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Wolfgang Kramer &
Michael Kiesling


Awards: none



The new Kiesling & Kramer game Celtica from RAVENSBURGER takes the players back through time to medieval Ireland. Once upon a time a great Hero had awarded his ten most faithful followers with magical amulets giving them wealth and power, but during Viking invasions all ten of these amulets were shattered and lost. Now the players take up the roles of daring adventurers who have embarked on a search for the shards of the amulets...

As might be guessed, the game is about finding as many amulet shards as possible to reassemble the magic amulets. To assist the Heroes (players) on this quest, a total of five Druids has started a journey through Ireland in order to visit towns, monasteries and castles in search for amulet shards. Thus, the gameboard shows us an island on which all five Druid-figures are placed, and during the game the Druids will travel among a path with a total of 19 stages and visit different places at each stage.

To move the Druids along their path, each player is dealt a hand of a total of five Druid-cards which show the different colours of the Druids. In his turn, a player now must play one or more identical coloured Druid-cards from his hand, and then he may move the correspondingly coloured Druid for as many spaces along the path. A player does not need to play all cards of a colour at once, since by playing more than one card a Druid is moved forwards several spaces and these spaces (with possibly beneficial effects) will be ignored since only the final space of the Druid`s movement will be acted upon.

Basically, there are three different kinds of spaces on which a Druid may end its movement:

  • First come the Settlements, and here a player is allowed to collect as many amulet shards as are depicted at this particular settlement. When a player is allowed to collect shards, he takes them from an open row ("pool") of nine shards which has been randomly drawn from the total of 90 available shards at the beginning of the game. Once a player has chosen which shards he would like to take, the pool is refilled with new randomly drawn shards coming from the remaining stockpile of shards.
  • Far less beneficial are the Ruins since these have fallen prey to Viking raiders and a player who moves a Druid to such a place is forced to lose a number of shards as depicted at the particular ruins. However, a player gains an experience card for visiting ruins, and this card might become useful later in the game.
  • The third possibility is to move a Druid to a Stone Circle, and here the player is allowed to randomly draw an additional Druid-card if he desires to do so. However, he does not have to draw a card, since sometimes there are situations in the game where it might be harmful to draw an additional card since most or all Druids are in a position where their next move might possibly lead them to a Ruins-space.

Taking turns, the players now each play one or more of the Druid-cards from their hand of cards until all players have used up their hand of cards. Only then a new hand of five Druid-cards is dealt to each player, and a new round of play commences with the players once again spending their Druid-cards. Helpful for movement also are the experience cards. Like the Druid-cards, the experience cards each show the colour of a Druid, and during movement an experience card may be played instead or in addition of a likewise coloured Druid-card. Thus, experience cards give the player a broader choice of movement options, and - unlike the normal Druid-cards - experience cards do not have to be used in a specific round of play since a player may keep them from round to round.

The game draws to its end when the first druid has reached the final space on the track, and now all players continue to play their Druid-cards until they are used up or they cannot longer be played since they only show Druids who have already arrived at the final space. When all movement is over, players may use unspent experience cards to exchange some of their shards for other - more needed - shards which might have appeared in the pool, and the game will be won by the player who succeeded in completing most amulets.

Celtica is a family game which can be played in a moderate 30 to 40 minutes playing time. On first sight the beautifully designed gamebox and board might candle some hopes that it might be a game of high adventure involving magic, monsters and different kinds of encounters, but these hopes will not be fulfilled as can be seen be the rules. However, I have read a review of the game in the Spielbox (german games magazine) which takes not only these unfulfilled hopes as a point for criticism but which also states that the strategic options available for the players would not offer sufficient playing depth and that a player would get the feeling that he is rather "played" by the game and watches its progressing rather than play himself, and with this criticism I strongly disagree.

Having given the game some playtesting with differently sized groups, I could observe that - especially if the game is played with less players -the players become occupied with a decent degree of strategic planning, since not only the question of which cards should be played but also of which shards a player should take need to be taken into consideration. Of course, there always remains speculation which cards a player has on his hand and how that may thwart the active player`s plans, but for my taste the balance of luck and strategy in the game is rather well drawn since it remains quite possible to plan some options even though the other players cards must be guessed. However, this observation differs slightly with the number of players involved, since the element of planning gets weaker the more players participate. With more players, it becomes more unpredictable for a player to guess what situation he will find on the gameboard when he next becomes active player, and thus the planning options get reduced in favour of reacting to the current situation on the gameboard.

Still, it should be kept in mind that Celtica primarily was designed as a family boardgame including some strategy but also luck and bluffing, and to my taste the game meets these aims rather well. However, assisted by marvellous graphics and a good atmosphere, Celtica also has some appeal to seasoned gamers since it is a perfect game for an evening where players have chosen to play not one big game but several smaller ones in a row...

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Copyright © 2012 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany