March 20, 2017 at 6:40 am #14079
Last year I backed Karmaka on Kickstarter. It arrived in the Fall but I’ve only recently been able to get it on the table. I will admit I initially backed the game due to the gorgeous artwork on the cards. However after my first few games I can happily report that the game is a very enjoyable casual card game.
The game is described as “a tactical card game set in a karmic universe. Players begin the game as lowly Dung Beetles. In life after life (hand after hand of cards) they climb their way up the Karmic Ladder, racing to see who will achieve Transcendence first.” The core of the game is scoring enough points at each stage so that when you reincarnate you move up the ‘Karmic Ladder’ (dung beetle -> snake and so on). Representing the ‘Karmic Ladder’ is a small board with 5 levels: Dung Beetle -> Snake -> Wolf -> Monkey -> Transcendence. All players (2-4) start on the Dung Beetle level and the game ends when the first person reaches Transcendence with that person winning the game. There is one set of cards that is broken into 4 ‘suits’. Players are dealt a hand at the start of the game with the rest of the cards going into a deck (the ‘Well’) in the middle. Each turn a player has 3 options: play a card for points, saving a card for their future life, or playing a card for the action.
Playing a card for points means that the card is added to their ‘Deeds’ face-up and saved til the end of their current life.
Saving a card for their future life is done by placing a card face down off to the side to be dealt to yourself in the next life.
Playing a card for an action means playing the cared face-up in the middle of the table and enacting the action on the card. There are a bunch of different actions such as “destroy a card from an opponents ‘Deeds'” which is just removing one of the opponents points card. Another example is taking a random card from an opponents hand. When the card is played for an action it does not count towards your points for the next life. My favorite mechanic in the game is the Karmic Cost which states that when a card is played for the action the card must then be offered to the opponent. If the opponent wishes he or she can place that card into their future life deck. Therefore any action you take can come back to bite you!
A player can only play 1 card per turn unless otherwise stated on an action card.
A players life ends when his he or she runs out of cards in their hand. At this point their life is scored. Points can only be scored for cards in the same suit. If I had placed two red cards, one green, one blue, and one mosaic (rainbow) card they would receive points for the two red cards and the one mosaic card. The mosaic (rainbow) cards are ‘suitless’ and count for points for any color.
If a player has enough points to move to the next life they move their marker up the ladder. If they do not have enough they receive a token which reduces the cost they need to reach the next level by 1. For example: If i need 5 points to go from Snake to Wolf but only scored 3 then I get 1 token. My next life is as a Snake again but now I only need 4 points to get to Wolf. After I reincarnate into the next rung the tokens are consumed (they do not carry with you through multiple levels).
When your life is over you discard the Deeds (points) cards and take your Future Life cards into your hand. If you have less than 6 Future Life cards you draw the number needed from the deck to reach 6 total.
This is a simplified general summary of the game. It is a simple game but a lot of fun and games are usually quick. I was only playing 2-player but games typically were 20-30 minutes.
The production quality of the materials is good. The character pieces are little wooden shapes in the ‘Lotus’ yoga pose. The cards feel good in the hand and do not seem too thin. The artist, Marco Bucci has a beautiful personal style in his painting that really feels to be a perfect fit for the theme of the game. There is a wide range of cards so there is plenty of variety in the game. The creators even included a pair of cards that are each one half of the Karmic Ladder. Therefore the whole game can be packed into a single deck of cards (assuming you use random tidbits as character markers and tokens) for easy travel.
I definitely see myself taking this game on a few upcoming trips as it would be very easy to play on the plane. Overall I rate it a 7/10 – simple but enjoyable casual card game.
*Images taken from BGGMarch 20, 2017 at 9:53 am #14081
Excellent review, thanks very much!
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