If you are looking for a new tile laying game that feels fresh, then I would recommend Karekare.
Theme and What is it?
In the 13th century Polynesian explorers discovered a beautiful new land. They called it Aotearoa. We call it New Zealand. Karekare is the story of their discovery and eventual settlement of Aotearoa.
This story is told from the view point of four tribes, each competing for resources and places of honor among their people. Each tribe is represented by a bird that is native to this region. All of them, but one, are in danger of becoming extinct. Unfortunately, one species is past the point of danger and has been extinct for decades. Not only do you get to learn about the Maori (the culture that developed from the early settlers), players learn about the native birds of New Zealand and the extreme danger they are in.
Karekare is a tile laying game for 2-4 players.
Each player picks a tribe and takes all the components for their color. The tiles are split into three equal piles, the number of tiles depends on the player count. Each round will end once its stack of tiles is depleted.
Players start with two tiles. They select which of the two to play and play it against a tile(s) that is already out in play. Depending on the tile that is played and which tiles it is played against, different outcomes will happen. Placing a forest tile next to another forest tile gives it stick resources, while placing against a field only provides a single stick. By placing certain tiles next to certain other tiles, players can gain resources, build huts, and place canoes. All of these things lead to being able to gain victory points.
After the three rounds, the points are totaled and the player with the highest score wins.
I was able to fly through the rulebook of Karekare and teach the game quickly. We had a three- player game going in just a few minutes. Each player had their own card that showed them what happened when each tile type was placed next to other tiles. Once the symbols on the card were understood, it made the game very easy to navigate.
The game ended up being very competitive. No one ever fell behind because of lack of strategy. The overall reception of Karekare was positive. Everyone felt like they understood the game and they each enjoyed playing it.
Game Build Quality
The quality is very high on everything in Karekare. It is a smaller size box and when I picked it up, I was surprised that it was so heavy. The cardboard is extra thick. The box itself is sturdier than normal. The canoes, huts and resource tokens are fantastic. There is nothing to complain about from a quality view point. This game’s production was above and beyond the industry standard.
The artwork is fun and lighthearted. It does well by taking the theme of the native New Zealand birds and tying it in with the original settlers. My only gripe is that I wish there was more artwork. The tiles are repetitive and a field tile looks like every other field tile. They do not look bad, I just enjoy when there is a little something different so you look forward to finding those special tiles. This is totally a personal thing and should not turn you off from Karekare. I think that would have just sent it over the top for me.
My favorite part of the game is deciding where to place a tile later in the 2nd and into the 3rd round. By this time the board is well established and there are lots of options. Trying to figure out what move will be most advantageous is challenging and very rewarding when it works out well.
I also really enjoyed the territory control aspect. I don’t feel like it plays a heavy role in the game, but it is involved enough to create same fun strategy trying to maximize your limited placements.
Like I said earlier, my group enjoyed Karekare. I can see this entering into our tile game rotation on a regular basis.
Age Range & Weight
The recommended age for Karekare is 10+. I played with my 11-year-old and my 7-year-old. Both did great with it. The 7-year-old took some time to figure out the best way to make the tile combinations work. But once he did, he didn’t have any further issues. He has played lots of tile laying games so he has a good background which helped.
Karekare is on the lighter side of the scale. It is a good game to introduce people to this genre and have them get a feel for it. I won’t go so far to call it a gateway game. I don’t know if it has broad enough appeal.
I really enjoyed the handful of plays I have had with Karekare. It is a quick game and everything moves at a great pace. Players are able to piggyback off of what others are doing and still find ways to score victory points. There are also some fun ways to be mean to other players by removing their canoe and replacing it with your own. The pace and watching for the best way to score points really keeps players on their toes.
If you are looking for a new tile laying game that feels fresh, then I would recommend Karekare. It is built very well and looks very nice out on the table (even with my wanting more and varied artwork). It will be a great way to spend a game night and should not be overlooked.
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