A to Z Gaming: Karuba

We cut paths through the jungle to lead our adventurers to ancient temples in Karuba, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Basic Info: Karuba
Players: 2-4
Time: 30-40 Minutes
Designers: Rüdiger Dorn
Artists: Claus Stephan
Publisher: HABA

Karuba is a tile-laying race where players are simultaneously building paths and leading adventurers through the jungle. Their explorers can pick up crystal and gold along the way, but be careful to get them to their matching temples first and don’t cut them off with a dead-end! The player whose adventurers collect the best combination of crystal and gold while reaching their temples quickly wins the game.

The game is set up with each player receiving a player board, a set of 36 tiles, and four adventurers and temples in four different colors. One player shuffles their tiles and creates two equal-sized stacks, while the other players lay out their tiles so they can see the numbers. Achievement medals are chosen based on the player count and laid out in the middle of the table along with a pile of the gold and crystal pieces.

Starting with one player, each player takes one pair of matching adventurer and temple and chooses a starting location on the beach edge for the adventurer and a jungle-edge location for the temple. All other players place the matching pair in the same locations on their boards. In this way, all players have the same starting set-up for their island.

Each turn, the player with the shuffled tiles will take one from the stack and call out the number of that tile. Each other player will find the same tile, and all players will simultaneously either place the tile on their island or discard the tile to move an adventurer. To place a tile, the only rules are that it can’t be rotated, and it must be placed on an empty space on the island. The paths don’t need to connect, nor do you have to build from one side to another – you can place a tile in hopes of connecting it up later. If the placed tile has a gold or crystal piece depicted on it, also place a gold or crystal piece on the tile.

If the tile is discarded for movement, the player can move one adventurer a number of spaces equal to the number of paths leaving the tile. The adventurer can only move along a path, and only one adventurer can occupy each tile – no jumping! If an adventurer ends their movement on a space with a gold or crystal piece, they collect it.

If an adventurer reaches the temple of their color (by moving off the board onto the space with the temple), then they have completed their goal, and the player collects the highest-available completion medal of that color. If two (or more) players reach the same color temple on the same turn, then they each take a treasure, but the player(s) who got a lower-valued treasure takes crystals to make up the point difference.

The game ends either when one player’s adventurers have all found their matching temple or the last jungle tile is played. Then players tally up their points from treasures, crystals (1 point each) and gold pieces (2 points each), and the player with the most points wins!

I picked up this game about a year ago when I visited a small game store near a convention I was attending — I had been on the lookout for it after seeing the Game Night play through. I’ve been really enjoying games with simultaneous play, and thought this would be a good fit for our game night group.

The primary player interaction is in keeping an eye on others to see how close they are to getting specific adventurers to their temple. Often it becomes obvious that you aren’t going to get a specific adventurer to a temple before an opponent…but maybe if you put your energy into another one, you can still snag the top treasure.

I really like this game. It’s a quick, fun filler for between our longer, crunchier games. That’s not to say there isn’t a good puzzle here — I love trying to figure out the best placement for each tile and the best time to start moving one adventurer or another. And despite everyone starting with the same set-up, everyone’s islands soon look very different. There’s often a bit of cursing and giggling, as one player realizes they’ve cut off one adventurer or a specific tile comes just one turn too late.

How is it as a 2-player game? Since there isn’t a lot of player interaction, this game works very well as a 2-player game. The available treasures are scaled for each player count, which balances the game.

How about the art and component quality? The art is very clear, and I like the different characters that are depicted on the side of each board. The cardboard is a good thickness on both the tiles and the player boards. The wooden pieces are nice, and are in colors not typically confused by those with color blindness. In addition, the crystal and gold pieces are fun to collect.

Will this stay in my collection? Definitely! We like pulling this out as a quick game for the two of us or as a filler game on game night.

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