Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday 5 January 2017

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Karuba



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.

The game setup, which can be a little bit tedious for the players who are not the lead explorer.
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.

A two-player game in progress.
Our first game of Karuba was far too easy. I was pretty disappointed that the game wouldn’t have any staying power. However, we played one critical rule wrong and had allowed our explorers to cross paths, which is not allowed and really affects the order in which you chose to move explorers and ultimately leave them standing outside their temples. I think we also drew the tiles in a very favourable order, so there was no frustrating wait for the freedom of a tile that has 4 paths crossing. All of our subsequent games have provided more of a challenge, which is a definite relief and means there are some decisions to make during the game.

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.

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