Ka Mate Ka Mate
Ka Ora Ka Ora
Overview: Once again players assume the adventureous roles of farmers, trying to get their hands on the best livestock and selling it off for profit and ultimately victory.
Components: You get a nice colourful board showing a cattle market (full of hexes), a whole lot of thick cardboard chits depicting the 6 different types of animals (of varying value with the chicks being lowest and cows the most valuable) and some bags of hay, 15 farmer meeples in the 5 player colours, plenty of food meeples and numbered cardboard markers 1-5.
The quality and artwork are what you'd expect to find in a family game published by Hans im Glück.
Rulebook: Short, easy to read, straight-to-the-point.
Setup: Shuffle the animal chits, place one face down on each hex - ready to go!
Gameplay: Each turn the active player turns over one chit and then has to option to place one of his three farmer meeples on that chit and therefor lay his claim on that animal or keep the meeple for later turns.
As soon as the first player has placed all of his three meeples he receives the marker "1"; the next player who places his last farmer gets number "2" etc. This continues until the last player has sent all his farmers to the market at which point all the remaining facedown chits are turned over.
Now the player in possession of marker "1" gets first pick of the available livestock. He chooses one of his meeples, decides which way little Old McDonald is facing and receives all the chits (including the one he is standing on) in the line of sight until he hits either the edge of the board or another meeple (friend or foe). Number 2 gets his first choice and round and round we go until all farmers brought their loot back to the farm.
Now the players can sell off the newly acquired animals (theme?!) for profit. This is done by either selling off a set of 4 animals of the same sort or a set of exactly one animal of each type. Whatever the choice was, the player gets to keep one chit in his safe (the highest valued at that) and by doing so receives victory points equal to that animals value.
The animals the player decides to take over to the next round however are hungry and need to be fed. This can be achieved by either handing off a haysack chit previously collected or by selling off an animal for food. For each animal sold the player receives a number of food meeples equalling the animals value. Each foodmeeple will offer sufficient food for a single animal for this turn.
The game ends after 4 rounds, player with the most points wins.
This is pure and simple a family game and as such does a serviceable job.
There are plenty of decisions to be made, unfortunately none of them are that meaningful.
The placing of the meeples allows for almost no longterm planning due to the uncertainty of opponents' moves as well as the type of chits (as long as they are still facedown). The decision of sell-or-not-sell is always quite an obvious one to even the hardly-experienced gamer.
The most interesting part of the game is choosing which farmer select first and which line of chits to take home. There is a nice screw-you element to this decision and allows the player to thwart the other players' plans.
Luck: With all the hidden information of the facedown chits and the chaotic nature of the gameflow there is quite a bit of luck involved.
Scalabilty:The game plays reasonably well with all numbers. For the experienced player only 2 or 3 is recommandable though, since the game becomes a lot more tactical.
Conclusion:As stated before, Schweinebande is a decent enough family game. With the vast choices of very nice ones out there, though, it might have a hard time catching the eye of mothers and fathers. For the hardcore gamers and strategists it's a clear No Go. For a fun diversion and a quick filler there are simply much, much better games out there (eg. El Paso, Basket Boss et al)