Friday, June 22, 2012

#31: Agricola (Mark's 100 - 2012)

Agricola

Mark's Ranking
  • 2012: 31st
  • 2010: 8th
  • 2005: prior to publication
  • rank: 2
  • rating: 8.25
Print Status
  • in print
Why It's On The List
  • The theme - farming in medieval times - shouldn't be terrifically compelling (why do I care about the travails of a farmer?)... and yet the game system makes you sweat every purchase, every family member you send out to collect wood or stone or to get a job. .
Tips & Tricks:
    • I don't pretend to have a decent grasp on Agricola strategy - particularly when playing with 4-5 players. At the same time, it's important to remember that you don't have to do well at everything - but blowing off a scoring category completely must be compensated by complete success in other categories.
    • There's a long-winded diatribe in me waiting to get out on this next tip: don't be "super-gamer" and dismiss the badly named "family game" (the 'simpler' version of Agricola). I don't care how experienced you are as a gamer, there's so much going on that it's worth playing this version multiple times for two reasons: (a) it's a good game w/out the cards!, and (b) you'll play the version with Minor Improvements & Occupations much better if you understand how everything works together..
    Extras
    • This is a game where adding players to the mix adds substantially to the length of play - so, while the game works very well with five players (and even has cards that are specific to that number), I like it best with two or three players. 
    • The Farmers of the Moor expansion is enjoyable, but does increase the complexity of the game another step. On the other hand, I'm not sold on the extra decks - I find the oddball humor to be jarring & some of the cards to have some serious power creep..

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

    #32: Catacombs (Mark's 100 - 2012)

    Catacombs

    Mark's Ranking
    • 2012: 32nd
    • 2010: 54th
    • 2005: prior to publication
    • rank: 278
    • rating: 7.38
    Print Status
    • in print
    Why It's On The List
    • When you combine the dungeon crawling joys of Descent: Journeys in the Dark with the flicking goodness of Carabande… then subtract 3+ hours worth of playing time – voila! you have Catacombs. It’s a one hour romp through a dungeon with combat resolved via wooden discs.
    Tips & Tricks:
      • Like most dungeon-mastered board games, the person playing the Catacomb Lord should attempt not only to play well but also work to make sure that everyone is having a good time. In fact, as the expansions have ramped up the power level of the Catacomb Lord and the various monsters, we've found that the most skilled player probably should NOT be the bad guy to allow the heroes a chance to win.
      • As in any game with character-driven powers, remember to play to your character's strengths - magic-users should not be charging into melee!.
      Extras
      • One of the great joys of the Catacombs game system is that it works equally well with two, three, four or five players... one player is the Catacomb Lord and the other players simply divvy up the heroes. 
      • There are now three expansions for Catacombs: the Caverns of Soloth (which adds new monsters, rooms & Catacomb Lords), Dark Passageways (a deck of cards that add both benefits & horrors to the rooms), and Horde of Vermin (which adds more new monsters, including a bunch of tiny monsters like rats & snakes). All of them are very good - though if I was only going to buy one, I'd buy Caverns of Soloth.

      Wednesday, June 20, 2012

      #33: Big City (Mark's 100 - 2012)

      Big City

      Mark's Ranking
      • 2012: 33rd
      • 2010: 23rd
      • 2005: 22nd
      • appeared on all three lists
      • rank: 543
      • rating: 6.93
      Print Status
      • very, very OOP
      Why It's On The List
      • There have been a lot of attempts to make city-building games - but I think Big City still reigns supreme. Primarily, that's because of two things: lightning fast gameplay and unbelievably awesome plastic components.
      Tips & Tricks:
        • You MUST play aggressively to win - manipulation of the streetcar line is particularly important. (We have, by the way, always used the "can only play off the ends of the streetcar line" variant - seems to make more sense thematically.)
        • The game allows you to see what neighborhood "deeds" your opponents are collecting - use that information to your benefit!
        • While the Shopping Center is a big point bump, the effort to "set the table" in order to build it can cost a number of unfruitful turns.
        Extras
        • Sadly, it looks like Valley Games will not be reprinting Big City - it's been SIX years since they announced their plans and there's some rumbling that they're trying to sell the reprint rights to someone else. 
        • While components are provided for up to five players, I think the sweet spot for the game is 2-3 players. Four & five "work" just fine - but they are pretty chaotic. Two or three offers a nice level of control.
        •  Here's a pretty extensive post I wrote about Big City for my blog aka pastor guy (and which originally appeared on my Game Central Station website).
        • Here's what I wrote about Big City for The One Hundred.

        Tuesday, June 19, 2012

        #34: Lost Valley (Mark's 100 - 2012)

        Lost Valley

        Mark's Ranking
        • 2012: 34th
        • 2010: 20th
        • 2005: did not appear
        • rank: 538
        • rating: 6.91
        Print Status
        • OOP
        Why It's On The List
        • A very cool exploration/gold mining game with mean & tricky heart - if you can't accept that stuff you build will be used by others to mess you over, you don't need to be playing this game..
        Tips & Tricks:
          • You can not do everything - although it is legal to own both a canoe & a horse - and there's a tipping point in the game where spending gold is actually spending away your chance at winning. One of the important skills is figuring out when you just need to ride out the strategy you've chosen, even if the terrain isn't particularly friendly.
          • As much as I want it to work for 3 players, I think about half of our three player games end up with the player who goes "solo" (doesn't travel the same side of the river as the other players) ends up winning - it's easier not to fight. The only way to avoid this is to either (a) cooperate w/the guy on the same side of the river as you to race each other, or (b) only play with four players.
          • Watch the timer - a player with a substantial enough lead in gold & a decent mode of transportation is highly motivated to find the source of the river & start that timer rolling.
          Extras
          • There are some great player aids up on the Geek - and it's probably required for you to download & read the extensive FAQ..

          Monday, June 18, 2012

          #35: Gnadenlos! (Mark's 100 - 2012)

          Gnadenlos!

          Mark's Ranking
          • 2012: 35th
          • 2010: 63rd
          • 2005: 37th
          • appeared on all three lists
          • rank: 3231
          • rating: 5.98
          Print Status
          • OOP
          Why It's On The List
          • Back to back Klaus Teuber designs (and they're not the only Teuber designs on the list)... this time around, he's managed to make a Wild West themed Euro game that uses a press your luck element to create some really great suspense.
          Tips & Tricks:
            • Poker is where you can lose the most ground if you're pushing to the front - make sure you've got a poker player in your hand.
            • The game is shorter than you first anticipate... be ready for it end slightly quicker than you'd imagine the first time you play
            • Just because everyone else is spending big money does NOT mean you need to spend big money - payday is rough if you've got a lot of notes out there.
            Extras
            • Another game that was never published in English - but the components are language neutral.
            • One nice thing - it will NEVER go longer than 45 minutes (there are three different game "timers" - and at least one of them is guaranteed to go off by that time).
            • Here's what I wrote about Gnadenlos! for The One Hundred.

            Sunday, June 17, 2012

            #36: Anno 1701: Das Brettspiel (Mark's 100 - 2012)

            Anno 1701: Das Brettspiel

            Mark's Ranking
            • 2012: 36th
            • 2010: 16th
            • 2005: prior to publication
            • rank: 1756
            • rating: 6.84
            Print Status
            • OOP
            Why It's On The List
            • While I didn't like Klaus Teuber's attempt to make Anno 1503 deeper via an expansion - I thought it was bloated & made the game much too long - I think his 2nd attempt at a similar game was very, very successful. And that's Anno 1701, which feels like a cross between The Settlers of Catan & Anno 1503.
            Tips & Tricks:
              • There are lots of options to harvest victory points (which can win you the game) - but you can't try to do all of them.
              • The island tile sets are nearly identical - the brown ones are just farther from the starting point.
              Extras
              • Sadly, this game has never been published in English - there are some translation issues but they shouldn't be an insurmountable barrier.
              • Not liking Settlers of Catan does not necessarily mean you'll dislike Anno 1701 - give it a try!.

              Saturday, June 16, 2012

              #37: Tannhauser (Mark's 100 - 2012)

              Tannhauser

              Mark's Ranking
              • 2012: 37th
              • 2010: 98th
              • 2005: prior to publication
              • rank: 1065
              • rating: 6.46
              Print Status
              • in print
              Why It's On The List
              • It's like Hellboy, Harry Turtledove & Halo rolled into one... a plethora of pre-painted minis coupled with a terrific mapboard system for line of sight, all set in a a crazy alt-history universe.
              Tips & Tricks:
                • You MUST get the Revised Rules... they substantially improve the game (and all of the most recent expansions are designed for the Revised Rules.).
                • Make sure you understand the strengths & weaknesses of the character(s) you control - just like a RPG, you need to play the character, not simply your favorite style of combat.
                Extras
                • The expansions are not strictly necessary - but they sure are nifty. I'm really enjoying the new Shogunate faction. (The picture above is a mix of various factions & expansions.)
                • There are two novels set in the alt-history universe of Tannhauser - one of which has not yet been published.
                • Here's what I wrote about Tannhauser for my 2010 Top 100 list.

                Friday, June 15, 2012

                We'll Be There in Less Than Six Months...





                Cars Land opens to the public today... I can't wait!

                #38: Stimmt So! (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                Stimmt So!

                Mark's Ranking
                • 2012: 38th
                • 2010: 53rd
                • 2005: 26th
                • appeared on all three lists
                • rank: 1915
                • rating: 6.54
                Print Status
                • reprinted as Alhambra: The Card Game
                Why It's On The List
                • A nifty stock market game (shades of Acquire) with four kinds of currency used to buy the various stocks. Due to the very straightforward decisions (do I buy stock or take cash?), it moves along at a brisk pace even with a full table of six players.
                Tips & Tricks:
                  • You can't collect every type of stock & win - you must specialize.
                  • Forcing ties cuts the value of the stock to the tied players - sometimes, you can buy up a single stock to keep your opponent in check..
                  Extras
                  • I'm on the record in multiple places how much I dislike the re-imagining of this game as the Spiel des Jahres-winning Alhambra. The addition of the walls both slow the game down and make it more difficult to fight for particular types of stock (as you must factor in the configuration of the wall).
                  • I have not played the newest version of this game, Alhambra: The Card Game. Evidently, the changes are ones we'd already made to Stimmt So! as variants from Alhambra..
                  • Here's what I wrote about Stimmt So! for The One Hundred.

                  Thursday, June 14, 2012

                  #39: Mystery Rummy: Al Capone & the Chicago Underworld (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                  Mystery Rummy: Al Capone & the Chicago Underworld

                  Mark's Ranking
                  • 2012: 39th
                  • 2010: 55th
                  • 2005: 54th
                  • appeared on all three lists
                  • rank: 889
                  • rating: 6.89
                  Print Status
                  • out of print
                  Why It's On The List
                  • This is my favorite of the Mystery Rummy series... mostly because it feels a bit like Canasta (possibly my favorite standard deck card game) in how difficult it is to hide key cards from your opponent(s).
                  Tips & Tricks:
                    • In my opinion, this is the easiest of the Mystery Rummy games to teach to non-gamers.
                    • While MR: Al Capone is a great 2-handed game and a wonderful partnership game, it drags on way too long with three players.
                    Extras
                    • While Al Capone is out of print, you can still find copies of Jack the Ripper (probably the most difficult of the games to teach) and Jekyll & Hyde (just for 2 players) available. (You can also find Bonnie & Clyde, but the buzz on that one was bad enough to keep me from trying it.)
                    • Wyatt Earp is a cousin to this series of games & is very enjoyable as well.
                    • Sadly, my second favorite version of this system, Murder in the Rue Morgue, is also out of print.
                    • Here's what I wrote about the Mystery Rummy series for The One Hundred.

                    Wednesday, June 13, 2012

                    #40: Ausgebremst (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                    Ausgebremst

                    Mark's Ranking
                    • 2012: 40th
                    • 2010: 21st
                    • 2005: 39th
                    • appeared on all three lists
                    • rank: 1670
                    • rating: 6.97
                    Print Status
                    • very OOP
                    Why It's On The List
                    • This redesign takes the card-based movement system from Ave Caesar (and Q-Jet) and injects some interesting decisions into the mix - you can tune your deck (fast, average or slow) as well as use your four 'gear' piles to give you more control - and there are 8 tracks included in the box.
                    Tips & Tricks:
                      • You MUST pay attention - particularly on the longer tracks, you have little or no leeway to get forced to the outside.
                      •  Don't play this game if you have trouble with people blocking your way... well, let me rephrase that - "gleefully blocking your way."
                      Extras
                      • The game is better with more players (4-5 is good but 6 is best) and when you play three races and accumulate racing points based on your finishing position.
                      • The picture above is from my copy, where I've replaced the not-very-attractive cardboard standee race cars with Micro Machines.
                      • Here's what I wrote about Ausgebremst for The One Hundred.

                      Tuesday, June 12, 2012

                      #41: Smarty Party (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                      Smarty Party

                      Mark's Ranking
                      • 2012: 41st
                      • 2010: 46th
                      • 2005: 15th
                      • appeared on all three lists
                      • rank: 1148
                      • rating: 6.69
                      Print Status
                      • in print
                      Why It's On The List
                      • No holds barred, this is my favorite "party" game - it's got enough trivia to please trivia buffs... but the whole "one answer at a time" mechanic makes it work for people who don't carry around lots of useless knowledge in their heads.
                      Tips & Tricks:
                        • We start all the pawns one space in front of START - that way, a 'judge' who makes his bet and/or a person who ends up with the Smarty Pants and no chips both still get a reward.
                        Extras
                        • There's another variant we like... a 'judge' who's feeling lucky (or smart) can "double down" on his yes/no bet - either gaining two spaces or losing them.
                        • We've been pleasantly surprised that with the addition of two sets of expansion cards, we've been able to take enough time with the game to come back to the original cards "fresh"... and sadly make the identical mistakes we made a couple of years ago in our guesses.
                        • Here's what I wrote about Smarty Party for The One Hundred.

                        Monday, June 11, 2012

                        #42: Entdecker (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                        Entdecker

                        Mark's Ranking
                        • 2012: 42nd
                        • 2010: 29th
                        • 2005: 11th
                        • appeared on all three lists
                        • rank: 1042
                        • rating: 6.52
                        Print Status
                        • extremely OOP
                        Why It's On The List
                        • First, I need to note that I'm talking about the original Goldsieber edition of Entdecker, not the mess that Klaus Teuber created when he attempted to create a more gamer-friendly version for Kosmos/Mayfair. My beloved original game is a family-friendly exploration game with beautiful components and a board that develops in different ways each time you play.
                        Tips & Tricks:
                          • In most games, cash is pretty tight - it can be useful to "lay off" for a turn (place one tile, place one scout) in order to save some money to make a big play in a future turn..
                          • The event tiles are roughly 50% good/50% bad... you don't need to count tiles, but it's good to know if a bunch of the good stuff comes out early so you can avoid taking them (and vice versa).
                          Extras
                          • My specific problems with Entdecker: Exploring New Horizons: the hut system, the preset mountains on the board, the increased building costs from the various edges.
                          • There are a number of home-grown variants out there for Entdecker: the Manu variant was my favorite for a long time... though that's been eclipsed by Mark Johnson's mash-up of the best of the two games. Both are available in a very nice pdf file compiled by Shawn Low.
                          • Klaus Teuber also created a small box spin-off game (Oceania) which I enjoyed but not enough to keep from trading it away. As well, there are 2 other "Entdecker" games (and a promised but never published 3rd game) that I really like - but you'll hear more about those farther down in my list.
                          • Here's what I wrote about Entdecker for The One Hundred.

                          Sunday, June 10, 2012

                          #43: Fresco (Mark's 100 - 2012)





                          Fresco

                          Mark's Ranking
                          • 2012: 43rd
                          • 2010: did not appear
                          • 2005: prior to publication
                          • rank: 128
                          • rating: 7.43
                          Print Status
                          • in print
                          Why It's On The List
                          • Fresco is a lovely worker-placement game that has three endearing qualities: first, it has an interesting theme; second, pretty much every mechanic in the game can be explained in terms of that theme... and finally, it does not seem to ever bog down with AP (analysis paralysis) like some other worker-placement games.
                          Tips & Tricks:
                            • You can play Fresco as a "sandbox" game (where you don't pay much attention to what other players are doing), but to really excel at the game, you must watch carefully to see what paints are highly desired and whether or not you'll have multiple options if you go later in the turn order.
                            • One of the trickiest decisions in the game is manipulating the turn order by taking less points.
                            Extras
                            • The picture with this post is Fresco set up with most of the expansions.
                            • Here's my take on the expansions: the portrait cards & paint mixing tiles (included in the original game) are great ideas & should be used from the start with gamers. The extra paint colors (also included in the original game) add some interesting tactical decisions but add to the length of the game. The gold leaf (in the large expansion box) is a nice touch that increases the score, but I think it works best when coupled with the glaziers (also included in the large expansion box) to offer different scoring pathways to pursue. The wishing well (the last in the large expansion box) is pretty random & non-essential.
                            • There are two other expansions published - a small giveaway called The Bishop's Favor (which I like) and an incredibly over-priced set of "secret" bonuses called The Scrolls (which would like better if it wasn't so expensive).

                            Saturday, June 09, 2012

                            #44: Sindbad (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                            Sindbad

                            Mark's Ranking
                            • 2012: 44th
                            • 2010: 75th
                            • 2005: 46th
                            • appeared on all three lists
                            • rank: 4110
                            • rating: 6.15
                            Print Status
                            • way out of print (but there is a new copy on BGG for $20!)
                            Why It's On The List
                            • It's an adventure game with some similarities in theme & style to Tales of the Arabian Nights... and it's also an investment/pickup & deliver game, where bringing home loads of high-quality ivory, gems & the like helps propel you to victory.
                            Tips & Tricks:
                              • Wisely using your adventure cards to make moves is the key to winning the game... ignoring them & just rolling the die is a recipe for disaster..
                              Extras
                              • I created an "inheritance" variant - the simplest version is posted on the Geek. (Basically, if you die, any money you've 'banked' at Basra stays with you... your 'new' pawn inherited it from his adventuring uncle.)
                              • I need to write up my more complicated version & post it - it charges an estate tax on larger amounts banked in Basra when you die.
                              • Here's what I wrote about Sindbad for The One Hundred.

                              Friday, June 08, 2012

                              #45: Vegas Showdown (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                              Vegas Showdown

                              Mark's Ranking
                              • 2012: 45th
                              • 2010: 35th
                              • 2005: did not appear
                              • rank: 185
                              • rating: 7.27
                              Print Status
                              • out of print
                              Why It's On The List
                              • This is the best implementation of the climbing auction mechanic first seen in Evo, then in the (excruciating, IMHO) Amun-Re, and most recently in 20th Century. I also like the need to plan what rooms you'll add to your Vegas resort... and in what order to build them.
                              Tips & Tricks:
                                • There are a variety of winning building configurations/mixes - your mission is to choose the one that best dodges what other players are doing... .
                                • ...and then make it expensive for other players to get their "key" rooms.
                                Extras
                                • While the graphics for this one are generally good, I do wish the player boards had been mounted. If someone reprints this (which would be a great idea, btw), they should take care of that AND of adding some tokens in to track "extra" victory points. (We use glass beads to track points that are not found on the player boards - that way, you can check & make sure you haven't missed any points during the game.).

                                Thursday, June 07, 2012

                                #46: Innovation (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                                Innovation

                                Mark's Ranking
                                • 2012: 46th
                                • 2010: did not appear
                                • 2005: prior to publication
                                • rank: 155
                                • rating: 7.35
                                Print Status
                                • in print
                                Why It's On The List
                                • Yes, I'll be the first to admit there can be some wild swings of luck - some card combos are unbelievable in their massive synergy - but one of the real joys of the game is discovering those, whether you get to do it yourself or watch someone else find the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And the card-splaying mechanic is just cool.
                                Tips & Tricks:
                                  • One of the great temptations in Innovation is the "I need to do something IMPORTANT every turn" longing... it can talk you into cranking up a Dogma action that helps others more than it helps you. Watch out.
                                  • I can not recommend the expansion (Echoes of the Past) highly enough - not only does it introduce some nifty new mechanics to the game (echoes, forecasts & bonuses) but they also finally put all of the special wonder info on the new player mat.
                                  • The game is very good with 2-3 players... if you want to play with 4, you should use the partnership rules - they're a lot of fun.
                                  Extras
                                  • There are new rules for how to integrate the expansion cards into the game... evidently, it is to help with upcoming expansion plans. While I didn't have any problems (except a lengthy set-up/deck shuffling issue) with the original expansion rules, these work great and reduce set-up time.
                                  • Speaking of expansions, Figures in the Sand is due for Essen 2012!

                                  Wednesday, June 06, 2012

                                  #47: Expedition (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                                  Expedition

                                  Mark's Ranking
                                  • 2012: 47th
                                  • 2010: 19th
                                  • 2005: 8th
                                  • appeared on all three lists
                                  • rank: 662
                                  • rating: 6.94
                                  Print Status
                                  • out of print
                                  Why It's On The List
                                  • I love the expedition mechanic at the heart of the game. There's nothing quite like it... (well, this isn't altogether true - but look in the Extras for more on that.)
                                  Tips & Tricks:
                                    • Hadn't thought about this until now, but the last three games on my top 100 list (Rum & Pirates, Around the World in 80 Days & Expedition) all share a similar mechanic - a relatively scarce currency that aids you in game play and must be managed carefully.
                                    • Watch the number of arrows left in each expedition - other players can run them out to keep you from certain sections of the board.
                                    • There are a variety of options in how loops work - we like the "place anywhere on the loop" one - but you should give them all a try.
                                    • While the game will work with 2-6 players, it's best with 2-3.
                                    Extras
                                    • The designer (Wolfgang Kramer) actually revised his classic Ravensburger game (Wildlife Adventure) which became Expedition - and then he gave it a big tweak and turned it into a children's game (Schatzsucher). Sadly, I haven't played either of  them..
                                    • There were some rules changes for National Geographic Expedition edition - I only played once but I didn't like them. Frustratingly, I don't remember what I didn't like!
                                    • Here's what I wrote about Expedition for The One Hundred

                                    Tuesday, June 05, 2012

                                    #48: Around the World in 80 Days (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                                    Around the World in 80 Days

                                    Mark's Ranking
                                    • 2012: 48th
                                    • 2010: 76th
                                    • 2005: did not appear
                                    • rank: 776
                                    • rating: 6.58
                                    Print Status
                                    • out of print (but pretty easy to find a copy on BGG)
                                    Why It's On The List
                                    • another lovely implementation of theme (getting from place to place while using time wisely) that allows for both hare & tortoise strategies to play out
                                    Tips & Tricks:
                                      • Buying cards at the right time is as valuable as getting re-rolls... use your coins wisely.
                                      • Use the detective not only to keep people from moving forward but also to force them to move in ways that cost them time.
                                      • On the flip side, don't let the appearance of the detective rush you into decisions that will cost you more time than the penalty for ending your turn with him.
                                      Extras
                                      • There is another enjoyable game on the same theme from Wolfgang Kramer - Around the World in 80 Days - which has a different but also unusual movement mechanic..
                                      • Six players is a little much in this game - but it works. I like it best with 3-5 players.

                                      Monday, June 04, 2012

                                      #49: Rum & Pirates (Mark's 100 - 2012)


                                      Rum & Pirates

                                      Mark's Ranking
                                      • 2012: 49th
                                      • 2010: 61st
                                      • 2005: prior to publication
                                      • rank: 1065
                                      • rating: 6.64
                                      Print Status
                                      • out of print (but pretty easy to find a copy on BGG)
                                      Why It's On The List
                                      • a dice game with opportunities to manage your risks... and a really neat movement mechanic that makes for some great board play... and a nicely done theme
                                      Tips & Tricks:
                                        • If you can pull it off, always have a coin so you can get in on tavern runs.
                                        • Don't forget you can pay a coin to skip your turn!
                                        • Extra sailors are the key to winning - don't pass them up & don't set other players up to get them easily.
                                        Extras
                                        • Rum & Pirates is my favorite Stefan Feld game... which is funny, because for most hardcore gamers, it's the one they like the least.
                                        • If you've got five players who are not prone to downtime, it's a great game. Otherwise, stick to 3-4 players on this one.

                                        Friday, June 01, 2012

                                        Game Review: Kalimambo

                                        • Designer:  Antoino Scrittore
                                        • Publisher:  Zoch Verlag
                                        • Time:  30 minutes 
                                        • Ages:  10 and up 
                                        • # of players:  3-7 
                                        • Times Played: 2 plays

                                        See, we’re all following around this unknown species of animal named Kali (who looks suspiciously like the black Gulo pawn from Gulo Gulo) through the wilds of Africa… and evidently participating in a giant line dance – hence the game title, Kalimambo. Two problems present themselves: piles of elephant poop scattered about the savannah… and Kali’s buddy, the rhino, who has decided to chase us and “tag” the last person in line.

                                        Theme is not really the strong point of Kalimambo – though there’s some cute animal art and the usual delightful Zoch wooden pieces. This is a delightful take on the 6 Nimmt/Category 5 mechanic…

                                        …except this time around, the numbers on the cards (each player has an identical deck numbered 0-11) indicate only the order in which your explorer will move. (Evidently, these explorers are weighted down with carry-on luggage, extra supplies and/or the cares of the world – they simply move to the front of the mambo line & stop, exhausted by their arduous journey.) If you play your zero card, you don’t move… and if two (or more) explorers play the same number, only the one closest to the end of the mambo line moves. 

                                        Poop/point avoidance is the name of the game here – it costs you 3 points (plus you smell really bad) if you step in/land on a pile of elephant dung.

                                        You’d also like to avoid your posterior meeting up close & personal with Kali’s buddy – because when the explorer directly in front of the rhino picks up his brightly-colored beverage with a paper umbrella (not actually a component in the game – but you get the idea) and gets jiggy with it to the front of the line, the rhino charges forward until he’s skids to a stop directly behind the next player in line. The explorer who is now a hood ornament for the rhino loses 1 point for every space that the rhino moved.

                                        Kali, the party planner/repurposed Gulo Gulo figure/unspecified animal most likely to be wearing a lampshade, may be dancing with us (he has his own deck of numbered cards) but he’s the host – so he doesn’t step in the poop or have a horn print tattooed on his bottom. That honor goes to the player who played the lowest numbered card in the round.

                                        Kalimambo is just 12 rounds long – enough to play out your entire deck – and breezes by in a delightful 15 minutes or so. It’s not going to reveal any hidden depths with multiple plays – but it is certainly going to bring a great deal of laughter & fun to your gaming table – especially if you play with 5-7 players on a regular basis. It also looks to be extremely kid-friendly.

                                        A caveat: I don’t think the game would be nearly as much fun with 3-4 players… in fact, I think it would really lose some of the delightful silliness when you could “math” out the best move.
                                        A challenge: off the top of my head, I can think of three Zoch games which center around poop: Duckling Dancin’ (the expansion to Chicken Cha Cha), Los Mampfos, and now Kalimambo. I am sure there are more – enlighten me!

                                        This game review originally appeared on the Opinionated Gamers website.