[Cross posted from our blog: Margin of Victory]
I got an email from John a little while back that signaled a big step forward for our blog: our first review copy of a game! It’s certainly not our usual fare, but I kept an open mind. After all, I have said, "I’ll try any game once." So when John and his wife hosted a game day last weekend I was eager to give this game a spin.
John, his wife, my wife and I had just finished a game of Cuba (my hotel strategy beat out John’s cigar business) when out came Cosmic Karma. My wife took our 3 kids home for naptime so John, Sara, and I set up to try to attain "Cosmic Consciousness." I was pleasantly surprised at the fantastic components – especially the player boards. There are a lot of games that could benefit from recessed areas to hold the bits while playing. With young kids in my house, players keeping the gaming bits on their boards can be difficult so this was great. John read the rules to us (what kind of person hasn’t read the rules before introducing a new game? My fellow blogger, apparently.) and they seemed pretty straightforward.
My starting board is looking good.
John started rolled the dice and he immediately gained a ring – representative of positive karma. I was up next and rolled my way into a bead – negative karma. That made three since each player starts with two and I immediately gained a bad habit – ouch! Oh well, it was early, plenty of time to catch up I was sure. We took a few more turns and then we started to have some questions. After a couple of checks in the rulebook we answered these.
The choice cards were cool with positive and negative effects on them depending on which way you happened to draw it from the pile. My problem was that I seemed to pick those cards the wrong way. Every time. My opponents, on the other hand, had better luck and continued to avoid gaining too many negative karma beads. We all went around the board once – representing one life – and were in to the afterlife. I had 2 bad habits carry over to my next life while John was around neutral karma and Sara had one habit.
Working our way through the green sections of the board we ran into a dilemma with the bridges in Land #1. It was unclear (and the rules didn’t address it at all) as to whether or not you could move onto them by choice. After a brief discussion and a few more looks through the rulebook, we ruled that you could move on to them by the player’s choice and I finally gained my first (and only) positive karma ring of the game.
I then used my stock pile of Free Will cards. This allowed me to choose how many spaces I move instead of relying on the random rolls of dice. I was able to collect all of the pieces required for my Magic Wand, Magic Torch and Magic Sword. Now I would be able to cut out those bad habits (now at 3!) and move around the board at will – victory would be mine! As soon as I reincarnated for my third try at life on earth that is.
I've collected my tools, but Sarah is ready to sprint to the finish.
Unfortunately for me, Sara had managed to collect the three Master tools on her second life through cunning use of her free will cards. Some lucky rolls and card draws allowed her to achieve Cosmic Consciousness for the win.
Looking back, I probably should have used my Free Will movement cards earlier to avoid gaining any bad habits, but then again I wouldn’t have acquired my tools as easily then. I don’t feel like I had much control overall in the game. Especially during the first trip around the board where you have little control because you don’t have any tools and very few free will cards. It’s basically a roll and move with a few choices. I likened it to playing Candy Land with the "draw two cards and play one" variant. Yes you have a choice, but one option is obviously better so the decision is essentially made for you. The Free Will cards added more control but not much.
John comtemplates a higher level of consciousness while Sarah is a peace with her victory.
Overall, it was more fun than I expected, but that was mainly due to hearing John and myself say things like, "I’ve got my Magic Sword to cut out my bad habits" or "Why not use your Magic Wand to travel the Dharma Wheels?" I also enjoyed that the game spurred some interesting questions like, "Why is the goal of the game to finish with neutral karma and not positive karma?" The theme is there and integrated into the game very well, but as a game I think one play was good enough for me.