Karuba was nominated for a Spiel des Jahres award in 2016, was it worth it’s nomination a year later?
Karuba is a tile-based game for 2 – 4 players, where you race to guide an expedition team into the unknown jungle and discover the best route along the jungle trails to find hidden treasures. But you need to be quick and pay attention to the other players as it is the fastest players who will secure the most valuable treasures from the temples.
So how do we explore and find our way through the jungle? Well, each player gets their own stack of tiles and their own rather empty player board with a 5×6 grid on it representing the island of Karuba and the unknown jungle within. Four explorers of different colours are placed along one side by the beach, and placed on the other half by the jungle are four corresponding temples of each colour. The goal is to find the best path to get each explorer to the same coloured temple quickest to get the most valuable treasure.
One player is nominated as ‘the caller’, and the rest of the players lay their tiles face up around their board, numbered from 1 to 36. ‘The caller’, acting as some kind of a bingo caller, draws blind from their stack of tiles and calls out the number on the tile for all players to find. Everyone then can either place it anywhere onto their island player board, or discard it to move one of your explorers along previously placed paths towards the temple and picking up valuable gems en-route. The goal is to get all your explorers to their own coloured temples and claim the treasure their quickest, and the game ends either when one player gets all the explorers to the temple or all 36 tiles run out.
The artwork of Karuba is a little disappointing, although it is functional. With the nature of the gameplay I cannot see how else they could improve it much without over cluttering it. Unfortunately it leaves it a little bit uninspiring to look at, in fact the box itself is probably the best in terms for artwork. They have tried to improve the look of the player boards by including artwork of the four explorers. The boards and tiles are sturdy, the wooden explorers and temples are good quality as are the gems you collect on your path, all the pieces are of really good quality.
Karuba is a very quick game, easily played in about twenty to thirty minutes. The set up is a bit tedious, as it’s best to lay out your tiles in numerical order so it is easy to find when the tile is ‘called’.
What is especially good about Karuba, is that every player has exactly the same tiles, the same layout, and it is purely how you play each tile that will affect how well you do. It quickly becomes a puzzle, and that is how it feels to play, as you try not to block off your explorers as the player board gets filled. The game is simple enough to learn, and we have played with a few friends who would not normally play euro-style games and they have loved playing this game. It’s a solid enough game to have in the collection, it is just as good with two players as with four, and is great if you do not have much time available to play a game. It definitely encapsulates a typical Spiel des Jahres game and I think it deserved its nomination in 2016.
– Adam Collinson