Imagine you are an animal living large and living life out on the savannah. After a long and hard day of eating, playing, and napping, you head down to the watering hole for some refreshment. What do you find but a bunch of other animals waiting in line for some water. What’s a thirsty animal to do? Scare away the other animals to move up in line of course! This is the theme that drives Kariba, Helvetiq’s reprinting of this Reiner Knizia designed card game. Does Kariba quench your thirst for gaming fun, or does it leave you parched and wanting? Let’s drink up and find out together!
Kariba is a hand-management card game for 2-6 players, that takes about 15 minutes to play. Kariba plays best with 3 or 4 players.
In Kariba, eight types of animals are each assigned a rank numbered from 1 (the humble mouse) to 8 (the powerful elephant), with each animal assigned their own space around the watering hole in numerical order.
On a player’s turn, they will play 1 or more of a single type of animal from their hand to their position around the watering hole. Then, if there are at least three of those animals in play, they chase away the next weakest animal cards which the player picks up and adds to their scoring pile. The only exception to the rule of the stronger chasing weaker is the mouse, which has the ability to scare away the elephant only (and is the only way elephant cards can be scored). Finally, the player will draw up to refresh their hand and play proceeds. Play ends when the draw deck is empty and all player hands are empty.
At the end of the game, players count up the number of cards in their score pile. The player who scared away the most animals is declared the winner!
Kariba delivers on its promise of a light and fast card game with simple rules and setup that will have you playing in less than 3 minutes. What is great about Kariba is that the gameplay is straightforward enough that this game works great for families and is a solid game for playing with younger gamers, or for your non-gamer friends. While the theme is not exactly integrated into the gameplay, it is still one that is fun enough to keep players interested beyond the mechanics.
There’s not much in the way of deep strategy in Kariba, but there is definitely some there. By keeping track of which animals have been played, you can begin to predict the probabilities of which animals your opponents are holding. You also learn to start to avoid playing animals to leave 2 animals waiting at the watering hole, as to avoid allowing your opponents to play a third of that animal to score some easy points. There’s enough strategy to keep hardcore gamers occupied, albeit for a shorter amount of time before the game becomes a bit repetitive.
The quality of the reprint of Kariba needs to be mentioned as an upgrade over the original printing. The updated art replaces the cartoon-style animals with a cute pop minimalist design (h/t to AnnaMaria for the assist), along with some varying colors for extra visual appeal. In addition, the plastic centerpiece from the original game (including the crocodile deckholder) has been replaced with a folding cardboard watering hole. While not as visually interesting, it allows Kariba to be stored in a very small box and take up small table space, making the game perfect for transport and play at YOUR local watering hole.
Kariba is does exactly what it sets out to do – provide a light and engaging game in a small package. Quick to explain, easy to play, and fast to play, Kariba works well as a travel game or as a game for families and non-gamers. Kariba has found a happy home in our gaming go-bag and is equally deserving of a place in yours.
Final Score: 4 Stars – A game that fills its role well: light, quick, enjoyable and perfect for all ages.
• Replay value can be an issue