"Change your karma, change your life."
Do the small choices we make everyday really matter? Do I hold the door open for the young mother, struggling with her groceries and small child, or walk by pretending I don't see her? Does this simple choice really affect the kind of person I am? Does it bring about a consequence for myself later? Do I have the ability to change myself?
These questions and others are answered in the new game "Cosmic Karma"
Objective of the Game:
Players are trying to be the first to acquire all three master tools (torch, sword, and wand), remove all of their negative karma, and return to Cosmic Consciousness. The first player able to do so will win the game.
Components / Set-up:
The first thing you notice about this game is the quality of the components; from the box to the pawns. The box is a linen finish and even has two finger pulls on the side, which are very convenient when removing the lid. The insert is very functional. I won't be throwing this one out. Each item has its own secure place and everything fits in the box perfectly. The plastic components and the pawns even come in a plastic tray; no Plano Box needed here. It is easy to see that a lot of time and effort went into this design.
The cards are also a good quality. The game comes with Choice Cards, Karma Cards, Free Will Cards, and Lose a Turn Cards. Players first set up the Choice Cards. There are four colors of cards: green, orange, yellow, and purple.
Each corresponds to the land of the same color. These are placed text-side down near their land. The Karma cards (four colors) are also placed near their correct land.
Free Will Cards and Lose a Turn Cards should be placed to the side of the board.
One player is chosen to manage the bank. The bank holds the orange and green rings, beads, and habit sticks. Beads represent negative karma and rings positive karma. When a player receives three beads of the same color, this represents a habit. The three beads are placed on a stick of the same color. No more than three beads may be placed on one habit stick.
Beads placed on a stick become harder to discard, as compared to the loose beads. Habits can only be loosened with a Master Sword and only while in the Temple of the Sword. Same color rings and beads are matched together and returned to the bank as soon as they are acquired.
Each player is given a Karma Account Card. This card has an indented space for the rings, beads, and habit sticks on the bottom. The three tools of the game also have a space on the Account. Once a player gains one of the tools they place a peg to represent this. Two pegs equal a master tool, which cannot be lost.
Each player selects a pawn and places it in the center of the game board. The first player is determined by a dice roll. Whoever rolls the highest goes first. The first player rolls the dice and moves that many spaces. The "Me, Me, Me" space in Land 1 (Green) is the first space counted. Players move clockwise in the Earth Realm and counter-clockwise in the Spirit Realm.
Torches represent intuitive knowing. A Master Torch allows the player to select the best option on a choice card. When they player has a Master Torch, and they land on a choice space they may choose which side to use.
Swords represent rational thinking. A Master Sword allows the player to loosen a habit. when the player has a master sword and lands on one of the spaces in the Temple of the Sword (Land 3), he removes a bead from one habit stick and returns the bead and the stick to the bank. He will still have two beads from this habit.
Wands represent action and direction. A Master Wand allows players to enter the Dharma Wheel. He does so by passing over the adjoining Free Will Cards space. He may continue onto any as many Dharma Wheels as he wishes on this and subsequent turns. He exits the wheel on the Free Wheel card space of his choice and then continues in that land.
The board is really beautiful and very meaningful. It is set up as a mandala representing three realms: The Earth realm, the Spirit Realm, and Cosmic Consciousness.
In the Earth Realm the player takes on a physical body. This realm represents the duality where both good and evil exist. Divided into four lands; it is also the only realm where players can gain karma.
Land 1 represents "The Self." Here players move and make choices that deal with balance, sobriety, and maturity. The goal is to become grounded and self-disciplined. The bridges of Land 1 represent the dual qualities of self. The quality on the bridge is positive while the quality on the opposite square is negative.
Land 2 represents "Others." Here players are trying to form healthy relationships with others. Choices here deal with empathy, fairness, and compassion. Land 2 is also where players may encounter the Pit. Players may be sent to the Pit through the bully and morality cop squares. Because it represents turmoil and unhealthy relationships, the square of love leads the way out of the Pit.
Land 3 represents: "Knowing." Players are trying to gain knowledge and awareness. This land yields tools that represent intuitive knowing (inspiration, receptiveness) and rational knowing (reason, logic). The temples represent these two types of knowing. The Temple of the Torch is the primary place to gain torches. Going here shows the importance of inner work and the square of distraction blocks the entrance. The Temple of the Sword represents rational thinking and is the only place to break a habit. The square of bias blocks entrance into the Temple.
Land 4 represents: "Doing." Here players are tying to get a tool (wand), that represents skilful action, prioritization, persistence, and self-actualization. The Demons in Land 4 represent the Tibetan Mara, or the obstructor to spiritual progress.
One demon gives players a green bead for ego, or imbalance of self. The second demon gives players an orange bead for fear, or lack of love for others. One may wonder why these are found at the end of trip of the Earth Realm. The demons show us that it is possible to relapse in our journey at any time.
After a loop around the Earth Realm a player enters the Spirit Realm. This is where players travel between physical lives and experiences here happens while a player is out of his physical body. The player is not necessary "spiritual" while he is in the Spirit Realm. Here players will encounter spaces such as "Rest & Relaxation," "Past Life Review," and the "Hall of Creativity."
The circle in the center of the board that is both the starting and ending point is Cosmic Consciousness. This section of the board represents the concepts of the unknown, the unknowable, the All, sources, and universal energy.
Choice Cards: A choice card is drawn when a player lands on a Choice Card space. The player draws a card representing the land they are in; his choice is the side that appears right-side up or the readable side. A Master Torch allows a player to choose. After doing whatever the card says it is returned to the bottom of the pile. The cards represent two possible scenarios and reflect the duality of the Earth Realm. Most of the scenarios are ordinary situations to show us that karma is small.
These cards are very creative. My favorite was when my husband unexpectedly read the "Brick in the Head" card. It said that: someone pulls you out of your truck and smashes you in the head with a brick. You forgive him. Take an orange ring. I know it wasn't supposed to be funny but I was not expected a card like that. After the brief shock wore off, I paused for a moment, and thought to myself, could I really do that? Could I forgive someone after they did something like that to me or someone I loved? Could you?
Karma Cards: A player receives a Karma Card when they land on the Karma Card space. After following the directions it is returned to the bottom of the pack. These cards represent to use the complexities of karma. They could give players an extra turn, enable them to travel to another land, interact with another player, or even receive a bead.
Free Will Cards: Here is where we take a little luck out of the game. In fact these cards represent a player's ability to influence their own move. Every time a player lands on, or passes over a Free Will Space they take a card. These cards show numbers on the front and can be used to move instead of using dice. They come in very handy as you work to gain tools and remove bad Karma.
If the card is used it must be used before the player rolls the dice. A player may also combine his Free Will Cards and may move to the count of any or all of his cards. It may be helpful to place these cards in your area face-up so you can see the numbers available to you. Used cards are placed on the bottom of the pack.
Lose a Turn Cards: I became very familiar with this cards as I played. When you are instructed to lose a turn (either from a card or from the board) take a Lose a Turn Card as a reminder. They weren't necessarily in the two player game but a big help in the three player game.
Remember mom always telling you that "who you hang out with matters?" She would feel justified with this next rule in Cosmic Karma. According to the last game I played I'm not a good person to hang out with, everyone was avoiding landing in my space.
The reason is that whenever a player lands on the same space as another player, they take the karmic majority of the other player. Karmic majority is the overall quality of a player's karma expressed in positive or negative, by color.
To calculate the majority the beads, rings, and habits are separated by color. Each color is added separately. A ring counts for +1 a bead counts as -1, and a habit stick counts as -1 (habit = -4). If the larger count is positive the majority is positive, if it is negative the majority is negative. For a positive majority the player receives a ring, and a bead for a negative majority. For example, if a player has an orange habit and one orange ring and one green ring, the orange equals -3, and the green equals +1. Since the -3 is higher a player landing on the same space as that player would be given one orange bead.
The only time a player does not calculate Karmic Majority is in the Spirit Realm. So now you can also understand why people were trying to avoid me and all my bad Karma.
Playing the Game
Cosmic Karma is a roll and move game (roll two dice, move that number of spaces). It is not the most complex mechanic and one we are very familiar with. But the mechanic itself is not as important as the message and the game play.
Basic Game Play: The player rolls two dice, moves, and takes the items indicated on the space. The first player to acquire all three master tools, remove all negative Karma, and return to Cosmic Consciousness wins the game.
1. First Round: Players roll the dice and move clockwise around the Earth Realm. When the "Hanging On" space is reached, they ever the Spirit Realm or return to Cosmic Consciousness. To return here players must had the three master tools, and now beads or habits. An exact roll of the dice or an exact number on the Free Will Cards is not necessary. A player cannot go into Cosmic Conscience as a way to return to Land 1 and avoid the Spirit Realm.
2. Loosening a Habit: The Temple of the Sword is the only place where a player can loosen a habit. A player may enter this temple without a Master Sword but cannot loosen a habit.
3. Looping Through Temples: Looping through either the Temple of the Sword or the Temple of the Torch adjusts the players move by one space and is a strategy that should be considered and used if necessary.
4. Past Life Review: In the "Past Life Review" space the player reflects on their past life. This space counts as one move. Note the stop sign on the space: the player's turn ends regardless of the dice count.
5. Future Life Planning: Here, the player plans for his next physical life. On his next turn he will have three options: re-enter Land 1 using a roll of the dice or a Free Will Card(s): join any player in Lands 1 through 4, and take that player's karmic majority and the results of that space (but no Free Will cards) or wait one, two or three turns before deciding.
6. Arrows: Arrows, both long and short do not count as spaces.
7. Pit: When the player enters the Pit, he takes a bead and his turn is over. He also takes the Karmic majority of any player in the Pit.
8. Dharma Wheels: The Dharma Wheel provides the player with the most direct route to improve his specific karma. A Dharma Wheel may only be entered through adjoining Free Will Card space and only when the player has a Master Wand. Each Dharma Wheel counts as one space.
Winning the Game:
When a player has removed all negative karma, gained all three master tools, and landed on the "Hanging On" Space they are able to enter Cosmic Conscience and win the game. The first player to enter wins.
A friend once told me that they never want to play a game unless they can learn something from that game. As a counter, I explained that in every game there is a lesson. You learn about yourself, others, and the game itself. In Cosmic Karma, there are many lessons to learn. You learn about your own beliefs, question your own actions, and complete what choice you would make. You also learn that there are consequences for our actions, both good and bad. You are shown that you and other people can change for the better; and sometimes, for the worse. You also learn about traditions from around the world - Western psychology, Eastern religions and traditions, and a little about New Thought traditions.
I know that there are some who may have questions about the theme of this game. Personally, I do not believe in reincarnation and a few of the other beliefs used in Cosmic Karma. But I enjoyed learning and understanding them better. It didn't change my beliefs; it just made me more knowledgeable about other beliefs.
I found that the basic idea of the game is learning right from wrong, removing the gray areas, and seeing that our actions bring about karma or consequences. The age limit is set at 13+ and I have to agree with that. Some of the issues would be difficult for younger children to process. I would like to see a variant for younger players because I can see the value of this as a therapy or anti-bullying game.
I had a great time playing this game with my husband and friends. Yes, it is a roll and move game. But don't judge it too harshly for that. Attaining and using the Free Will Cards and strategic use of the Dhrama Wheels takes away some of luck. Once players have obtained the Master Torch a crafty combination of free will cards and Choice Cards will help them to obtain more good karma and avoid bad karma. This is not a heavy mechanic game in any way, but is a very mature game. Game play itself is very light, but the theme really does make you think.
I also have to gush over the artwork and components once more. I love the artwork, the monks are adorable, and the colors draw you in, and make you want to know more. The board is beautiful and so detailed. The component quality is top notch.
If you are looking for an easy to learn, easy to play, deep thought game, consider "Cosmic Karma." Of course, you just might have to step out of your comfort zone, and that's a good thing!
Designer: Linda Look
Artist: Crystal McLaughlin
Publisher: Cosmic Karma Game Partners LLC
Number of Players: 2-4
Game Length: 30-90 minutes
**Just a note, I received a review copy of this game.**