Reviewed by Herb Levy
KARUBA (HABA, 2 to 4 players, ages 8 to 99, 40 minutes; $34.99)
Few themes excite game players as much as exploring the unknown. In this latest design from Rudiger Dorn, that’s exactly what up to 4 players can do as they explore unknown jungles in search of crystals, gold and temples in the land (and the game) known as Karuba.
Each player begins with the same items: a jungle board, four differently colored explorers with matching temples (placed randomly around the jungle edges so that everyone has explorers and temples in the same positions) and an identical set of 36 jungle tiles. The tiles are numbered from 1 to 36. Most players should lay out the tiles in number order (so they can quickly find them) but one player just mixes his set of tiles, face down, and will act as the “caller” for the game. Each turn, the caller will draw one tile and call out the number. That is the tile that ALL players will use.
In addition to a number (from 1 to 36) in the upper left hand corner, every tile shows a path. It might be a straight path or curved or a north/south/east/west junction. Tiles may be placed ANYWHERE on the board but always so their number is in the upper left hand corner; no rotation allowed. (Tiles need not touch nor do they have to continue a path already started. Dead ends are allowed.) Some tiles show a crystal or a chunk of gold. If they do, a crystal or gold piece is placed on that tile when it is placed. As paths are carved out, explorers will be able to move to claim crystals and gold as well as entering into their matching colored temple. Movement is the other way a tile may be used.
Instead of placing the tile, a player may discard the tile, moving an adventurer a number of spaces equal to the number of paths leading to the edge of that discarded tile. So, an adventurer may move 2, 3 or 4 spaces depending on the tile. (Movement may not be shared among adventurers and you can always move less if so desired.) Travel is only done on paths; no “short cuts” allowed. If stopping on a space with a crystal or gold piece, that piece gets claimed. If entering the matching colored temple, a treasure is claimed. (Treasure tiles range from 5 to 2 points with players arriving early getting the higher valued treasures.)
Play continues until all tiles have been played or one player has managed to maneuver all of his adventurers into the four temples. Then we score.
Each crystal collected is worth 1 Victory Point, each gold worth 2 and collected treasures anywhere from 2 to 5. The player with the highest combined total wins!
Years ago, there was a colorful abstract game called Hextension by Peter Burley which received a rebirth under a new title: Take It Easy (featured in the Summer 1995 issue of Gamers Alliance Report). The game gave players sets of identical tiles with colored lines on them that were simultaneously placed on a board to be filled with completed lines of the same color. Lots of fun and brilliantly addictive. With Karuba, Dorn has taken the core of the mechanism (identical tile sets, simultaneous placement) and given the whole thing an engaging theme while adding a few touches of his own.
Change is a constant here. That adventurers and temples always start in different positions assure that the tactics in play will vary. Tiles are randomly selected so when a tile appears is rarely a certainty (until you get to the final draw) but you do have a sense of what types of paths are out there so you can (sort of) prepare. That there is only room on the board for 30 tiles (it is, after all, a 5 x 6 grid) means at least six tiles will be used for movement. This adds another dimension to tile use as players have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of placement against movement. (In the case of a tie, the player who has the MOST tiles ON the board gets the edge as that players is rewarded for needing less tiles for movement, a built-in bonus for resourcefulness.) Tile placement and maneuvering of your explorers are the key considerations since explorers may NOT be skipped or “jumped over”. This can create bottlenecks that can seriously hamper your beeline to a temple. A little foresight can go a long way in helping you avoid these pitfalls. Player interaction is, at best, limited, but that is beside the point. The challenge is to take the same components and use them more effectively than your opponents.
As with all HABA games, physical production is first rate with the colorful game boards, wooden pieces and clear concise rules. With HABA setting its sights on spreading out from its formidable role in childrens’ games into the family game category, they have made a wise decision with Adventure Land (featured this issue) and Karuba, which has the potential to be the kind of game able to move into classic status and be played for years to come. – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy
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Spring 2016 GA Report Articles