Alas, I am once again forced to play another game with stunning artwork and quality components. I must have done something right in a past life. Here you’ll find a quick to set up, fairly easy to play card game that features some neat mechanics.
Karmaka is a card game for 2-4 players, by Hemisphere Games and takes about 30-60 minutes to play.
How to Play
This is a brief summary of the rules – it’s entirely possible that I’ll miss a few of the once-case rules or whatnot.
Shuffle the deck of 64 cards. Place the Karmic Ladder in the center of the table and drop your player tokens smack dab on the Dung Beetle. Yup, the Dung Beetle. Now you create the ‘Well’ (main deck of cards) with those 64 game cards. From this well of cards you’ll deal four cards to each player which becomes their hand, and 2 cards face down which becomes their starting deck.
On your turn, you’ll draw one card from your deck (if available), and play one card from your hand. You can play these cards in one of three ways.
- To your Deeds.
- To your Future Life.
- For it’s Ability.
That’s it! That’s your turn. Players keep doing this until they die. No, seriously. It’s okay though, with Karmaka, you’ll be reincarnated in a turn. Now let’s get into the meat of the game.
If you play a card to your Deed’s pile, you’ll be doing it for the score. Each card is worth 1, 2 or 3 points. If, when you run out of cards to play and you shuffle off this mortal coil you have enough points (4, 5, 6 or 7) you can reincarnate at the next level of being. Levels proceed as follows: Dung Beetles, Snakes, Wolves, Apes and finally, transcendence and the win. If you die without having enough points to move upwards, you’ll receive a Karmic Ring which is worth 1 point when scoring.
There is a trick though, there are four colors – red, green blue and ‘mosaic’ (wild). You must pull your score only from one color in your Deeds pile, adding any Mosaic cards to that color.
That’s the Deeds pile. There’s also your Future Life pile. You may play cards face down towards your Future life. When you run out of cards to draw and play, you’ll reincarnate – whether you have enough points or not to proceed to the next level, your Future Life deck will become your new hand. If there are less than six cards, you also draw cards from the well, face down into a new draw deck until your hand and your deck equals six cards. If you have six or more cards, you’ve got yourself a big hand.
Then you can play cards for their Abilities. Each card has an ability on it They may allow you to add extra cards to your hand, or Ruin one of your opponents Deeds (put it in the discard pile) or even peruse the discard pile to add cards to your hands. There are quite a few abilities but as with all things karmic, what comes around, goes around. If you play a card for it’s ability it goes into the Ruins pile (again, the discard pile). Here’s the catch though, your opponent may choose to snatch that card from the ruins and place it into their Future Life pile, to use against you.
That’s the game. When you have not more cards to draw or play, you die and are reincarnated. You score your deeds and move up the Karmic Ladder or grab a Karmic Ring if you can’t move up. Then you take your Future Life pile as your new hand, draw so you have at six cards if you have fewer and go around again. There are a few extra rules and play variants for 3-4 players.
Why you should play
Simple on it’s surface, Karmaka actually has a lot going on. You don’t want to extend your life too long by building up your hand to a massive size through your Future Life deck. You have to be careful what you play in your Deeds pile as other players can do things to this – and to your hand as well. Trying to time when you’ll die and reincarnate is fairly important, as well as holding on to that one card you want to play when your opponent dies and essentially misses a turn.
Our first play through was fairly simple – build up a good Deeds pile, throw a card you don’t care about it on top (the order doesn’t change) so that if you get attacked it’ll hit a card you don’t mind losing and then pop off to reincarnate and do it again. Towards the end though, when trying to scrape up the 7 points to transcend and win, we realized that you can do a lot in the earlier game to set yourself up for the later game.
What you play to your Future Life pile can be critical, as is snatching up nasty (or highly beneficial) cards your opponent plays for their Abilities. But don’t just grab every single card they play, when they play it – it may be worth it let that card get buried in the Ruins, hopefully never to be seen again.
Later plays actually slowed down by five or ten minutes as we gave some though to what may happen in our next life.
The components, though simple – a few cardboard punch outs, wooden player tokens, a small player board and cards, are all of very high quality. Wonderful, moody art makes every card something to look at. The cards aren’t linen finished but are decently thick and shuffle well.
Personally, I think this game plays best with 2 players. The 3-4 player game works and is certainly playable and enjoyable but as a two player, thinky card game Karmaka shines. This is another game that’s found a home on my shelf and I’ll certainly be playing more of it.