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Subject: Kalah ~ Deranged Review. rss

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~Deranged Review~

Hello! Welcome to this Deranged Review. This time the word is nothing avian, but rather Kalah or one of its twins from the Mancala family. Honestly, they are all so similar you'd have to pay close attention to which game you're playing, or you might just make the wrong move.

I used to play Kalah on my old Nokia, where it was called Bantumi according to the pics, and have not played in the years following that Nokia's eventual demise. So when I saw an online variant the other day, I did a Kermit and said "What the hey".

I'll be giving grades on several aspects of the game, such as discussed here.
For ART, I look at the big picture, and how that picture looks. EASE covers ease of play and learning curve, FLEXIBILITY covers the amount of free will you have and is therefore linked to replayability. FUN might be deceptive, as it's a gut thang, but I'll try and specify in the text, and COMPONENTS should be self-explanatory. I'll not say a lot about rules and specifics - you can find those out for yourself.

The Game Itself: Putting seeds in holes
Pick up seeds, move along holes dropping seeds, (???), profit! Most seeds wins!

ART - - - - -

-This is not a valid category for this game. I have a cheap-butt plastic version myself, with cheap-butt plastic balls, but I've seen beautifully carved ornate wooden boards on pedestals, carved from a single piece of wood. You could also play it with shells and pits in the sand, or stones and pits in the sand, or sticks and... well you see where this is going. In short, the physical appearance of this game is not quantifiable. I'm sorry .

On the plus side, there's plenty of pretty pics to include in this review ^^.

-The mechanics of the game are among the easiest imaginable: pick up stones, drop one stone in each hole counterclockwise until you run out of stones. Skip your opponent's scoring hole, if needed. End in your scoring hole? Move again! End in an empty space? Steal your opponent's adjecent stones!

The game offers a surprising amount of depth with these few rules, so there's a bit of a learning curve (#1), but the gist of the game is incredibly easy.

-Due to its one-dimensional nature, gameplay is a bit limited; but like mentioned before the game has a surprising amount of depth nonetheless. You have options, like forcing the opponent to make a certain move (or lose a large amount of stones), linking multiple moves into one massive turn to put up to 17 stones in your pocket at once (#2), or trying to starve your opponent out of moves. All three of these are valid options, and you could switch tactics midstream to make either of these happen - or avoid any of these happening to you.

Oddly enough, the game's linear boardstate puts a premium on spatial defense, as seen in Chess and DVONN - but in a far more primal fashion, like it's an abstractification of abstract games, boiled down to the essence. It's not better or worse, just slimmer. Numbers and position offer much of the depth the game provides.

The game has been solved, but for people who like a bit of casual seedsowing, the game is certainly challenging enough. Also, the Pie Rule exists.

-Abstracts are usually less about fun and more about outthinking your opponent, and Kalah is a prime example of that. Being solved kinda lessens the amount of pleasure you can get by winning, but I had a 40-stone win yesterday that still made me feel really good .

COMPONENTS - - - - -
-Similar to the ART part above, this game's components really defy quantification. You could play with diamonds or cigarette butts, trained hedgehogs or (if you have that power) with interns, while watching from an upstairs window.

Eminently portable, in the sense that wherever you go, it's already there.
Plays quick and easy
Very elegant.

It's solved, and that's all there is to say about that.
Check components before you buy.

End result:
I rather like Kalah, at least the version I've been playing. It's ease and depth make my results kinda swingy, and I can't seem to get a handle on exactly why that is. In other words, I haven't solved it yet, so its still fun for me. It's soothing to play, and could very well take the place of a relaxing game of Chess in the park, on a sunny afternoon, with a nice cold beer (and you won't even have to worry about somebody stealing the pieces ) (#3).

As you can play it with whatever's at hand, you won't really need to buy your own copy, but a beautifully carved one would be an asset indeed.

It's worth a try, and there seem to be plenty of free options on the interwebs; just be sure which version you're playing because rules concerning capture do not translate well between games...

As usual, please give your opinion in the comments .

Oh, by the way, I am Deranged. I like to have fun with (and around) boardgames, and have played many of them over the years. I've been furniture in my FLGS for years ^^. I tend to like old games; well, I tend to like good games, most of which have been around for bit ^^. I've written 78 reviews as of yet, which you can access here, and a handful of random topics discussed here. If you want me to write a review for you or recommend me a game, there's this neat little envelop near my avatar!


#1: In fact, an experienced player will usually play rings around you the first few games.
#2: 6 4 2 3 1 1
#3: Unfortunately we've used up our yearly allocation of four sunny days for 2016, so its an early autumn for us. But next year...
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