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



Antonio Scrittore


No. of Players:
2 - 7



Sometimes it is a wonder that the editorial staff of ZOCH is able to dig out obscure new games for their portfolio each and every year, but as it seems they have developed a good hand for choosing themes and playing concepts, because most of their games find a good reception by the gaming public despite the mostly unusual rules and mechanisms. And once again the new ZOCH game Kalimambo from Antonio Scrittore seems to fit into this line of games, because they players are invited to a rather strange kind of race in the African savannah. Thus, the gameboard shows a circular track which is made up by approximately 40 spaces, and distributed around this track some heaps of elephant dung can be found, waiting there for unwary player characters who might step into them.

The figures of the players are aligned one after the other at some consecutive spaces of the track, and the front of the line is taken by the black figure of Kali, a yet unknown African species which participates in the upcoming race and tries to hamper the player characters. The last space in the line is taken by Mambo the rhino, and he will rush after the running players and give the last players in the line a friendly poke with his prominent horn.


When everybody is in place, every player receives his own deck of 12 running cards with values from zero to 11, and one additional deck with the same card values also is shuffled for Kali. Then the game may start, and during a round of play each player choses one of his available cards and places it face down in front of himself. Once all players have chosen their cards, all cards are revealed at once, and in addition the topmost card of Kali's deck also will be revealed.

Now the card values are compared, and starting with the player who has played the highest card and continuing in descending order each player (and Kali!) will move their figures. When a figure is moved, it is taken from its current position in the line, and - in clockwise running direction - it is placed at the first empty space at the head of the line. When two or more cards have the same value, only the last figure in the line will be moved, whereas all others stay in place.

Two dangers are waiting for the players: one if the possibility that a movement may end in a heap of elephant dung, and the other means that the player's character may make acquaintance with Mambo's horn. Stepping into elephant dung is yucky, and a player who ends up in a dung heap will score three negative points which are recorded for the final tally at the end of the game.

The rhino on the other side is triggered by a different mechanism: whenever the last figure in front of the rhino (i.e. the last figure in the line) is moved forwards, the rhino starts running until it once again catches up with the last figure in the line, and the following poke in the back means that this unlucky player has to record as many negative points as Mambo the rhino has run.

If Kali should be at the last position when the rhino is moved, or if he should be moved onto a space containing elephant dung, he will not incur any negative points, but instead the player(s) with the lowest value movement card(s) will be awarded those negative points. Thus playing a low card is beneficial in so far as a late movement will secure a position near the top of the line, but on the other hand there is a danger that the points from Kali might be assigned to this player.

The race is over when the player characters are exhausted, and as might be guessed this point is reached when all players and Kali have used up their decks of cards after 12 rounds. As you will notice, the fact that the players are required to use up their decks of cards brings elements of memory and strategy into the game, since the players are required to guess which cards may still be available to their opponents, and they will also try to speculate which values might be used. Although these rules are simple and comparable to some cardgames which operate on similar mechanisms of bidding from a limited deck, it is somewhat challenging for a newcomer to get used to the cranky way of thinking required to best Kalimambo. Thus, success is not just a matter of moving late, but also the negative points which may be gathered through elephant dung and Mambo's horn need to be taken into consideration, and so the basic bidding mechanism connected with the players' decks gets a new dimension by the requirement to consider the specific constellation on the gameboard. Of course, the players cannot really calculate whether their speculation will be successful, and so Kalimambo draws a lot of its entertainment from the fact that a seemingly safe bet may turn into an awkward situation by cards played other players who have correctly guessed the upcoming move.

However, Kalimambo by no way is intended as a deep strategy game, and as the hilarious constellation on the gameboard suggests it is played best in a lighter mood with players who like surprising elements and a bit of entertainment. Nonetheless, it is really interesting to see that the game is no typical Beer'n Prezels game either, because the requirements to use a bit of memory and to keep an eye on the gameboard simply are more demanding than might be guessed on first sight. In the end, Kalimambo once again is a typical ZOCH game due to its wacky playing mechanism!

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Copyright © 2012 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany