Hattari / Yabunonaka Review – or In A Grove in English

In A Grove Box Art
In A Grove Box Art
Released 2011
Designer Jun Sasaki
Publisher Oink Games (Website)
Players 3 – 4 (Best with all 4)
Playing Time 10-20 minutes (First game – 20-25 with teaching)
Category Hidden Information
Trick Taking
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

The Deduction, Hidden Information, Bluffing and Trick Taking game all in one tiny package!

Oink Games publish some brilliant games. They also make tiny games. Not always simple, but a lot of their games are smaller than a box of cigarettes. That makes them easy to carry with you, and also limits the components required to play.

Not all games are for everyone, and In A Grove is one of these. The premise is excellent, but when I try to describe it to people, it’s hard to get your head around.

All right, what is In A Grove?

At its core, In A Grove is a mystery trick-taking game. Yes, I know that makes little sense – its part of the reason getting people excited to play is tricky.

There are eight people in a park, and someone has killed one of the group! So you would think your job is to find the killer. It is, but it also isn’t. Your job is more to be the person accused of lying less than everyone else.

Finding the killer is secondary in terms of ‘winning’ the game. Making others choose the wrong suspect is your tactic of choice. But be careful in employing it!

In A Grove - Components
All of the components. iPad (2017) for size.

Wait. What?

Yep. It’s a mystery game where you don’t have to find the killer. Your job is to get more people to believe you, even if you are wrong.

All but one of the eight people have a number between 2 and 8. One is blank – this person is always innocent. These cards are shuffled, and three are placed in the middle standing up. These are your suspects. One card is placed sideways, marking the murder victim.

Each player then gets one of the remaining four people. Not playing with four players? Put these in the box without seeing their values. Each player then looks at their suspect without revealing their number/identity and passes them to their right. You then look at the number on the suspect moved to you.

In A Grove - Typical Setup
What the start of the game normally looks like after setup

The point of all this is to give you some starting information. The killer is almost always the person with the highest value, so you know if you have seen 7 and 8, 6 is the highest possible value in the centre.

You said ‘Almost always’. Mid game rule changes?

Yep. It’s not always as simple as find the highest value suspect. You see if there is a 5 amongst the suspects, the rules flip – the killer is the person with the lowest value. Hence, the blank silhouette is always innocent.

It almost always takes players a couple of rounds to get their head around all of this. The rules aren’t hard, but having to remember rules based on hidden information is tricky.

In A Grove can be hard to teach, especially as everything we have talked about is before the game/round starts – this is all setup.

In A Grove - The Reveal
Normally, 8 would be the killer. But becuase there is a 5, 2 is the villain

If the setup is this hard, what is the actual game like to play?

The explanation can take a while – execution doesn’t. Once you have all the rules straight, the setup can take 30 seconds. 

Going in turn order, the first player looks at two of the three suspects. They can also swap the victim for one of the suspects. They then place one of their tokens below a suspect.

The next player can then does almost the same thing. The only catch is they can’t look at the suspect the previous player ‘marked’ with their token.

If you agree with another player, you place your marker on top of theirs. This means accusations/guesses/bluff are marked in piles.

In A Grove - Player 2
So in this case, the player couldn't see the last suspect as marked by the token

So why mark a player? What’s the point of that?

I’m getting there, I promise. When all players have marked a suspect, all of the suspects are flipped to reveal their values.

If you marked the correct suspect, you get your marker back. For the player on top of the pile for wrongly accused suspects, you flip them over to the ‘liar’ side, and you keep the whole pile. Each and every one.

If you get 8 or more ‘liar’ tokens, you lose. If you run out of tokens to mark suspects with, you lose. So as you can see, it’s not so much a case of being right – you just need more people to be wrong.

Who would want to play a game like that?

In A Grove sounds like a niche game, and it is. But the number of people that can enjoy it is bigger than you think.

You wouldn’t play In A Grove all night. It fits well as a game night opener/closer or in-between game choice. Once you know the game, even with 4 players you can belt out a full game in 10 minutes. 

You can even play rounds as games if you are passing the time between other games. Just make the player with the most ‘liar’ tokens the loser and reset. This creates a game that lasts only a couple of minutes – excellent as a time killer.

Because In A Grove comes in such a small box, playing it this way is a great way to pass the time in convention queues and the like. It also lets players switch in and out with people around you.

In A Grove - Take Anywhere
Everything you need, in a tiny package that fits in any bag

And this is the catch with In A Grove – trying to explain to people why they might like it, and I usually get glassy-eyed silence in response. Once people see it played, they often want to jump in and give it a go.

This is In A Grove’s biggest weakness. There are plenty of ‘so simple it sounds boring’ games out there that work against it. In A Grove sounds much more complicated than it plays, and people don’t want to overthink a simple game.

Overall Thoughts

That feeling of satisfaction when you can steer someone to take ‘Liar’ tokens is fun. The disappointment at being the person receiving the tokens is palpable.

The biggest problem with the game is the learning curve. When I play with people that have played before, it’s almost always a fun game. When I need to coax people into trying it, players come away disappointed.

My advice – you have basically all the rules in this review. Play with 8 playing cards and some tokens. Use the 2-8 of one suit, and a joker as the ‘blank’.

I encourage people to support game designers always, but In A Grove is a game that you will need to get used to before deciding if you enjoy it or not.



  • Quick and simple gameplay
  • Easy to transport or make your own version
  • Retail version very cheap if you can find it


  • Teaching rule changes dependant on hidden information is tricky
  • Because of the quick and semi-random outcome, players can get put off from playing again

Until next time,


Deep Sea Adventure Review

Deep Sea Adventure Feature
Deep Sea Adventure Feature
Released 2014
Designer Jun Sasaki, Goro Sasaki
Publisher Oink Games (Website)
Players 2 – 6 (4+ probably best)
Playing Time 30-40 minutes
Category Competitive Cooperative
Push Your Luck
Resource Management
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

If I just go down one more step, I will *cough* get the better stuff. I am sure *gasp* it will *wheeze* be fine…

Getting rich by claiming the buried treasure.  It’s a theme we all know, and as such it’s one we can all grab onto instantly.

Extending this theme though, the theme is also relatable especially today.  Each player is a diver that is trying to earn their fortune, but they don’t have enough right now to pay for the expedition that should secure it.

So the idea of the game is that all of the competing divers have pooled their resources and hired a submarine and an oxygen supply to get the expedition underway.

Deep Sea Adventure, like almost all Oink games, is visually striking even with very simple components.

A tiny box, a submarine, and a trail of markers is all that makes up the board.  A few colourful meeples mark the players progress.

Just look at a setup game – don’t you think you already have a bit of a handle on what is going on?  Sure you may not realise the buried treasure aspect initially, but you know your going swimming!

Deep Sea Adventure Components
In a box smaller than 2 decks of playing cards, a lot of game is contained within

And that is a real part of Deep Sea Adventures appeal – it’s a game people want to be interested in, and because it’s quick and works with higher player counts (up to 6) resetting is a breeze!

Setting up the game

Setup is incredibly simple.  Let everyone pick a diver meeple.  While they are picking colours, put the submarine at one end of the table where everyone can reach it and place the round token on 25.

Now group all of the relic tokens (different shapes with pips from 1 to 4) into the four piles, and shuffle them up in the different groups.  Starting with one, place them face down in a trail from the submarine.  It doesn’t matter how the pattern works, as long as it’s a single line that doesn’t cross itself.  Because of this, I normally hand over the four piles to different players to shuffle and place.

Deep Sea Adventure Setup-Begins
While other players start setting up the board, you can start to explain the rules

That’s it – setup is complete.  As I said, nice and simple.  Getting people to lay the treasure path (even without knowing what it is) keeps people involved as well, so it’s a good way to let players setup the board while you explain the rules 🙂

Speaking of which…

How to play

Deep Sea Adventure has a very simple set of rules, but they must be done in the right order.  Upfront, it’s hard to see why until situations arise, but like any game, if you want to play a little relaxed you are more than welcome to.

The last person in the sea goes first, but the order is the same for each player.

First, reduce the oxygen by the relics you are carrying.  If it reaches 0, this will be the last turn.

Then, decide which direction you are going – further down, or back to the sub.  You can only change direction once though, so timing is everything!

Once you know your direction, roll the dice.  There are 2 three-sided dice, so you will always roll between 2 and 6.  Now, move the number of places you rolled, minus the number of relics you hold.  Also, no 2 players can share a space, so jump over any other meeples on your move.

Deep Sea Adventure Turn One
So the first round is all but set - roll the die, and try to get as far ahead as you can

You can never move backwards, and you can never move more than the trail of relics allows.  You have to be careful how many relics you pick up though – if you pick up 6 pieces, you will never be able to move again!

If a player rolls before declaring their direction, they must continue going down this turn.

There also used to be a rule where you had to have picked up a treasure before turning around, but this rule has been relaxed.

Once you have moved, you have a few choices to end your turn.

You can decide to do nothing and end your turn.

If you landed on a relic, you can take it and replace the section you are on with a round X token.  If you pick up a relic though, do not look at its score value!

If you landed on an X token, you can switch it for a relic, lightening your haul. This is where not knowing what you picked up makes which item to drop a little risky.

Deep Sea Adventure Treausre-Grabbed
The first two players dived and waited, but Purple took a Relic - so the clock has begun!

And that’s pretty much it.  Play continues until all divers are back at the submarine, or oxygen has reached 0.

Once this happens, any divers that have returned with relics can now inspect them (turn them over to reveal points).

Any other divers have unfortunately drowned, and their haul drops to the bottom of the ocean.  Starting from the player furthest from the sub, their relics (still unseen) are grouped into piles of three and placed on the end of the trail.  These piles are now considered a single relic, but the points will be the total of all three tiles.

Finally, all round X tokens are removed, and the holes in the trail are pulled back in, shortening the board.

This formally completes the first round – play 2 more rounds, and the player with the highest score wins!

Deep Sea Adventure Round One Ends
So purple managed to grab two relics, and one was worthless! Unlucky, as it cost the two other divers dearly.

So you just grab all you can?

You can play this way – or rather, Deep Sea Adventure can be played this way.  The thing is though if all players are only working in their own interest, it all but guarantees that no player will get a great score, and lots of divers will be lost.

The secret to how the game works is buried in the background of the game.  All of the rival divers have worked together enough to pool their resources and rent the sub and get some air.

To get some truly high scores though, all of the players have to still work together to maximise your oxygen resource, and this can be hard to explain to people up front.

This means that if players work together, truly high scores can be reached by all.  Winners will be determined by the luck of the relics that are retrieved, which is also incredibly thematic under the circumstances.


If there is one backstabbing evil genius in the group, they can play along just long enough to get what they need, then get themselves back to the sub – everyone else can fend for themselves.

Deep Sea Adventure Round Three Cooperative
If everyone works together, everyone can come out with a haul

And this is a hidden gem within Deep Sea Adventure – there are different play modes, either by design or by accident.  If everyone works together as a group, everyone will get away with a points haul, making it more a cooperative puzzle.  But add that you can stab everyone in the back and work for yourself element,

A game this relatively cheap and fun looking shouldn’t have such depth to it (no pun intended) – but it does, and it works so well.

But there is a downside

My biggest issue with Deep Sea Adventure is it’s a game you almost need to trick people into playing one way so the true game reveals itself to them.  Apart from not liking to anyone into playing games they don’t want to, this can backfire a lot.

If the proverbial penny doesn’t drop, people will just walk away with the wrong idea of Deep Sea Adventure.  But if you try to tell people everything upfront, they can feel trapped into a ‘this isn’t a game’ mindset.

Deep Sea Adventure Round Three Mutual Backstabbing
But if everyone is out for themselves, this is actually a high scoring result

This doesn’t mean that Deep Sea Adventure is a bad game – it’s just a victim of its own presentation.  Small box and cute pieces surely mean a simple little fun game, right?

Having this presentation where you have to manage a group resource (oxygen) as well as try to optimise your play at the expense of everyone else means you are pushing other player’s luck more than yours.

Until next time,

Deep Sea Adventure

Final Thoughts

I have heard many people describe Deep Sea Adventure as a simple push you luck game.  This is being unfair.

Deep Sea Adventure is best described in my opinion as a competitive coop game.  Sure, you can look after yourself and try for a score, but everyone doing this is all but guaranteed to lead to zero scores all around.

If you have the people (you really want four or more players), Deep Sea Adventure is a great game – but there are drawbacks that as the host or teacher you will need to navigate.



  •  Compact for easy transport
  •  The premise is simple and easy to attract players
  •  Great quality components


  •  Can be hard to teach and learn
  •  Players can be lulled into being betrayed, hurting the experience

A Fake Artist Goes to New York Review

A Fake Artist Goes to New York Feature
A Fake Artist Goes to New York Feature
Released 2012
Designer Jun Sasaki
Publisher Oink Games (Website)
Players 5 – 10
Playing Time 20 minutes
Category Hidden Role
Deduction / Bluffing
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

A hidden role game with a major twist

When you have a large group of people wanting to play a game, party hidden role type games such as Werewolf, Spyfall or The Resistance tend to dominate in my gaming groups.

This is far from a problem for me – in general, I love all of these games.  But for some others, not so much.  Having to sit with a group of friends or even worse strangers and lie can be too stressful for some players.

This coupled with a problem I have with a lot of these games – player elimination during a long game – means some games are better than others for a group game.

Here is where the deceptively simple A Fake Artist Goes to New York comes along.  A game lasts about a minute a player as a rule of thumb.  It’s in a tiny package just like all Oink Games.

And best of all – it doesn’t look or play like a hidden role game.  Tell someone they are playing Werewolf with drawings, and I can’t imagine too many people jumping in.

But tell people they are playing Pictionary with a twist, and you have a wider audience willing to listen to you.

A Fake Artist Goes to New York Components
As usual with an Oink Game, tiny packaging holds a lot of components, but nothing too complicated either

Now don’t get me wrong I am not advocating tricking people into playing.  It’s just that I know plenty of people that just don’t like Hidden Role games, so no matter how different or fun any other game may be, they stop listening.

Luckily the rules explanation is really short, so if anyone still doesn’t think they will be interested it’s not much time lost.  But I have yet to find anyone I have explained the game to like this not willing to play. AndI have not had any players walk away unhappy or after just one game.

So set yourself up as the Question Master.  Players take turns with this role, and it makes life easier.

To do this, take a number of tiles equal to the number of other players.  Put the pad and all the coloured pens onto the table, and get everyone to pick a colour as you go off a little to the side.

Now I usually explain the below rules while I am writing on the tiles – it just makes life easier.  It also lets me ‘fix’ the first game so I know exactly who the Fake Artist is.

The Question Master pics a Topic that is said to everyone (e.g. Office) and writes a word associated with the topic on each tile (e.g. Desk) on all but one tile.  On one tile, you mark with an X or the word ‘FAKE’.  This is the hidden role in the game.

A Fake Artist Goes to New York Clues
I prefer to write the word 'FAKE' but it is up to you. Just be careful - it's easy to wipe the word off the tiles!

While I am writing, I am explaining to everyone that they are artists that have been invited to come work at a prestigious gallery on a painting.  But it has come to light that someone has managed to sneak in – a Fake Artist!

Unfortunately, the painting needs to start now, but luckily all of the real artists know what they are here for (I hand out the tiles now).  Each tile is the invitation letter that tells you what you are here to draw, but keep them secret!  Everyone knows that the gallery is doing an exhibit on a subject (in this case, Office), but we can only find the Fake through their errors in designing the painting.

The Question Master then picks a starting player (Try not to pick the Fake Artist!), and the artists then take turns drawing part of the image with a single line.

Now some people literally draw a line, but the idea is to draw a part of the image (the desk in this example) without taking the pen back off the paper.  So for the desk, someone may draw a line as part of the desktop or side.  They may draw the outline of a phone because phones are on office desks.

The goal is to draw enough to let the real artists know you know what your doing, but without letting the Fake Artist know what is being drawn.

A Fake Artist Goes to New York Desk
This has been completed, but you can see the two lines drawn by each colour (player). One line seems to be very wrong though...

After everyone has had 2 turns (around the table twice), the artists try and guess which colour belongs to the Fake Artist.

A bit of discussion doesn’t hurt, but you have to be careful to not get into ‘It can’t be me because my card says Desk’ territory.  Giving away the answer at the last minute hurts, and can happen in the heat of the moment!  So normally I give 30 seconds or just get people to point after a countdown of 5.

Now from here, there is a whole scoring system but to be honest I have yet to use it.  We just play rounds and have fun with the game.

It’s not the only deviation from the rules I normally make either.  I usually only play once around the table, to help with speed and also with keeping simple images vague enough to maybe throw the Fake Artist.

Once the vote is cast, if the Artists pick on of their own, the Fake Artist and the Question Master ‘win’!

If the Artists guess the Fake Artist, there is the last chance for them and the Question Master.  If the Fake Artist can correctly guess the subject, the pair of still win.

A Fake Artist Goes to New York Different
So the round has ended, and it doesn't look good for the blue player. But did they just have a different desk in mind? That's the sort of bluff that can save the Fake Artist

It sounds like the Artists have a hard time of winning, but not really.  You see one of the things I love about A Fake Artist Goes to New York is no one can draw really well in it.

By only having one motion to draw in coupled with a tiny pad, even talented artists are handicapped to draw like the rest of us.  And depending on your group, you can get cheeky and creative with your image.

A very literal group may just draw parts of a desk to show the desk, but in my example remember when I said someone could draw a phone because it sits on a desk?

If you just do the outline of a phone in one go (or phoneish shape at least), you are adding detail to the image without detracting from the desk proper.  But if you draw part of a phone in detail, when people should be working on the desk, it’s a suspicious move.  But then again, so is drawing a phone in the first place!

A Fake Artist Goes to New York is one of those great games where you can make the game what you want it to be very simply.  Want more bites at an image with a smaller group?  Play the formal two rounds rule.  10 people waiting to play?  Keep the images simple and play one round.  Want a bit more detail?  Allow 2 touches of the pen.

A Fake Artist Goes to New York is one of those great party games where you make of it what you want.  It’s like Apples to Apples, Cards Against Humanity, Joking Hazard, even Dixit to a degree – play the game you want to play with the tools provided.

A Fake Artist Goes to New York Old Game
Opening the box this was the last game played. I now wish I was writing the words on the old pages, I can't tell what this was supposed to be!

But A Fake Artist goes one step further because it’s already language and scene independent.  Want a game full of inside jokes?  You are deciding the situations, so it’s easy!  Want an ‘After Dark’ version? Nothing is stopping you!

It’s this flexibility that makes A Fake Artist Goes to New York such a great game in my opinion.  And it certainly helps that it can be played almost anywhere and is so easy to take with you!

Until next time,


Kobayakawa Review

Kobayakawa Feature
Kobayakawa Feature
Released 2012
Designer Jun Sasaki
Publisher Oink Games (Website)
Players 3 – 6
Playing Time 15-20 minutes
Category Deduction
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

15 Cards and a bunch of coins – it’s all you need

There are a lot of games with a lot of components.  A lot.  The CMON Kickstarters such as Zombicide, Blood Rage and Rising Sun have shown what can be done with a ton of materials at hand.

But what about when you have the bare essentials?  I remember playing games with nothing but a few dice – that doesn’t happen anymore does it?

Well, it does – it just seems those games don’t get much of the spotlight anymore.

When I pull out the box for Kobayakawa, I can usually see new players looking for the rest of the game.  Surely one small box isn’t everything for 6 people?

Then I open the box and spread out the metal coins.  People instantly reach for them, attracted by the satisfying sound of metal hitting the table.

While the others are inspecting the coins, I have shuffled the 15 card deck and if I am quick dealt each player a card and one face up before they have finished playing with the coins.

That’s almost all of setup complete.  It’s here I get everyone to take four coins each, and I split out the eight coins for the pot and game timer.  Now I am ready to teach and/or play.

Kobayakawa Components
15 Cards and a bunch of coins. Kobayakawa is one of the smallest games I own.

The goal of Kobayakawa is simple – at the end of seven rounds, you want to be the player with the most coins.  I then take players through a bit of a script to get going.

Everyone secretly looks at their card.  Each card is numbered from one to fifteen, one of each value.  Each round, to win coins you are basically betting that you have the highest value, determined through card numbers.

The card you see in the middle is the Kobayakawa – it’s important for the showdown.  At the moment, just be aware that there is a number we all know is out there – let’s say it’s a 6.

Now on your turn, you have a couple of options.  Each option begins by drawing a card from the pile face down.

From here, you can choose to look at the card and compare it to the card in your hand.  You decide which of the two cards to keep, with the discarded card placed face up before you.  Now every player can see the card you don’t want to keep – this helps with card counting options.

If you don’t want to swap your card, flip the card you drew without looking at it face up and place it in the middle of the table – this card becomes the new Kobayakawa.

Kobayakawa Starting Gameplay
So the first player has taken a card, and chosen to discard the 1. Now everyone knows that the 1 is out of play.

Now, remember you are wanting to have the highest value at the end of the round – not the highest card, the highest value.  This is where things get tricky.

When everyone has had a turn, we will begin betting.  I go through the betting rules later, for now just concentrate on what you will be betting on.

Everyone that thinks they can win will bet, and all betting players will show their cards.  Compare the value on everyone’s cards – that is their points.  There is one exception – the person with the lowest valued card gets to add the Kobayakawa to their score – this is where risk and reward will come into it!

From here, I get each player to take their turn, reminding them about the low card rule.  Usually, by the end of the round everyone is sick of hearing it, but it is the one aspect that new players always forget. Play continues like this until every player has had a turn.  Now, the showdown begins!

Each player covers a coin in their hand and pushes it towards the centre of the table, leaving it covered by your hand.  Remember, you are betting for the highest value, not necessarily the highest card.

On the count of three, players will do one of two things.  If they want out, they will pull their coin back and not bet.  If they think they can win, they lift their hand, and it’s game on.

Kobayakawa Round Complete
A fairly standard opening round. Not too much information on the table, but what did everyone keep?

So in the example photo, three players stay in with a 14, 12, and 9.  The Kobayakawa is a 7.

So player one has 14, player two has 12, and player 3 has 16 – 7 from the Kobayakawa, and their 9.  Player one gets to take all the coins bet, plus one of the eight from the pot as a bonus.

As you can see, it is possible to have score values higher than 15, so the people with low cards are still able to be unbeatable in certain situations.  But because the value of the Kobayakawa isn’t set until the last player has their turn, it’s a lot of luck as well.

Kobayakawa Round Won
It takes a little getting used to it's not just the biggest card, but that twist adds to the challenge of the game

Play continues this way for 6 rounds, with first player going clockwise around the table.  When there are 2 coins left in the pot, this triggers the 7th and final round. Play is the same way except players bet 2 coins and the winner gets an extra 2 from the pot, making it a high stakes round.

If a player hasn’t got two coins, they can still play with one and they still get to keep the entire pot.  There is no split pot situations like in poker.

In the case of a tie, the player closest to the starting player wins the pot.  It really is that simple!  By the end of the first round, almost everyone has clicked on how to play, and the fun really begins.

Now some players play the first game and walk away.  There is a surprising amount of complexity hiding under such a simple veneer.  The push your luck hoping for the Kobayakawa to push you into the lead is obvious, but that’s not the only thing to keep track of.

There are 15 cards, and all are in play, but the more cards that are discarded means people know what cards are no longer included.  This can help people try to determine what card their opponents hold, but also the possibilities of what the Kobayakawa can be.

People have referred to Skull as pure poker with its bluffing and semi-fixed odds, and in a lot of ways, I agree.  But Kobayakawa for me is the next step in this kind of gameplay, and is played in even less time than Skull.

Kobayakawa Worst Case Situation
Near the end of a round, you don't really want to see a high card in the Kobayakawa - it's instant win for a 1 in this situation

I have spent nights at the back of a restaurant playing Kobayakawa for hours.  It’s simple enough to allow you to eat, drink and socialise without interruption while being complex enough to keep you interested.

My biggest issue with Kobayakawa used to be availability.  I learned it and grabbed a copy from Japan, where Oink Games are based.  Recently though iEllo and Superlude have been able to nab publishing rights, so it is getting easier to get a hold of.  But honestly, you can print and play with ease to see if you like it.  The metal coins are gorgeous, but as long as each player has something to use in their place not essential.  Normal coins will work just as well, and if you lose one won’t break the bank replacing it.

About two-thirds of everyone I have introduced to Kobayakawa enjoys it, and I would guess a quarter of those people loves it as I do.  But it really isn’t for everybody – try it before you go out of your way to track it down.

Until next time,