OK, I turned up at a nice little Tapas restaurant, The Stray Kat, where the gamers who dub themselves (unofficially and rather unimaginatively. LOL), Stray Kat Gamers meet every Wednesday.
Unfortunately, only two other people turned up, Joerg (luding.org) and Steve. The rest were MIA. Since we started late, we decided to skip the longer games and go straight for something fast, light and easy.
That’s where Kablamo (Gigantoskop, 2004) came in. Gigantiskop is a Swedish gaming company ‘infamous’ for their first game called Spank the Monkey. It seems they pride themselves on making fun games thick with themes that are absurd.
Joerg had read the rules and we quickly set up.
Parts and Components:
The game comes in a sturdy cardboard box with bright flashy red graphics. The ‘revolver’ discs felt sturdy and thick. They rotated very easily (much better than the filmsy rotating pointer thingees from El Grande).
The ‘bullets’ were a let down as they were printed on thin-ish card stock. There was a cheap black cloth bag for placing the bullets in.
The theme revolves (pun intended) around the aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution. Since we’ve all lost our land and titles, we decide to play Russian Roulette. What have we got to lose?
However, in reality the theme shows its pasted on nature. We’re all trying to die anyway, but yet the rules state the last man standing wins…It doesn’t make sense. Having said that, I will explain the gameplay.
Players are given a ‘revolver’ that has a chamber that stores 6 ‘bullets’.
Before the start of the game, players draw (at random) 8 bullets from the pile. The then look at the bullets and decide the order in which to load their ‘revolver’. Note: Once loaded, players CANNOT look at their bullets again. This is the basis of the fun in the game as bullets will be played later on that mess the order of things.
During the ‘firing’ phase, all players rotate their barrels one stop to the right and reveal the bullet. The bullets are then resolved. Each bullet has a number on it and they are resolved from smallest figure upwards.
There are a combination of Live, Action and High Velocity bullets.
The live bullets (Yellow) kill you when it states Kablamo; the player is dead. There are also ‘Click’ bullets that are duds. All Live bullets go back into the draw pile at the end of turn.
The Action bullets are white bullets that allow you to take certain actions. This includes swapping bullets in other revolvers, swapping player revolvers, reloading all bullets, jamming actions that don’t allow bullets to be fired or some that allow two bullets to be fired per turn.
The High Velocity bullets are red bullets and can either be loaded or used as ‘interrupts’. The actions allow you to copy another Action bullet, etc and are useful to hold on and use as ‘interrupts’.
All players draw bullets according to the empty chamber slots in their revolver.
They then choose from the bullets in their hand which ones to reload. Play continues with the Firing phase again. Last man standing WINS!
So how does it play?
It plays rather fast and is a great filler.
It’s a combination of memory (where you put your bullets, especially the Kablamo ones!), laughing with a little strategy tossed in.
I found myself playing only ONE Kablamo. This was preceded by a bullet that allowed me to swap one loaded bullet with another player. I would then load the Kablamo into another players revolver. Of course, it’s a bit of a gamble, but you can sorta guess what bullets are coming up next. This way, I only had to remember the position of one dangerous bullet in my chamber and no matter how much swapping or rotating my opponents made me do, I knew where the kablamo was.
In another case, I put a bullet that said, ‘Next turn, all Kablmos kill the person to the left.’ Of course, this mean that the next bullet I had in my chamber was a Kablamo…
In the game, a lot of best laid plans go to waste as I had my revolver swapped (which sucks because ALL your strategy is wasted and you end up just playing whatever bullets shows up. A flaw in my opinion). There’s a little bit of playacting. All players moan that they forget what the bullets are, but believe me, they KNOW!
The tension when you turn the chamber and unleash your bullet is fairly thick and one wonders what an opponent has up their sleeve, or rather, in their chamber.
However, there are flaws. It reminds me of group games like Bang! where a player can be eliminated VERY early and just sit the whole game out. But unlike Bang, Kablamo plays pretty quickly once the players get the hang of it.
Some of the bullets seem designed to trash strategy and should be taken out. There are too many similar bullets, especially action bullets and not enough High Velocity ones. Due to this, a lot of actions the player takes becomes mechanical once the players are familiar with the bullet text.
I suspect more playtesting would lead to a better balance in terms of bullets.
There isn’t really much brain busting strategy involve.
In keeping with the theme, I propose a house rule where players have to down a shot of Vodka after every bullet fired….
All in all, a fun quick game that gamers could use as a warm up to a night of gaming.
"However, in reality the theme shows its pasted on nature. We’re all trying to die anyway, but yet the rules state the last man standing wins…It doesn’t make sense. Having said that, I will explain the gameplay."
From reading an article about the development of this game I know that the theme is not "pasted on" at all. It is based on an actual Russian Roulette game that took place at the time and that let you fiddle with your opponents guns in certain ways. Little detail is known of the original game but the designers got obsessed with it and decided to make a board game based on it.
I have played it but not read the rules. Are your sure the winner do not get enough money to somewhat compensate for his lost fortune?