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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Saturday 16 February 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Kero

Game: Kero

Publisher: Hurrican

Designer: Prospero Hall

Year: 2018

Kero is undoubtedly and eye-catching game. First of all, the artist is Piero - an artist loved by many board gamers for his work on Ghost Stories, as well as many other games. Secondly, once you put the game out on the table, it's hard to miss the gigantic, truck-shaped sand timers, which are very over the top, but very thematic! The only downside is that the player colours are brown and grey, which fits well in the post-apocalyptic dusty landscape, but isn't quite as enticing.

Since Hurrican Games seem to specialise in games for 2-players only, it's interesting to see their catalogue expanding beyond the Mr Jack series. Kero is a competitive, dice-rolling real-time game for two players. After initially being attracted by the aesthetics, we have often been dubious of real-time competitive games which can be a race to the best dice rolls, but Kero offers something slightly different that kept us coming back for more after our first game at a board game cafe.


A game of Kero consists of a number of rounds until 3 scoring phases have passed. The cards that cause a scoring phase are shuffled randomly into the top middle and bottom of the deck, so you are never quite sure when they will appear. On a typical round you first get the chance to fill up your tanker by spending fuel tokens. Should you elect to do this you will turn your tanker over so that the sand timer set in the truck starts to refill. Meanwhile your opponent will take all 8 of the dice and continuously roll them, setting aside any flame icons rolled. Once all the dice show flame icons your fuelling is over and you get to move onto the main part of the round.

During the main phase you place your truck so that the sand timer drains and start rolling the dice. If you pay a small fee or have the relevant upgrades then you may be able to roll additional coloured dice. But typically you always roll the 5 white dice. You can pick up and reroll as many of the dice as you like as many times as you like, although you cannot reroll any dice that show a flame symbol. Once you are happy with your rolls you flip your truck back over so the timer stops training and you can spend your icons. Typically you spend these icons on cards, these then reward you with a combination of end game points, consumable rewards and permanent upgrades, such as always getting the green dice for free!

On top of this you can also spend some symbols to send your followers out into the wastes to claim territory. At the end of your turn the market of cards will then refill to full. In addition if you have rolled at least 2 flame symbols then some of the market cards burn, causing a faster throughput of cards. Should one of the 3 scoring cards appear then you evaluate who controls each of the 4 currently available territories. To win a territory you must have a majority on that space, areas with a tie and areas with no tokens on them simply get discarded. Much like cards territories are worth end game points, and many give you immediate rewards when you gain them. Once the third scoring card is drawn and each player has had the same number of turns the game ends and the player with the most points wins!

Amy’s Final Thoughts

With a lot of real-time dice rolling game it feels like victory goes to the most dexterous. The player who can pick up and roll the dice fastest will always win. But in Kero it's not as simple as that. You aren't racing with the other player to get the desired roll first, but instead rolling against a sand timer. It's up to you to decide how often that timer needs to be refilled vs using those same resources to buy the coloured dice for extra-potent turns. Sure, speed rolling is going to assist you, but you also need to be able to make snap decisions. The tokens that you need each round aren't always clear, and with the risk of flame symbols locking your dice you don't want to use more rerolls than you have to. At some point you have to make the call between the risk of rerolling vs the reward of potentially getting what you want. And making that decision while a sand timer is trickling down, that's the core gameplay of Kero.

Of course being a dice game luck is a key part of the game, and there's no avoiding that, sometimes you are going to roll the dice and have 3/5 'burn out'. Typically over the course of the game this averages out, but there are things that don't. Having a scoring card appear at the end of your turn often means that you have just adjusted your followers to be in prime position to claim territories, and with 3 scoring rounds it's natural that one player will get this advantage at least twice. If you want to try and avoid luck you can buy the cards that give you extra symbols every turn or grant you the coloured dice, but you can bet your opponent will be racing to get those too. There can definitely be an issue if one player gets too many of the upgrades resulting in them getting more reliable turns and so consistently doing better.

However once you are aware of these pitfalls you can usually avoid them, getting your followers out early prevents your opponent from being able to cheekily snipe them as they suspect the scoring card is appearing, and fighting over the upgrades is simple another element of the gameplay. Overall Kero does a great job of creating a real-time dice game that doesn't simply reward the speed rollers of the world. The game certainly stands out with it's bright colour scheme for a post apocalypse theme and the giant sand timer trucks are both thematic and practical.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

Kero is a game of rolling dice under time pressure. I don't find time pressure a problem in board games, and I particularly enjoy games with a timed phase followed by a resolution phase. In Kero, the amount of pressure you put yourself under is up to you. No feeling the pressure can often be a flaw for me, as I settle for a not so great result without giving myself time to assess quite how bad my roll was! There's a lot of information to take in whilst you watch that sand dwindle, and the fear of suddenly realising that your sand timer truck is empty is a real one!

After the dice rolling phase you do get the opportunity to carefully resolve things, which is exactly the tension release that is needed. I enjoy the different types of cards and how they nicely balance points with special abilities, which gives plenty of options to develop different strategies during the game, including linking the cards to the landscapes you might already have, or might be waiting for in the future. Early in the game, it always seems like a good strategy to pick up the small bonus tokens, for example the ones that give you a permanent extra dice. If you don't roll well in the early rounds, then it can mean that the other player is able to hoard a few of these tokens and then be at an advantage for the rest of the game. This is one of the ways that it can start to feel like luck isn't on your side.

Luck can also play a big factor in a number of other ways. When you need to fill up your other timer, it's a matter of luck how much sand you ultimately get. When it's approaching the end of a round and you've just placed some presence on landscape tiles, it's luck of the draw whether or not the scoring round card comes out, and your opponent has no opportunity for a comeback. Since dice and a random deck shuffle are inherent in so many aspects of the game, it can feel like luck, piled upon more luck and that will definitely be a turn off for some players. It's also a game that's definitely more fun to win than lose at. With that said, it's only a 20 minute game and it's a unique enough two player experience, that I don't mind playing a few times to even out the luck of who might some out on top. If real time is your friend and luck is not your foe, then you should take a look at Kero.

You Might Like...
  • In this real time game, you're not racing against each other, you're pushing your luck to see if you can roll better results.
  • The artwork and overall graphic design of the game are extremely eye-catching.
  • Saving up fuel tokens and bonuses for a big turn can be a very exciting experience.
You Might Not Like...
  • Real time isn't for everyone - some people might find it too stressful to make quick decisions.
  • The timing of the end of each round is random and there are definitely moments when it falls in favour of one player or the other.
  • The rich get richer.

The Verdict
7.5/10 We have really enjoyed playing Kero, even though it's a game full of luck. it's hard not be charmed by the art and presentation, but the game also uses some really good push your luck mechanics and has some interesting opportunities for combos and big, fun turns. If you don't like luck in your games, then Kero is unlikely to be for you, but if you're looking for some two-player dice rolling fun, then we'd certainly recommend you give it a try.

Kero was a review copy kindly provided to us by Hurrican Games.

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