While not a horror game in the traditional sense, I guess putting one’s life in danger by playing Russian Roulette could be considered horrific. So, perhaps Kablamo actually did fit in with our “Fright Night” theme.
Kablamo is designed by Christoffer Kramer and Jesper Moberg and released by Gigantoskop, the Swedish firm that brought us Spank the Monkey. While Spank the Monkey is a very good game with one of a truly abhorrent name, Kablamo is a primate of a different color. The name is perfectly acceptable, but the theme has already come under fire. Some folks have expressed aversion to playing a game that simulates shooting oneself, a sentiment that is certainly understandable.
The game itself is professionally produced, with each player possessing a cardboard mat complete with a spinning revolver chamber. The bullets are also cardboard. In fact, EVERYTHING is cardboard! However, that’s all the game really requires, and everything is nicely done.
Game play is very simplistic. Each player receives 8 bullets, of which they load six into their chamber. Two bullets are kept in reserve, giving the player some choices when reloading their guns after each round. Most bullets list special actions which can be invoked when that bullet is “fired”. There are a variety of actions a player can perform, including the swapping of bullets, replenishing of one’s bullet supply, causing a gun to malfunction, etc. When one of these special bullets is “fired”, the player may either perform the action himself, or give it to an opponent to execute. This is one of the important decisions to be made during the game: keep the bullet or pass it on to an opponent.
It is the effect of these bullets which add the huge dose of chaos to the system. Bullets are unloaded from guns, swap hands and are discarded; guns are exchanged; cylinders are rotated. Any hope of remembering the location of all of the bullets in your gun will vanish rather quickly. The result is a game where each turn of the cylinder usually yields surprises and unintended consequences. Chaos … which is probably not a good thing when playing with loaded guns!
The bullets to really fear, however, are the “Kablamo!” ones. When this goes off, the owner of the gun expires and is eliminated from the game. Thus, it is important to do your best to keep track of where these bullets are located, which is, in reality, an extremely difficult task, at best.
After each person executes the action on his just-fired bullet, special action bullets are discarded, while all “Kablamo!” and “Click” bullets are placed back into the mix of bullet tiles and can therefore be drawn again during the course of the game. This means that more and more “live” bullets will inject themselves into the game as it progresses, making the proceedings increasingly more deadly.
Players end the turn by drawing new bullets from the mix and loading any empty cylinders in their guns. The bullets a player has in reserve can be loaded, giving the player some options. A few bullets can actually be played directly from a player’s hand, but most cannot be activated unless fired. A new round begins by each player rotating their cylinder one click and “firing” the next bullet. Play continues until there is only one survivor.
The game is fast, chaotic and fun in a random sort of way. The randomness will undoubtedly not sit well with many folks, and may well negate the “fun” aspect. That, too, is understandable. All is not completely random, however, but it is awfully close. Players can try to “load” the guns of their opponents and manipulate events so as to increase the odds of their opponents being eliminated, but these efforts are certainly subject to a wide range of unforeseen possibilities which can alter the intended outcome. The lesson? You can try to manipulate events in your favor, but don’t expect things to turn-out exactly the way you planned. If you can live with this chaotic, random atmosphere, then you just might enjoy the fun. Otherwise, this is yet another gun you’d best be advised to leave alone.
Jim, Michael, Michael Jr., Jerry and I glared at each other across the table, spinning our cylinders and hoping for the best. Bullets were switched quickly, and two guns even changed hands early. Jerry was the first to succumb, having been the victim of a bullet placed into his gun by Jim. The two Michaels expired shortly thereafter, leaving Jim and I in a test of wits. Jim won, having the pleasure of watching me expire.
Ratings: Michael 7, Jim 6.5, Greg 5.5