A comical familiar for an absent-minded wizard.
As a father of ten (almost eleven) and nine year-old boys, I was looking for a game that was a little less involved. The boys are more than capable of playing the Commands and Colors series and have recently been introduced to Axis & Allies: D-Day, so they can handle the entry level wargames just fine. However, I was looking for a bit lighter fare than can be played when we just want to have a little fun on a Friday night. Enter Kragmortha.
Concept of the Game:
Players control goblins who are trying their best to rip off their master's collection of magical tomes, all the while trying not to get caught by the Dark Overlord himself, Rigor Mortis. As might be expected for goblins, it's every goblin for itself, meaning it is often better to help a fellow goblin into a confrontation with Rigor Mortis than working together to both avoid His Evilness.
Rules of the Game - Movement:
Players each control a goblin counter and receive 3 movement cards for their hands. In addition, there is a counter for Rigor Mortis, for he is a movable entity as well. Figure 1 (image by LostLukas) shows the counters for the goblins and Rigor Mortis.
During a player's turn, a player plays a movement card. There are two types of movement cards, one for goblins (figure 2 by jarjar26), and the other for Rigor Mortis himself (figure 3 also by jarjar26). If a player plays a goblin movement card, the player moves his goblin counter. If a Rigor Mortis card is played, the player moves Rigor Mortis.
Each card has two symbols on it, such as a green vial or a scroll. Each space on the board also has a symbol on it, as shown in Figure 4 (also by jarjar26). To move to an adjacent space, one of the two symbols on the card must match the symbol on that space (the order on the card doesn't matter). A second space can be moved if the remaining symbol on the card can be matched from that new space. The crystal ball is a wild card symbol and matches any symbol. At the end of the player's turn, the player draws a new movement card to replace the one just played.
Rules of the Game - The Objective:
As a player you are trying to maneuver your goblin from its starting square into one of the squares where the Magic Tome cards are (shown in the upper left corner of figure 4) in order to steal one of the Dark Overlord's treasured books of magic. You're also steering Rigor Mortis away from you and into the other goblins so that they may suffer Rigor's withering gaze.
Rules of the Game - Shoving Goblins:
If you enter a space with another goblin, you get to shove that goblin to an adjacent space with the exception of the one you came from. This can set up a chain reaction where a shoved goblin enters the space of another goblin. In this case, the shoved goblin gets some manner of satisfaction as that goblin now shoves the next goblin and determine where it should go. Goblins can be shoved into teleport spaces or into Rigor Mortis himself.
Rules of the Game - Teleport Spaces:
If a goblin enters a teleport space (figure 5 by wallover), the player turns over a teleport token to determine the goblin's fate (figure 6 by szoffi). If the token is a Magic Tome, the player gets one of the Magic Tome cards. If the token is a blue book, the player draws a Withering Gaze card. If the player flips over the surprised looking goblin, nothing special happens. In all three cases, the goblin is then moved by the player to an empty teleport space on the board. If all other teleport spaces are covered, no teleport happens (and no teleport token is flipped over). If Rigor Mortis lands on a teleport space, the controlling player may move Rigor Mortis to any empty space on the board.
Rules of the Game - The Withering Gaze:
A goblin that comes into contact with Rigor Mortis, either by moving into Rigor's space or by Rigor Mortis entering into the unfortunate goblin's space, must immediately draw a Withering Gaze card, which tells some action the player must perform for the remainder of the game. Example Withering Gaze cards include keeping the card on your head, playing with one arm behind your back, playing the rest of the game with clenched fists, or playing with your chin resting firmly on the table as in Figure 7.
Failure to honor a Withering Gaze card earns you another Withering Gaze card, effective immediately. There is one respite with respect to the Withering Gaze cards: you can only have one of a particular type of card. Each Withering Gaze card has a symbol in the upper left corner of the card (see Figure 8 also from szoffi). For instance, a picture of the head or the teeth. If you draw another card with a symbol matching one of the Withering Gaze cards you possess, you must draw until this is not the case.
Accumulating Withering Gaze cards, aside from the obvious discomfort, is not a good thing. Should a player accumulate four Withering Gaze cards, the player is out of the game and the game immediately ends. Another way the game can end is if all of the Magic Tome cards are seized by the sneaky goblins. However, in the couple of games my family has played, the end has been determined by the Dark Overlord's gaze.
Rules of the Game - Why Magic Tome Cards?
If Withering Gaze cards determine your fate, why go after the magic tome cards at all? Why not just stay away from Rigor Mortis instead? For one, each Magic Tome card can be played once (and then turned over) and its effects applied to the current game. Unless the card specifies otherwise, this action can only be done during the player's turn. However, the effects can be quite tremendous. For instance, I had a Magic Tome card that allowed me to move Rigor Mortis one additional space as if he had a crystal ball symbol. This allowed me to move Rigor Mortis 3 spaces on top of a seemingly safe goblin for his fourth Withering Gaze card. Other Magic Tome cards include ones which allow you to give one of your Withering Gaze cards to a player with fewer Withering Gaze cards than you. Truly an evil, evil magical spell. For two, in the event of tie breaks, the Magic Tome cards can determine the winner of the game.
Rules of the Game - Winning, or at least, not losing:
When a player is ejected from the game due to acquiring his or her fourth Withering Gaze card or all the Magic Tome cards have been seized, the game ends. The winner of the game is the one with the fewest Withering Gaze cards. Should there be a tie, the winner is determined among those tied by the one having the most Magic Tome cards. Should there still be a tie, each Magic Tome card has between one and three symbols in the crystal ball on the card. The tied player with the greatest number of symbols among all his or her Magic Tome cards is then the winner.
Thoughts on the Game - Movement:
Movement took a little bit to get used to, especially for the boys. They had to see how to put together the symbol in order to make moves of two spaces, but it's not anywhere near as complex as, say, RoboRally. Goblin shoving was fun when it happened, but even with four players on the small board layout, between the two games we played, goblins only got shoved a handful of times, and never into Rigor Mortis. I like the idea, but it's probably not very practical with a smaller number of players because there is plenty of space to stay away from each other (with the exception of Rigor Mortis).
Thoughts on the Game - Strategy:
In the second game my strategy was simple: avoid getting Withering Gaze cards. I did this at the expense of accumulating Magic Tome cards. This proved to be an effective strategy as I drew enough Rigor Mortis movement cards to keep him targeted at everyone else and enough goblin cards to keep me far out of his reach. In addition, I stayed away from the Teleports until I were sure they were safe. There are only 6 teleport tokens, and only two of them lead to nasty results. Those two came up fairly quickly in the second game, meaning afterwards at worst I would just teleport. The tokens don't get flipped back over and shuffled until all 6 have been revealed, meaning for the rest of the game, the Teleports were safe for me to use to stay away from His Evilness.
Thoughts on the Game - Suitability:
If you have children around the same age as mine, this is a great family game to play with them. It's rules light, it's extremely comical, and it plays through fairly quick (30-45 minutes with 3-4 players). If your gaming group is looking for a "party type" game with a bit of silliness, this one works well for that, too.
If, however, you're looking for a solid strategy game, this probably isn't the one for you. There is some strategy in determining the movement of your goblin and Rigor Mortis, but it's hard to get a good look of the board and think strategy when your chin is fastened to the table.