Kami-Sama is a game set in the Edo-period of Japan where you play a spirit vying for the devotion of the villagers of the land. Players will assume the role of a Kami, a spirit, each with a focus on different aspects of nature. In this role, they will compete to spread their influence throughout the local villages. As their influence spreads, shrines will be erected in their honor, but they can be removed or replaced by shrines dedicated to other Kami.
Speaking to the designer of Kami-sama AJ Lambeth, we discovered a lot of interesting facts about the theme of the game and the inspiration behind the artwork.
AJ mentioned that the inspiration for Kami-sama began when he was researching moving to Japan. One of his wife’s dreams was to visit Japan after graduating from college, so they looked into moving over there for a while, teaching English to pay the bills and exploring the beautiful countryside.
While visiting Japan, AJ became fascinated with Shintoism; he would often walk by and pay his respects or have a meal at a shrine on his way to work (it was an hour walk each day, so the breaks helped). He loved researching and reading about the Japanese folktales and the Kami and wanted to use them in one of his designs.
Pulling out one of his old ideas for around board that hadn’t been developed into anything, AJ took the concept of Kami-sama and ran with it. AJ and his wife lived in a farming community where the seasons played a significant factor in everyone’s life, so he began by splitting up the board into four pieces for the four seasons. The original idea for the game was that the Kami were each separated into one of the four seasons, and were exerting control over the same village shown at a different time for each player. The theme is still strong in the current iteration of the game, but we did remove the seasons to allow for more exciting gameplay, and future expansions to the board that has the same village wouldn’t have allowed.
While working on the artwork, a lot of inspiration had been drawn from AJ’s time in and research of Japan. The first goal was to honor the source material and make sure that the religion was represented properly and in no way disrespected. For that reason, each Kami has a unique name that is inspired by the elements the Kami represent but are not found in sacred texts such as the Kojiki. This would keep the game respectful but true to the theme at the same time.
The general town setup was based on the town where AJ lived in Fujiyoshida. He wanted something to divide the four towns, and a mountain seemed like an ideal fit. So, the village skeleton was set up similar to Fujiyoshida which is at the base of Mount Fuji. The village shrine is at the base of the mountain, and wide open fields surrounding the village. River Houses were sometimes in the middle of the village due to the snow melting and running of Fuji which formed most of the rivers and lakes in the area.
Travis had suggested the artwork from Gong Studios who he worked with in the past, together Travis and AJ decided to send them a few ideas to see what they could do, and they fell in love with their sketches immediately. Over time Gong Studios went from doing just the Kami art to illustrating the box, board, and logo as well. Their work is the face of Kami-sama.
Kami-sama is coming to Kickstarter in February, to keep up to date with news and updates, you can subscribe on BGG here: Kami-sama