Kariba and Kalak are 2 different games by Frank Stark that come in one box. Both can be played using the same components. Kariba, the main game, is a 2 player variant inspired by the Mancala game family. Kalak is a Marbles variant, or rather, a pebble-flicking dexterity game whose arena is created by assembling the 2 piece jigsaw board in an alternative way. Kalak is mainly aimed at younger players.
This variation on the age-old Mancala game keeps the familiar sowing movement rules, but it introduces an alternative way to capture stones and dramatically changes the way the board is used. It also introduces new types of pebbles. They now come in 3 different colours, each with its own value, and one even with a special protective ability. The board shows 2 large scoring pits at either end of the board. Between them, 2 rows of just 4 pits are sitting side by side. Each player is assigned one row of 4 that ends in their private scoring pit. This row is the only row in which a player will place their own pieces and it should be obvious that the players move in opposite directions.
At the start, both players get a set of 25 stones that forms the supply, and these are kept beside the board. It is a mix of 3 types: 20 stones that are worth 1 point, 3 treasure stones that are worth 2, and 2 guard stones that are not only worth 3 points, but also protect all stones in a pit from capture, as long as a black stone is not caught out sitting on its own. By itself, a guard stone is equally vulnerable to capture.
In turn, players pick up 1-4 tones from supply and move them onto the board, or remove all stones from one of their own pits and move these further along the track towards the scoring pit. To move a hand of stones, the player chooses the first hand stone and drops it into the pit it would reach next on its way to the scoring pit. Then, 1 stone is dropped in each pit thereafter until a player's hand is empty. When a player manages to drop a stone into the scoring pit (here players are forced to drop the lowest value stone), it is safe and counts toward their end total. All remaining hand stones go back to supply and must start all over again. When one player has no more stones left to move, the game ends. Players add up the total points in their own pit. The loser ignores any stones left en-route on the board, but subtracts the value of the stones still in supply from this total. The player with the highest score wins, with simple tie-breakers provided.
What makes this game interesting is the way by which opposing pieces are captured. When a stone is placed in an empty hole, all opposition stones that sit beside it and are not protected by at least one guard stone are captured and are immediately added to the pit of the capturing player, boosting that player's score. The high stone total triggers the need for continued protection from capture by Guard Stones, which adds to the deliberations to be made. Guards stones will be deliberately played so they overshoot the scoring pit, ensuring their continued services as protectors of all other stones on their way to the scoring pit. However, sacrifices will have to be made, making continual forward planning a requirement for victory.
By flipping over one side of the jigsaw board, a flat surface is revealed for the bottom half of the board, and that leaves a square of 4 small pits with 1 large one directly above it at the top. The player sits at the base of the flat surface board, and makes a smiling pebble face by placing 2 black pupil stones in the lower "eye socket" pits, 2 blue ones underneath the nose-shaped jigsaw lock to make nostrils, and by creating a smiling mouth of the remaining 8 blue stones underneath.
In phase 1, the player flicks each blue stone once, trying to reach the large target pit at the top. Only blue stones that fall into this pit can be taken into the second phase, the rest are removed. In phase 2, the player places all surviving stones in a single row on the bottom edge, including the 2 eye stones if more than 4 stones survived the first phase. Again, stones are all flicked once, but this time the player determines their end score. Each pitted stone scored one point, but player's will have to spread the stones out across all pits, as any stones that supercede the maximum capacity set for each pit in this phase are worthless. Optional rules to make it harder by using special landing restrictions for the then also more valuable eye stones, or making it easier by relaxing the set-up for phase 2 are also included.
- 2006 Kariba (including Kalak) Clemens Gerhards - deluxe wooden version - in print (last checked oct 2006)
Clemens Gerhards produces their wooden games range to high standards, and this is no exception. The 2 solid oiled beech wood board pieces slot together seamlessly, and the (minimum of) 50 semi-precious stones are colourful and elegant. A string-chord storage bag for these is provided. The whole set fits in a remarkably small box, roughly the size of a DVD box set. Frank Stark has been releasing a couple of board games each year through this smaller German imprint, after being attracted by the quality of its products.
- language skill needed: language neutral. It comes with German rules.
- english translation: Clemens Gerhards has made an English translation available.
- artwork: none, Clemens Gerhards games come in plain brown, ribbed cardboard boxes with the game title burnt into the lid.
- awards won: none.
Note: in 2008 Clemens Gerhards published a three piece jigsaw board edition. An additional piece can be added to the original Kariba board so that a new board with two rows of six pits sitting side by side is produced. This expansion provides new tactical challenges to the game. In addition, rules for a two player game called "Cubango", a Kalaha variant that is played using the expanded board, are also included.