Tile placement games are some of the most visually satisfying games that you can play. There's the tactile pleasure of feeling the cardboard in your hand, and there's the eye-candy of the tiles slowly forming into some type of picture. Karuba, from HABA, is a tile placement game that has a racing element and a bingo mechanism. It plays 2-4 players, ages 8+. It takes approximately 30 minutes to play and retails for $35.
1. Give each player an Island, four Adventurers in the four different colors, four Temples in the four different colors, and the 36 Jungle tiles with the same color on the back.
2. Cooperatively decide where to place the Adventurers and Temples on the Island. Adventurers are placed on the beach side of the Island and Temples are placed on the jungle side. (Note: The Temple and Adventurer of the same color must be a minimum of three numbers distance apart, and once all are placed, everyone's Island will be identical.)
3. Put the Crystals and Gold Nuggets in the middle of the table, as well as the Temple Treasures according to the number of players.
4. Have one player (known as the Expedition Leader) shuffle his Jungle tiles face down and form a stack to draw from. All other players can arrange their Jungle tiles around their Island in numeric order for easy finding.
Game Play - The Expedition Leader reveals the topmost tile of their stack and calls out the number. All players look for that tile. They may then play take one of two actions:
1. Play the tile on their Island by placing it on an open space with the number being in the upper-left hand corner. (Note: If a tile has a Crystal or a Gold Nugget on it, place one on the tile.)
2. Discard tile and move Adventurer a number of steps equal to or less than the number of paths on the discarded tile. (Note: You can only move one Adventurer per turn, and if you want him to collect a Crystal or Gold Nugget, he must end his move on that tile.)
When an Adventurer reaches a Temple, he collects the highest valued Temple Treasure of that color. The game ends when one player gets all their Adventurers to their respective Temples or all the Jungle tiles are called. Everyone adds up their Temple Treasures and collected Crystals (1 point each) and Gold Nuggets (2 points each) and the most points win.
Karuba is a fun game for the whole family. On the surface, it seems like a very light game with the bingo-calling mechanic. However, there is are at least three different elements of strategy in this game. The first one is deciding where to play the tile, as everyone can play their tiles in different places. The second bit of strategy is deciding which tiles to discard to move. You don't want to waste movement, if possible, but sometimes you have no choice. The last bit of strategy is deciding whether or not you are going to try and pick up as many crystals and gold nuggets as possible, instead of being the first one to get to certain temples. There are other bits of strategy that will pop up, like should I move each of my adventurers a little, or should I focus solely on one first and then another, and possibly abandon one altogether?
It is no wonder this game was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres in 2016. The game is casual enough that you can introduce it to anyone, but has enough meat on its bones that it will provide enough depth for a somewhat more serious gamer. This is easily one of my wife's favorite games, so I know that this game will be in my collection for a long time. I also know that it will get a lot of playing time around the holidays when we get together with other family members, who aren't as into gaming as I am.