Laurent Pouchain


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While comic books from France an Belgium have been popular in their respective countries of origin for some decades, most of these beautifully illustrated books and stories have remained a matter of interest only for a small community of enthusiasts in other countries. However, in recent years storylines like Lanfeust or Valerian have made these comics more and more popular on an international level, and in these days even FANTASY FLIGHT GAMES, major producer of fantasy boardgames, is launching an English language version of Percevan, an award-winning fantasy series. However, the attempts to transfer these great stories to the scale of a boardgame have been rare and obscure, so that I was waiting for the release of the new Okko boardgame by HAZGAARD EDITIONS / ASMODEE with a good degree of curiosity.

The game is set in the fictional country of Pajan, a fantastic counterpart of Japan haunted by Demons and other creatures. Here the f allen Samurai Okko has found a group of followers, and together they hire out as Demon-Hunters, assisting Noble families in battle and in their surge for power. This background suggests either a role-play-game or a combat focused boardgame, and indeed the opening of the small A4-gamebox reveals a bundle of rather nice floorplans, profiles and stand-up figures for over a dozen characters, and an assortment of counters, dice and equipment cards.


Overall, these components strongly reminded me of the MB classic Heroquest, a rather light game of dungeon-exploration with rather straightforward movement and combat rules and a rich equipment of miniatures and pieces of furniture. However, a study of the Okko-rulebook quickly revealed that the differences to Heroquest are not restricted to the variable gameboard, but instead the designers of Okko have put a good deal of care into the creation of the combat rules, developing a more sophisticated and entertaining combat-system without going for too much complexity.

Before the game can start, the players have to agree on a scenario and which side each player wants to pl ay (Okko’s Demon-Hunters or the Forces of Darkness). The starter scenario contains all needed information to play right away, but all other scenarios give the players an optional points budget which they might chose to use to create and equip a team after their own liking. However, independent of the question whether the players use pre-defined or customized teams, the scenario description gives all special information which is needed to play the scenario. So, the players will know about any special rules exclusive to this scenario and the victory conditions they are required to fulfil. The scenario also shows how the floorplans will be arranged and in which area each player is allowed to position his forces for the startup, and once everything is in position the game itself may start.

The playing order alternates on a turn-basis, with one player moving and acting with all his characters before the other player will play his turn. Basically, each character has a movement allowance which may be used for moving the character on the board, and furthermore each character is allowed to perform one action. The action may be a close or ranged attack at an opposite character, a test of a character’s will to return to full alertness, or the using of a special ability.

The first thing a player does upon starting his turn is that he rolls his stockpile of four Inspiration-dice. These dice show the elements of Fire, Water, Air and Earth, and since each of a character’s four characteristics is aligned to one of these elements the player is allowed to use these dice to give one of his characters a temporary increase of this characteristic. The corresponding pairs are Fire and Attacking Strength, Earth and Defensive Strength, Air and Movement and Water and Willpower, and the use of each Inspiration dice increases the corresponding attribute of the chosen character by one for the duration of the turn. However, a player is not required to use all dice at the beginning of his turn, but he may also chose to use them later during his turn, or even to place them on a character as a reserve so that they can be used to assist that character during the other player’s turn.

As indicated, a character’s allowance of movement points determines how many spaces on the gameboard the character may move, but in Okko it is not only of importance which space a character occupies but also in which direction the character is facing. Thus, it costs one movement point to mov e a character onto one of the three forward spaces he is facing or to rotate the character by 90 degrees, but two movement points are required to move a space backwards or sideways. In addition, the nature of each entered space needs to be taken into consideration, so that it takes an additional point to enter a space with water, obstructive landscape or furniture.


The facing of a character also determines his control zone, and one again this are the three forward spaces at which the character is looking. The control zone is important both for combat and for movement of other player characters, since it identifies the spaces which the character can attack with his hand weapon. If an opposing character moves into a combat zone that character is required to stop his movement right away because of the danger of an impending attack, and if a character wants to leave an opponent’s control zone the moving character must be at full awareness or otherwise he would be unable to make the move.

For the active player the control zone of his character identifies the spaces which the character can attack in close combat. Fair enough, the basic combat procedure of both players rolling a dice and adding up their character's Attacking or Defensive Strength dates back even before the times of Heroquest, and even the additional factors which have an influence on the combat outcome like equipment, assisting characters or an attack from behind are known from one game or the other. However, the factor which makes Okko stand apart from the older games is the elegant but simple way in which these factors are added to the combat procedure. Thus, a character who starts his turn and remains out of his opponent’s field of vision until he attacks gets a bonus point, and an additional bonus point is added for each friendly character who faces the attacked opponent with his combat zone. The attacked character then is turned to face the attacker and the outcome of the combat is determined.

This mechanism works as straightforwards as it sounds, and it helps the game to keep a good degree of momentum while at the same time simulating a degree of dynamic combat action which otherwise can be found only in tabletop games. The danger of the mechanism to become more cumbersome by loads of individual rules which slowed down games like Tannhäuser is cleverly avoided in Okko, since even though the characters have their own special abilities and equipment, the use of abilities is limited by the available Inspiration-dice and usually the points budget is not as high as to allow too much special equipment.

Ranged combat with firearms also fuses perfectly with the combat rules, once again relying on the field of vision of the attacking character, the terrain occupied by the victim and a rolling of the dice while adding the attacking capabilities of the weapon of the Defensive Strength of the victim. However, an interesting approach has been chosen for dealing with wounds, since Okko abstains from the traditional use of Life-Points. Instead, Each character has a two-sided profile card, and when the result rolled in combat differs by more than two points the profile card must be turned over to the weaker backside. This does not necessarily mean that a character is wounded, but instead it can also mean that he is merely distracted or too busy, and a character can gain back his awareness (i.e. the frontside of his profile card) by passing a Willpower test during his turn. The card may also be flipped on its backside in other situations than direct combat, and here an example is the situation that the character flees from an opponent’s control zone. Such a move is made normally, but the character looses his awareness after the move is finished. However, a second result of a loss of awareness then leads to the character being removed from the game, and this result also can happen if the difference between both combat dice is too great.

Okko is fun to play, and especially people who are fond of the comic-series should fall in love with the game right from the start. The background theme is well implemented with a nice degree of details concerning the scenarios and the character abilities, and so the game offers a rather authentic playing atmosphere. To my mind, the simple and straight combat rules are more mature than those that can be found in many comparable new and old games, and this makes up a good degree of the attractiveness of the game. However, as with most good games these days, the designers have included some information which might kindle player desires to collect, and in case of Okko the last page of the rulebook shows some beautiful character miniatures. While the included cardboard miniatures certainly are nice enough, and even nicer display effect can be reached with these miniatures. So, if you give Okko a try after reading these lines, be aware of the risk of a “Pajan”-addiction!

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2009 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany