The Evolution (Intelligent Design?) of Keltis
Lucas Hedgren
United States
Dublin
Ohio
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Recommend
23 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
So, Im a sucker for game series. I was initially resistant to Keltis, but when the card game and expansion were announced, I decided to give the games a shot, and I am really happy I did, especially for the later in the series. So, I wanted to write up a review, of the whole shebang, really, and how the games compare to one another. As I was writing it up (in my head) I kept thinking, this would be better as a Geeklist.
Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
  • [+] Dice rolls
1. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:303]
Lucas Hedgren
United States
Dublin
Ohio
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
The Grandaddy. You know this, and how it works. If you don't, go read a review or 2, then come back.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
2. Board Game: Lost Cities: The Board Game [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:1079]
Lucas Hedgren
United States
Dublin
Ohio
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
The immediate ancestor. As the initial design in the Keltis/LCBG split, I'll address this one first. The changes from LC are basically the move to 4 players. The board and pawns are, for the most part, just scoring tools. With the move to the board and pawns, randomized bonuses can be assigned to specific values and colors, and bonus movement along a track can be accomplished. (Something that would be clunky to track using just cards.) So, with a little variance, if I play 5 red cards, my pawn has moved about 5 spaces along the red track. The variable points for the distance along the path, and the various cliffs along the way, pretty much are the game. The doubling pawn is a sort of deterministic replacement for investment cards. And a variable ending condition is created, to add some more tension right near the end. But, other than those somewhat minor, aspects, this is essentially 4 player LC.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
3. Board Game: Keltis [Average Rating:6.42 Overall Rank:1517]
Lucas Hedgren
United States
Dublin
Ohio
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Here is the first of 2 big breaks in the evolutionary path of this series of games. There are 2 differences between Keltis and LCBG. 1 minor, 1 major.

Minor: in LCBG, you play 3 rounds, scoring stones/monuments after all 3 rounds. This is just preference, in my opinion. Now, its a real difference, mind you, but I don't see a better/worse value here. If you tend to play more than 1 game in a row, then scoring at the end seems more fun. Also, its closer to the LC way of doing things.

Major: In Keltis, you can play cards in ascending or descending order. This is a major design difference, and one that really shapes how the game feels. All the games that follow allow for ascending and descending play. Much has been written about this, but count me firmly in the "in favor of the change" camp. Here is why: In LC, cards are worth their numerical value. So, a high value card cuts off more options, but its also worth more points. This is not the case in LCBG, as each card simply moves you one space along the path. Later spaces on the paths are typically worth more points, but there is nothing inherently linking the high cards to the later spaces. In LCBG, you get dealt high cards, you are in a simply worse position than otherwise. This strikes me as unfair, and pretty un-Knizia-like.

So, Keltis, feels more open, and less tense as a result. I can appreciate the criticism of the lost angst, but I think the cost is reasonable for a fairer game, and one that has more choice about what paths to take. (Though not as much choice as the versions that come after the later big break, evolutionary-wise.) The choice of whether to start a new line with your green 8 is simply one that is not there in LCBG.

Also, people seem to lament the loss of the use of the discard piles in the Keltis line. Meh, no big deal, to me. In a 2 player game, picking and playing of the other person's discards is interesting. In a multi-player game, it feels less like a good play, and more like good fortune. There are plenty of interesting decisions to come, without the benefit of frequently used discard piles. Plus, who wants to do nothing on their turn?
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
4. Board Game: Keltis: Das Kartenspiel [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:1804]
Lucas Hedgren
United States
Dublin
Ohio
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Ok, we move back to just cards. But, rather than just adding the investment cards back in, and calling it a day, we have some nice tweaks to link this game to Keltis, rather than LCBG or a straight 4 player LC. Note, for the paths, we are back to a straight 1 card is one step, relationship.
1. Ending cards replace the investment cards. A neutral change, gameplay-wise, I think, but this allows the variable ending from Keltis to live on in the card game.
2. Stones claimable by discarding pairs. A cool way to create some utility of otherwise dead cards, and another decision point for non-dead cards early. Is this card worth more if I add it to my stack, or if I use it in a pair for a stone? Playing 2 cards also cycles your hand a bit more, which is something to throw into the equation.
3. Multi-use point cards. Meld 'em, use them as wilds, or in pairs. Unique to this iteration of the game. Restriction on their use as wilds, but flexibility and certain points as their own set. Nice give and take.

In all, a nice card based version of the Keltis (vs. LC) system, different and more flexible than LC proper, with a few interesting twists.

(One beef: I wish a little scoring card would have been included (like the next game has), so I don't have to keep/set out the rules.)
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
5. Board Game: Keltis: Der Weg der Steine Mitbringspiel [Average Rating:6.44 Overall Rank:2581]
Lucas Hedgren
United States
Dublin
Ohio
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
One side detour for the brand. This uses the ideas and scoring structure, and adds a quick, binary decision system. So, scoring works pretty much the same as the previous incarnations of Keltis, but rather than choosing from a hand of cards, you draw and then keep or discard. All discards are available for drawing, and bonuses (extra turns, points and stones) are attached to specific tiles.

(See, this is where Knizia shines, imo. He takes what could be an almost exact duplicate game in the BMM package, and adds a push-your-luck style decision mechanic to the known scoring scheme, and we have something new and worthwhile.)
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
6. Board Game: Keltis: Neue Wege, Neue Ziele [Average Rating:7.13 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.13 Unranked]
Lucas Hedgren
United States
Dublin
Ohio
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
New stuff:
1. Multicolored stones. Go for a set, or for triplets.
2. The "discard a card" bonus. This is really interesting, as you can plan for this, and use a singleton card, or a number far off from the cards you have played, knowing you will be able to discard it. Also, discarding from hand is more powerful than you think.
3. Some of the point values go down as you go along the path. Moving your pawn one more space is no longer a no brainer, unless you think you have time/cards to move it a couple more. Do I stay here for 5 points, or move ahead and hope to make it to 8?
4. Cris-crossing paths. This is the other big development, big leap in the series. Pawns are no longer linked directly to a color of cards. This is huge. The feel of the board and pawns goes from a scoreboard for your card play, to being the actual game itself, and the cards just allowing you to move your pawns. Keltis is now a board game with cards, and not a card game that uses a board. So, we go from something like Cribbage (where the board pretty much is just a scoreboard) to Brass (where the cards just serve to restrict your available actions.)*

I can play 1 or 2 cards in a suit, as long as I plan ahead, without taking a huge point hit. You can really look ahead and plan with the cards in your hand, to make the most efficient use of them. Play cards in all 5 colors to take your doubler pawn to the top. There is still a race aspect, for the one off stones. You can really shape a strategy around your hand, as opposed to your hand dictating your play.

*Note: I am not saying we go from Cribbage to Brass, complexity-wise, just in the apparent function of the cards/board.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
7. Board Game: Keltis: Das Orakel [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:2449]
Lucas Hedgren
United States
Dublin
Ohio
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
And finally, we arrive at the latest incarnation. Much of what "New Ways" added is retained here, with a few more twists.
1. One long path, Cards now take any of your 3 pawns to the next space of that color. Staying with the unlinked cards/pawns bit is great. Now, really any hand of cards can work, and the game is mostly about what options you choose.
2. Scarce/hard-to-get stones, and companion doubler mirrors, allows for a "stone strategy."
3. Discard bonuses are still present, in the form of Leprechauns, which also serve as an incentive to use all 3 of your pawns. If you manage to get all three of your pawns on some combination of the 3 Leprechaun spaces, you get a 1 time bonus of 5, 10, or 15 points, depending on how spread out they are. You really have to plan to make this happen, so its a nice payoff. A bonus this restrictive wouldn't have worked in the previous "card/pawn-linked" versions, and shows the flexibility that you have in this one.
4. Bonus moves backwards, to get to specific spaces, like the aforementioned Leprechauns or stones.
5. And finally the Oracle itself. Instead of moving a pawn, move the Oracle up to 5 spaces (depending on the card number you play). If she lands on your pawn, get 5 points. Five points is a lot, on a per card basis, so this is usually a good move.

(One beef: the only difference between the cards here and the standard ones is the number of spaces you can move the Oracle printed on them. Were it not for that, this could have been an expansion. A chart could have sufficed.)
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}