Designer: Rüdiger Dorn
I first heard about Karuba shortly after it was released. It was part of a group of family weight games released by HABA – normally known for their fantastic games for young children. There were a lot of positive reviews of this tile-laying game and it was definitely high on my list of games to try. Unfortunately I never got the opportunity and when I spotted it at UK Games Expo this year, it was already sold out. After some heavy hinting to Amy, this Christmas I got my copy of Karuba and the fact we already feel we can review it means we’ve played it a fair number of times in the last week and half. Presumably this means it’s a hit for us, right? Well let’s see why...
In Karuba you have 4 explorers in 4 different colours who each need to make their way to a corresponding coloured temple, by carving a path through the jungle. Each player has a set of numbered tiles – one player (the lead explorer) keeps them in a face down stack whilst all others lay them out so they can all be seen. The lead explorer draws a tile and everyone else find the same tile. Everyone then simultaneously chooses whether to play it to a spot on their board or discard it for a number of movement points equal to the number of paths on the tile.
You can place your tile anywhere on your board which leads to decisions where you are planning ahead in the hope of drawing tile that connects two together to form a continuous path for an explorer. It can feel like the tile draw is always against you, but everyone around the table is being given exactly the same opportunities. In addition, tiles have different paths and some have gems depicted on them. If an explorer stops on a tile with a gem then they collect it and gems are worth additional points at the end of the game. It can be a wrench to discard a tile with a golden gem for movement, but sometimes this is the most effective decision.
In effect Karuba is a race to get to the temples fastest because there are
higher points available for getting each coloured explorer to their temple
first. However, you shouldn’t sacrifice the opportunities to collect gems along
the way as these might be the decider between winning and losing in a close
game. What I find really satisfying is that the same is completely fair so it’s
simply your own strategy and placement that wins you the game. The game ends
either when the first person gets the explorers to all 4 temples or when you
run out of tiles.
|The game setup, which can be a little bit tedious for the players who are not the lead explorer.|
|A two-player game in progress.|
Karuba is definitely a lightweight family game, but we enjoy having these in the collection both for us when we’re short on time or brain power after a day at work and also to share with our family and with new gamers. For some reason our first attempt at sharing this with family didn’t go well and perhaps we overestimated how easy the game was because tile-laying and making paths is so natural to us – I’ll probably explain it a little slower next time.
For an accessible, eye catching tile-laying game, Karuba is a great choice for families. It probably lacks some variety so we might wear out on it pretty quickly, so an expansion would be something we could appreciate in time. For a game that we can set up and play in under 30 minutes, I’m very happy with Karuba and the Yellow Meeple gives it a 7.5/10.