This review is based on a review copy given by Roll D6. I know the designer and have met him several times in Finnish game events.
The game: Kyoto Protocol by Petri Savola, published by Roll D6 in 2015.
Elevator pitch: Power Grid: The Filler Card Game. An energy-themed filler card game with a very flexible player count (2–7, and the whole range works well), simple rules and interesting player interaction.
What’s in the box? The sturdy and classy black box contains 117 cards, a sheet of tokens, rules and a die (which is not used in the game). The cards are of decent quality and look great. Good points for the looks, but I wouldn’t mind a slightly smaller box. (I’ve got my copy packed in a Ultra Pro Dual Deck Box with For Sale for easier-to-carry filler goodness.)
What do you do in the game? Players build power production by playing cards. On your turn, you can draw a card (from three open cards or from the draw deck), play cards (as many as you want, but only one type) or can clean out your game by flipping up to two cards you’ve played.
In the end of the game, each card you played is worth one point and after each of the three phases, there’s a scoring. In every scoring, there’s a minimum quota of cards you need to have played. If you’re short of the quota, it’s one point penalty per missing cards.
After phases two and three players get pollution penalties. For each of the five types of fuel (coal, oil, gas, wood and uranium) the player with the most cards gets a penalty. Heavy polluters like coal and oil are penalised more, cleaner (but rarer) wood and uranium pay less.
After three phases the player with the most points wins. Very simple, but there’s room for interesting tactics.
Lucky or skillful? This is a light filler with cards. There’s plenty of luck involved, as is appropriate. A skillful player will win more often than a weaker player, but not every time.
Abstract or thematic? Fairly abstract gameplay, but the theme is interesting, makes sense and makes the game easier to teach and understand. Very good theme for a filler, that is.
Solitaire or interactive? You have to constantly keep track of what other players do. The possibility of hiding cards adds to the interaction. Hidden cards are worth points in the end, but don’t count for production or pollution. You can sometimes hurt other players with clever play, but it’s hard to be intentionally mean.
Players: Box says 3–7, but there’s a decent two-player variant in the rules (no dummy players involved: play with half the deck). I’ve tried two, three and six players and based on that I’d say the game works well enough with the whole range. I wouldn’t buy Kyoto Protocol just for two-player games, though – there are better games for that particular niche.
Who can play? Box says 8+ and that seems correct to me. The game is easy, but there’s subtlety kids might not grasp. My eight-year-old son handles the rules, but not all the tactics. Kyoto Protocol works well for adults and families.
Length: Box says 45 minutes, but I don’t know why. Less than 30 minutes sounds better; this is a filler game, and doesn’t take a long time.
What’s to like: Looks really good; flexible player amount; meaningful, easy-to-understand theme.
What’s not to like: Slightly too large box.
My verdict: Kyoto Protocol has been around since 2006 in some form, and finally got published. That was great, because this is a good game – it’s just a filler, sure, but at the moment of my favourite fillers. The game is very flexible when it comes to the amount of players, the rules are a breeze to teach and the gameplay offers enough interesting decisions and player interaction.
If you want a quick filler that looks great, works with a large scale of players and both with hobby gamers and families, Kyoto Protocol will do the job.
On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Kyoto Protocol gets Suggest.