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Subject: Quick review of Karuba rss

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Laurentiu Cristofor
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Trying a different review format, whose goal is to provide a concise insight into the game.

Game overview

The core idea of Karuba is that of the old game PipeMan. You have a grid with an entry pipe and an exit pipe and you get various pipe pieces that you need to place on the board to complete a pipe section before the water starts flowing. In itself, this game was a variation on Tetris, in that you got a random sequence of pieces and you tried to lay them out in the best way.

Karuba builds on this idea by challenging you to make 4 connections on a grid board. 4 Explorer pieces mark the start of each connection and 4 Temples mark the corresponding destinations - the players will decide their placement early on and there are some simple restrictions on how they can be placed.

All players share the same set of 36 tiles showing various connections. All players share the same initial configuration of Explorers and Temples, so everyone will work in parallel on the same problem, using the same pieces.

One player will mix up their tiles (in 4 players; with less players, they can just mix an extra set of tiles) and then they'll uncover one tile each turn and call its number, after which all players simultaneously choose the way to play that tile from their set. Tiles can be played in 2 ways: either by placing them on an available space on the grid (note that the tiles cannot be rotated but must be played in a single orientation only) or by discarding them and moving one (and only one) Explorer as many spaces as there are paths exiting the tile.

Some tiles carry symbols showing a gem or a gold piece. When they are played on the grid, a corresponding gem or gold bit is placed on them. Explorers can pick these bits during their movement, but then they must stop their movement when they do so. When an Explorer reaches their corresponding Temple, they get the bonus points for reaching that Temple and they can no longer move. As expected, reaching a Temple first will grant more points, but because the game turns are simultaneous, players reaching a Temple in the same turn will get the same points - the players picking the lower Temple prize tiles will just get additional gems to cover the difference from the player that picked the highest prize tile during that turn.

The turn during which the tiles were exhausted or during which a player took all their Explorers to their Temples is the last turn. Players sum up their gems (1 point), gold (2 points), and Temple prize tiles and the highest score wins.

Very simple.

Caveat: Rules that other reviewers got wrong

I've seen some reviews that implied that the following can be done. They cannot!

- you cannot split movement points between two Explorers. You can only move 1 Explorer at a time.
- you cannot place a tile over an existing tile - a badly placed tile cannot be replaced.

The good

- The rules are simpler than they look in the manual and they're not looking complicated even there - it's very easy to teach this game to new players.
- The Tetris/PipeMan element of the game is fun - hard not to be when it's such a classic concept. Some may even find it addictive.
- Players start from an even footing. There is no luck in initial setup.
- Play is simultaneous, so the game can be played very fast. You can still have to deal with a player that takes a bit longer to place their tile, but there's only so many options they have, so there's never any real slowdown.

The bad

- In 4 players, one player needs to shuffle their tiles and hence will have less visibility into the remaining tiles. This is not a problem with less players, but it would have been nice if the game provided another solution for drawing tiles - for example, an extra set of cards numbered 1-36.
- Organizing the 36 tiles between games takes time. You can start with them sorted, but they'll get spread out during a game so at its end you'll have to organize them again before you can play another game. Or you can keep them mixed up and waste time finding tile #24 in your pile. This may sound like a minor complaint, but given how fast the game plays, this downtime between plays is noticeable.
- There is nothing in the game that prevents one player from copying the moves of another player for as long as they want. If turns were not simultaneous, the first player might have had an advantage (in claiming a Temple prize tile first, for example), but with simultaneous turns, one player can achieve the same result as another player by simply copying their actions.

The neutral

These points may be seen as good or bad depending on personal preferences.

- There is not much player interaction. You may have to watch out the other players to see how far away they are from reaching Temples with their Explorers, but that's about it in terms of how another player can impact you.
- There is not much difference between the rewards for reaching Temples.

Miscellaneous thoughts

Karuba offers an interesting form of luck derived from the placement choices that players make early on. What may look as a reasonable approach could turn out to be disastrous if you were counting on a certain type of tile that the game just doesn't want to bring up. If you have played Tetris, you know this experience.

I'm not going to provide a personal assessment for such quick reviews. The goal here is not to provide a definitive evaluation, but to provide enough information for readers to determine if they would be interested to explore this game further or not. Hope this helps.
 
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Marlon Nelson
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Laurentiu wrote:
In 4 players, one player needs to shuffle their tiles and hence will have less visibility into the remaining tiles. This is not a problem with less players,


How does fewer players improve this situation?
 
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Laurentiu Cristofor
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mdn73 wrote:
Laurentiu wrote:
In 4 players, one player needs to shuffle their tiles and hence will have less visibility into the remaining tiles. This is not a problem with less players,


How does fewer players improve this situation?


You can use the tiles of the 4th player. Everyone else can keep their tiles face up so they can see what's left in play.
 
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Russell Howell                (What's Right?) (What's Wrong?)        
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Laurentiu wrote:
The bad

- In 4 players, one player needs to shuffle their tiles and hence will have less visibility into the remaining tiles. This is not a problem with less players, but it would have been nice if the game provided another solution for drawing tiles - for example, an extra set of cards numbered 1-36.


Thread: Karuba Helper Web App

Yes, this does mean that someone will need a computer or a cell phone, but it does alleviate this issue mentioned and doesn't cost anything.

Direct Link: Karuba Helper Web App
 
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Laurentiu Cristofor
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badgeguy wrote:

Yes, this does mean that someone will need a computer or a cell phone, but it does alleviate this issue mentioned and doesn't cost anything.

Direct Link: Karuba Helper Web App


Or you can just buy a deck of cards, take 36 of them, number them, and use them for this purpose.

Or if you have some other game that numbers cards already, you could just use those. I have a few war games that number their card decks, for example.

My point, however, was not that I can't solve this problem by going outside the game box, but that the game poses this problem.
 
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