Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Michael Schacht


No. of Players:
2 - 4



Gamebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

Africa at the end of the 19th century, the continent is still unexplored. In this situation four different European countries hire exploration companies to send their most famous explorers to Africa to bring back strange artefacts in order to raise their fame. Of course, all this costs a lot of money and so the players are forced to undertake special expeditions, too. This is basically the story of the game, but how is it implemented?

There are two "books" on the gameboard which are meant to hold the adventure cards. The gameboard shows a map of Africa with routes leading from one town to the other. And finally, the game has been designed by Michael Schacht in combination with the publisher ABACUS SPIELE. Does all this sound familiar to you? Already the first look at the game box gives us a hint. Those three guys standing in an African village do look familiar, don't they. In fact they do. The scene is well known from Michael Schacht's successful game Valdora which was nominated for the shortlist for the "Spiel des Jahres" award in 2009. Obviously it was so successful that a sequel seemed to be worthwhile. But although Africana coquets with Valdora so very visible, but as you will see, the new game does not have to dodge behind its predecessor.

At the beginning of a game, each of the 2 to 4 players receives a company (nation) and takes the matching figure plus the four matching company markers. Apart from this, he also receives the company's starting capital plus one joker card and one travel card.

The map on the board is divided by the equator into the North and the South. On both parts of the map a book with loose and shuffled adventure cards is placed. During the game, we are allowed to look through the pages (adventure cards) of a book, but we may only take a card from the part of the map we currently stand in. Buying an adventure card is one of the three possible actions in a player's turn. Looking through the pages costs money, too, and so it is quite useful that most of the adventure cards give the players victory points and new money if the adventure is completed. To complete an adventure it is only necessary to reach the target location named on card, and target locations of adventure cards from the North can be found in the South and vice versa. Adventure cards with victory points can also be quite useful in the final scoring. All of these cards show an artefact, and if a player is able to collect at least two of the same artefacts during the game, he gets bonus victory points, up to 10 points for all four artefacts of one kind. The other type of adventure cards which can be found in the books are assistant cards, and these can be used for travelling.


This takes us directly to the next possible action of a player. To move a player's nation figure from one town of the map to another, a player must use the given travel routes and "pay" the cost of this movement with his travel cards. The symbol next to the target destination determines the type of the card a player must use. For most of the towns two out of the five different symbols can be used, so it is not necessary to have a big hand of travelling cards (in fact there is hand-size maximum of 5 cards). And, as an alternative, a player can use his joker and assistant cards (assistant cards only can be used for a specific symbol, whereas the joker can replace each symbol). Thus, a player may travel as far as the travel routes on the map and his cards allow. So in one turn, he can move up to five or more steps if he has enough (and the right) cards. Finally, all assistant and joker cards may be kept by the players, and so it's really important to acquire those cards during the course of the game.

Due to the fact that the players will have to use travel cards quite often, the third possible action of a player is the taking of two new travel cards.

As you will remember, the taking of adventure cards costs money. So what happens if you do not have enough money left to make a purchase? In this situation we can undertake special expeditions and raise our fame (victory points) as well as our money. However, in contrast to the adventure cards we cannot choose our expeditions freely, but we are limited to join the four expedition cards that are laid out in the bottom part of the board. To take part in an expedition we must move our figure to the starting point of this expedition, and then we can put one of our company markers on the corresponding expedition card. We will receive a small bonus (money or travel cards) already for this expression of our willingness to take part in an expedition. So, it is always advisable to send our company to as many expeditions as possible if the starting points lie upon our route. As long as the expedition card lies on the board it is possible for every player to take part in it, but this changes an expedition is completed. This is the case if a player, who is a member of an expedition, reaches the expedition's final destination. At this point all company markers from the expedition cards are given back to their owners, but only the player who has lead the expedition to its destination is given the final bonus. After an expedition is completed, a new expedition card is drawn and placed on the free space on the board.


As you can see, Africana is a lot about travelling from one town to another because the players want to complete expeditions and to acquire adventure cards. At the beginning, this ever-lasting movement seems to be a little bit monotonous, but the game soon develops to a fast and entertaining family game. Once you become acquainted with the predefined travel routes, you can find interesting tactics to complete expeditions as soon as possible. This can be very important to "steal" an expedition from your opponents. For example, Napoli (Italy) can be reached from Madagascar in only two steps via the sea route, a fact you normally do not observe from the start. So if your opponent feels safe to complete an expedition by the land route (maybe because he also wants to complete an expedition in Zanzibar) you could take part in the same expedition and complete it in the same turn. In fact, experienced players have a little start advantage because of their knowledge, but new players easily will find their way into the game. Compared with Valdora I would say that Africana is a little bit more sophisticated, more complete. But at the end this is a matter of taste. I personally liked it very much and maybe it also has chance for one of this year's awards.

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Copyright © 2012 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany