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Russ Williams
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(Full disclosure: I know Folko, I helped playtest the game a year ago, and I am involved in translating the forthcoming English version.)

Kraby (Polish for "Crabs") is a new abstract game from Adam Kałuża (aka Folko, creator of the combinatorial games Glik and Hooop!). Kraby has nicely done cute artwork with crabs, but it's essentially an abstract game with strategy and randomness, of the sort "play one of your randomly drawn tiles onto the board, then draw a new tile" with scoring depending on connected groups of the same type of tile (e.g. Ingenious, Blockers!). It adds a twist of deciding what your point-earning goals are as the game progresses. It's for 2-4 players.



RULE SUMMARY:

There are 5 colors of crabs, each with 24 tiles. Players keep 6 randomly drawn tiles behind their player screen. On your turn, you simply add one of your tiles to the square 11x11 board. The crab enters from an edge and keeps moving in a straight line until it hits another crab or the sand bar on the middle square, stopping and sticking there. (So the first crab played must stop against the sand bar in the center.) Then you draw a replacement crab from the bag.

This continues until every crab has been placed, so the board is full, ending the game. At that point, players compute how much each color is worth, which is based on the size of connected groups in each color. A single isolated crab is -1 for that color; a connected pair is 0; a connected trio gives 1 point; 4 connected crabs give 3 points; 5 or more in a group gives 5 points.

Note that the crab colors do not directly represent players! Rather, each player will have "invested" in different colors during play. Specifically, after adding a tile to the board, you may claim a color and multiplier: x1, x2, or x3.

This is implemented by the player taking a plastic crab of the desired color and putting it onto their player mat in one of 3 boxes (x1, x2, or x3). So a player can be invested in up to 3 colors by the end of the game.

You cannot select the same color and multiplier pair as another player. So it's possible that I have chosen "blue x3", and then if you want to earn from blue as well, you must pick "blue x2" or "blue x1".

This creates several effects. E.g. it's possible one or more colors are "neutral" (no one chooses to invest in them).

And it adds emergent alliances into the system. In the extreme case, 2 players might have invested in the same 3 colors (e.g. one has "red x3, blue x2, yellow x1" and the other "blue x3, yellow x2, red x1"). Then they are both happy to make the red, blue, yellow crabs worth more, and hurt the other 2 colors.

Of course it can also happen that you share 1 color with one player, and another color with another player!

If the game ends, and you've not invested in as many colors as possible, then you simply earn for the colors you've selected so far. Sometimes you intentionally don't want to invest in more, because you anticipate the remaining colors are all going to be negative!

Kraby works fine with 2-4 players - we've played with all combinations and enjoyed it. There are minor rule variations depending on the number of players (e.g. with 2 players, you use only 4 crab colors and a 9x9 grid).

PHYSICAL PRODUCTION:

On the plus side, the art is very nice and appealing, by Piotr Socha, the same artist who made the frog-themed Hooop!

There are also cute plastic crabs used to indicate which colors you're invested in.

It also has a quick setup time (in contrast to its predecessor Hooop, which required placing lots of little bridge pieces all over the board before play begins).

On the down side, the box is way too big and full of air: a typical annoying marketer's "a big box will sell better" mentality.

This makes the game useless for many people to carry to game clubs, etc, unless they simply put the board and pieces into a small envelope (see the photo - the box is 26x26x8 cm, but the components fit within 20x20x2 cm). It also unnecessarily wastes a lot of shelf space. It would be great to see Kraby in a nice small portable box like Uptown.

And the counters are very thin cardstock, giving a rather cheap feel, which is a shame considering how nice the art looks. The game deserves better thicker tiles. Indeed, having played Uptown and Ingenious recently, several of us think it would have been much nicer to have tile racks instead of Kraby's less useful player screens which are so light and flimsy they get knocked aside easily and sometimes fail to hide your tiles.

EDITED TO ADD: I have heard a rumor that the publisher is redoing it with thicker tiles.

EDITED TO ADD: The rumor is true! The new edition appeared quickly and has much more pleasing tiles, with thickness similar to games like Uptown.

The score track counters are also very small squares, a bit hard to see and manipulate. Luckily that's a smaller issue, since you only deal with scoring once at the end of the game.

The 5 types of crabs all have the same shape, so they are distinguishable only by color, not by shape of crab. So this might be an issue for some colorblind people. (I'm amazed how many publishers make this simple error. My old gaming group has several colorblind people, and an awful lot of games were needlessly problematic for them.)

STRATEGY:

The timing on when to pick a color to aim for is interesting. Pick too soon, and you make your color a target. Opponents will sabotage it by creating singleton (-1 point) groups, or by adding extra crabs to a group that already has 5 crabs (extra crabs in a big group don't earn more points). Of course if that color looks like it's obviously going to score well, then you hope others will join it as well (at x2 or x1) and help you with it.

Some players pick early, others wait until things become a little clearer, but then risk all the good colors having already been chosen for x3.

Hand management matters. You like to save tiles of your x3 color so you can add to a single new tile added by an opponent hoping to make a singleton group of your color. But if you save them too long, you may find yourself forced to play singletons of your x3 color in the endgame. Counting how many tiles remain in each color is important in the endgame.

It is sometimes useful to become the x2 investor in the color of the player opposite you in a 4 player game, because if you and an adjacent player are both supporting the same color, then the other 2 players get 2 turns in a row (one, then the other opponent) to hurt your color. If only one opponent gets a turn before one of you can react, it can be safer for you.

If you're invested at x2 in a color, you normally are happy to improve that color's position, even though it helps the x3 player more... unless you are sure that the x3 player is your only serious competitor and you're sure to beat the other player(s). Then you're happy to hurt your x2 color to hurt your x3 "ally" even more. devil

So as you see, there are interesting decisions to be made, despite there being luck of the draw.

WILL YOU LIKE IT?

Kraby is marketed as a children's/family game (apparently that's a larger market). Indeed, it is a fine game for kids, and I've seen various kids enjoying it. The rules are simple, and the game can be played casually by kids just for fun. The art is fun and appealing to kids.

However the strategy is nontrivial and enjoyable even for "real gamers" who enjoy tile-laying games like Ingenious and Uptown, but who might be turned off by playing what looks like a mere "kid's game". Kraby proved popular at the recent Pionek convention in Gliwice, Poland.

I enjoy it, I expect to keep playing it, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys games like Ingenious and Uptown.
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Eugene
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Nice review. I'm fond of these commodity speculation games that don't involve stocks and currency (ie, Wildlife Safari and Bucket Brigade). This one sounds fun. I surmise that each player receives five investment tokens. Is this correct?
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Russ Williams
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garygarison wrote:
Nice review. I'm fond of these commodity speculation games that don't involve stocks and currency (ie, Wildlife Safari and Bucket Brigade). This one sounds fun. I surmise that each player receives five investment tokens. Is this correct?

Ah, Honeybears was a favorite evening closer in my old gaming group. Fond nostalgia...

To answer your question - sorry that wasn't clear enough in the review. I just added the following paragraph which I hope explains better:

This is implemented by the player taking a plastic crab of the desired color and putting it onto their player mat in one of 3 boxes (x1, x2, or x3). So a player can be invested in up to 3 colors by the end of the game.
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MK
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After reading how the game is played and scored, it sounds like Knizia abstracts were a strong influence on this game. Shame about the publisher's production values - sounds to be a great little multi-player abstract!
 
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Russ Williams
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BTW: I have just heard a rumor that the publisher is redoing it with thicker tiles. We shall see!
 
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Lukasz Pogoda
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The game is nice, but it suffers as a product from being underdeveloped. Besides bad cardboard and bland game board, the Kramer's tracks on the board are narrow and tiny, with almost useless chits. IMO the game was pushed to print a tad too early.

I personally don't like multiplying systems and gameplay evolves a bit too slow (possibly the game area could be designed as a bit smaller) -- but overal feeling is good.
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Russ Williams
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BTW: The new edition appeared quickly and has much more pleasing tiles, with thickness similar to games like Uptown.
 
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