the heroes encounters, therefore, it is not in their interest to face them. There is a good mechanic in terms of cards and the heroes abilities to boost you and your companions fighting skills and allow defeating the stronger enemies, as well as abilities that help move through enemies unnoticed.
Our gaming session has been frustrating due to the complexity of the rules but I think Okko Chronicles is a game that is worth exploring.
Filippo is a Level 99 geek with D20 years of experience in all sort of gaming. From wargames (Infinity, Warhammer 40K), to RPGs (D&D), CCGs (Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, Doomtrooper, Hearthstone), board games (countless!) and video games. He is a science fiction buff, especially dystopian and Cyberpunk styles. He is also a miniature and scale modeler, painting mainly Mecha and Tanks to a competitive level and has won several prizes.
This copy of Okko Chronicles used in this article was provided by The Red Joker.
Have you played Okko Chronicles? What did you think? What do you think of hybrid games? What’s your favorite hybrid or 1 vs many game? Let us know in the comments below.