This will spoil the review a bit, but “Karuba” was a nominee for the “Spiel des Jahres 2016” award for a good reason. Published in 2015 “Karuba” is one of the first family-weight games coming from HABA, a new successful line of games.
GOAL OF THE GAME AND GAMEPLAY OVERVIEW
Lead your expedition team of four brave adventurers to their Temples of interest through the dense jungle as they arrived with their boats on the Karuba Island. If you lead them fast enough, some may claim the most valuable treasure of their temple because other adventurers are there for the very same reason. The journey will be rough, but you may find some shiny crystals or even a gold nugget and make it worth it.
“Karuba” is a simple but brain teasing tile-laying race game in which all players will start with an identical set of game pieces:
- a board
- temples in four colors
- adventurers in the same four colors as the temples
- 36 jungle tiles
Additionally, the setup of the game is also identical, so the location of each adventurer and temple at the start of the game will be on the same spot on each player’s board. In a “bingo” like manner, a player will be responsible of drawing one his tiles each turn and all players will have to play with the same numbered tile (as all tiles have a number in order to be easy to find the same tile as the one drawn) on that turn. All players simultaneously choose one of the two available actions on a turn:
Either, place that tile on any free space on their personal board (with the number facing the player, meaning that tiles can only be place in one way thus not being rotated).
Or, discard that tile and move an adventurer a number of spaces up to the number of roads that end to the discarded tile’s sides (thus, up to four spaces).
Adventurers block each other’s movement and if they end their movement in a space with a nugget or crystal they are more than happy to collect it. Lastly, if an adventurer reaches the temple of the corresponding color he/she collects that color’s available treasure with the highest value. As you can tell, this is where the “race” word takes effect in the game.
The game ends when either a player successfully reaches all four temples or when the tiles are depleted. In either case sum up your points and the richest group of adventurers wins the game!
Brain teasers and puzzle games are my favorite type of games, making “Karuba” an “addictive tile-based game” as mentioned on the rulebook’s front. It has the right amount of solo play and interaction (almost none) for what it is. I like to focus on my little puzzle and at times check how far other players’ adventurers have gone through the jungle in order to decide which adventurer has to hurry up.
The replay value of the game is debatable as it comes down to if you like to solve the same puzzle with different variables/setup each time, like Sudoku. Different players may give a slight change to your game as many are very good to solve these games but the real difference will be made by the random tile draw and the different setup in each game.
There are enough choices in the game as you may place a tile wherever you want, foreseeing a path that will be taken advantage of all adventurers and give them an easy time. Due to the “place it or discard it and move an adventurer” options you will find yourself in a difficult situation at times, as you will both need that tile and have to move.
Overall, the game is fast, easy to learn, light to play but will stretch your brain muscles a bit.
THE RIGHT MOOD TO PLAY THE GAME
It has the same feeling, thematic-wise, as “Escape: The Curse of the Temple”, so putting some music on the same specter will make the job (or use the playlist I put up for the game). The tension of course is not the same, slow but smart moves towards your goal.
Do you want something light but meaty to start your game night? Do you want something that doesn`t take a lot of time to play so you can say “again!”? Do you want something calm that lets you focus on your gameplay? This is the answer for all these questions for me.
Therefore, “Karuba” is a game that you play casually and it’s a great starter for people that are not in the hobby and want something fun, straightforward and challenging.