While HABA Games is known for their bright yellow boxes and excellent children’s games, they’ve actually been releasing quite a few crossover titles. From Rhino Hero to Adventure Land, they now publish games that you would consider playing without your kids. One of my favorites of that group has to be Karuba. It’s an excellent tile laying game that is both fun and easy to learn.
This year, game designer Rüdiger Dorn decide to revisit his jungle exploration game and bring us a quicker playing card version, the aptly named Karuba: The Card Game. As Karuba was already an easy game, I was curious just how far down he distilled this one. Let’s find out.
Karuba: The Card Game is a tile laying card game for 2-6 players that takes about 10 minutes to play. It plays well at all player counts.
Much like with its big brother, the goal in Karuba: The Card Game (TCG) is to get all four of your explorers to their respective temples. To accomplish this, you will be building routes from your deck of cards in a 4×4 grid.
Each player starts the game with an identical deck of 16 cards. From there, players draw a hand of three cards. Each round, they will then attempt to play 2 of those cards. However, each card has a number in the corner, which are added together and the player with the lowest sum must discard one of their chosen cards. Each player then plays the cards into their tableau. Players then draw back up to three cards and the process is repeated.
Once all the cards have been played from your deck, the game ends. Player gets 3 points for each explorer that can trace a path to their temple. Bonus points are awarded if their path crosses gold or gems. Most points wins.
If Karuba: The Card Game sounds really simple, it’s because it is. Explaining the game should take only a few minutes and unlike the original Karuba, there is zero setup time. This makes Karuba: TCG an easy choice to pull out with just about any type of player. The downside of this simplicity is that plays are going to feel somewhat similar from game to game. There just isn’t a ton of depth in Karuba: TCG.
That beings said, it’s not devoid of gameplay either. Karuba: TCG feels almost like a puzzle. You know exactly what cards are in your deck (there is even a handy player aid to reference), so it’s only the order in which they are drawn that will dictate your strategy. Of course, there is also the “bidding” aspect that can throw things off as well. Players must plan carefully because haven’t to discard a temple or explorer could be devastating.
This bidding aspect can be as simply or as intense as you want to make it. Once the majority of cards have been played, you can look across the table and see exactly which cards your opponent’s have left. In doing so, you can gauge the likely strength of cards they might want to play. If you can time things right, you can sometimes force them to discard a card they really wanted to play.
Speaking of bids, I’ve noticed that at two players, the bidding process is a lot more cutthroat. Each round either you or your opponent will be losing a card, which can sometimes have devastating effects if you don’t plan properly (losing an exploring or temple card will automatically cost you a precious 3 points.) However once you get up to the higher player counts, the bidding process become a tad more chaotic, but you won’t be losing as many cards. This makes things more random, but somewhat less intense as well.
Finally, I think Karuba: TCG will work well both as a family game and as a filler game for your gaming group. With no setup time and a play time of only 10 minutes, it’s a great game to pull out while you are waiting for others to arrive. For families, I felt like the age range of 8+ was pretty spot on. However you know your kids better than anyone, so your mileage may vary with that one.
While I enjoy Karuba: The Card Game, I don’t think it will be replacing the original for me. I much prefer the depth of Karuba over its quicker playing brethren. However, one area where Karuba: The Card Game excels is in its portability. The only components you need to play are a deck of 16 cards per player, so you can easily ditch the box and even the rulebook, just tossing the cards in your bag. Which makes this little filler game an excellent choice if you are traveling. While it’s not the deepest of games, as a light, quick playing game, I’ve found that Karuba: The Card Game hits the right marks for the role it fills.
Final Score: 3 Stars – A quick playing game that, while it isn’t going to be replacing the original, does work as a filler game quite admirably.
• Lacks the depth to keep you coming back for more