Karak Board Game Review – Kosmos Games.

Oh Karak! You lay bare your gifts with your surprise card dungeon tiles and unexpected treasures in locked chests that need keys to fought for. You had players roaming as chosen heroes collecting swords and daggers and all the time wondering if the next draw from the bag is going to be the very dragon that you have to defeat in order to win the game. You bring special skills and dice rolling and indented character boards with slots for keys and life hearts with pain on the opposite side.

Oh Karak! With your standees with small character art and bigger character cards with cryptic symbols that tell me sometimes everything about a character and nothing at the same time. You leave me pondering the rule book to figure out how I should be tackling the confusing and very similar dungeon. Watching me and my fellow explorers making the path ahead and passing through teleports and healing fountains but always stopping after our fourth action. Unless of course we end up doing something other than moving, for that is when we stop and let someone else have a shot at their glory. 

Oh Karak! You bedazzle us with your random placement of tiles that aren’t really bedazzling. You then wow us with the bag of surprises and the chance of facing off the final boss within the first round. We watch you laugh at us as we desperately scramble away from the impending danger, and come back with extra weapons in a character cards and sometimes scrolls. You watch us roll dice and add that amount together even though in the book of rules you aren’t clear how many dice we should be rolling across our table when we face our foe.

Oh Karak! A game of opportunity that could have done something wonderful for us. A standard fare, a vanilla ice cream of a game without the chocolate sauce to make us drool. An adventure that looks in the mirror and gazes back confused at what it should be. Are we serious and grown up or are we mere children, playing with swords and fantasy? A grey tiled affair that needed moss, or an errant golden coin within it’s passages of light darkness. And where are you enemies? Why throw them to the floor as mere tiles to be stood upon like yesterday’s news. Do we not deserve a Dragon in all it’s terrifying glory? Does a dragon not deserve to stand? 

Oh Karak! Let us not utter your name in vain, for while I speak of you with a heavy heart, the youngest of my team did declare you to be ‘Very awesome’ and would play you again. Guess I’m wrong then.. 

I struggle with writing reviews about games that left me lukewarm on arrival. As much as I like certain aspects of Karak, it suffers from the identity crisis of trying to be both family friendly but also not look family friendly. So you have a mixture of straight forward simple mechanics that will please the young crowd all the way through to some well written character bios that you would expect in a much more mature product. There’s an extremeness in how sterile the whole experience is with there being a certain lack of joy resonating through the game. The artwork is very good for the characters, but I don’t need a dull grey character board and dungeon tiles please. It’s so strange because it does tick a lot of boxes, but more like a checklist of minimum requirements than a list of excitement. There’s a lot of competition out there in this kind of space right now, and I’m not convinced that Karak does enough to put it above games like Coraquest in terms of the amount of heart and joy it exudes as a product. My youngest thought it was great but it left me wanting something slightly more. I don’t think this one is for me. Sorry. 


You can find out more about Karak by visiting https://store.thamesandkosmos.com/products/karak-2l

Ages: 7+

Author: Petr Mikša and Roman Hladík

Number of Players: 2-5

Length of Play: 45 minutes

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    This review is based on the final retail version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid for this review. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned.