Disclaimer: This post has no intention to be a review of any of the games mentioned, this is just an overview and report of the first impressions we got at the very first time the games mentioned hit our table. Full reviews are written after the game is played several times with different player configurations. As soon as the reviews are available on Meople’s Magazine this post will be updated with the links for those reviews.
Spellbound is the latest release from Fragor, this time a cooperative game. It looks gorgeous, but that is not really a surprise if you follow the Fragor releases. Inside the game box that weights a ton there is another box with compartments with not-so-little sculptures packed in bubble wrap, those will be your game pieces. The mages, books, the witch, troll and watchmen are all incredibly cute sculptures that I got a bit scared of breaking while playing. In the game you and your companions were turned into really weird humanoid creatures by an evil witch. To break the spell you need to find at least four of the five spellbooks before they are found by the witch or a forest troll that is there to, well, troll you. Not to read, obviously, we all know trolls can’t read. He’s just friends with the witch.
The manual and rules are very easy to understand, but the game takes a while to set up since you need to prepare the card deck and randomly chose the villagers that will be available to help you. We played it with four players which is the maximum for the game. Because of that we didn’t get to use the cute watchman figure that you get from the start when you play alone or with or two players. Then it happened like always happens when we first play a coop, even though we were in the easiest difficulty level and were sure that we were doing things right, we lost miserably: the witch found two of the books and that is game over. So we had to try it once more right after. This time things seemed to work better and we managed to get to the final battle with the witch and won. At least in the easiest settings it’s not an especially hard cooperative game, but it is lots of fun. Some friends that played it with us were also very enthusiastic about and I hope soon we can try again in harder levels of difficulty and with different number of players. So if you were wondering if Spellbound was hyped only because of the looks: in my opinion, not!
Kalua is another game we managed to get our first try recently. It can be player with three to five players and each of them is a god competing for worshipers in a small island. That reminded me immediately of the game Vineta, but here you don’t want to sink the poor people in the island, but to convert the most families possible to worshipers of your religion. Your goal is to be the one and only god of the island. As a good god you try to keep your worshipers happy rewarding them by playing bonus cards like good harvest, good weather, festivities, etc. You can also annoy the other gods by making bad things happen playing Local (you chose one player to be affected) or Global (everyone is affected) disaster cards, like earthquakes, storms, destroying temples and so on, which make their worshipers unhappy and they might convert to your religion or become atheists. I disliked a bit that you have player elimination: if all your families are converted to other religions or became atheist and you don’t have a leader at that point you are out, but you can avoid that by not sacrificing your leader unless you have the card to get a new one. Anyway, that happened very late in the game and no one had to stay there doing nothing and waiting the game to be over for more than five minutes. Kalua plays fast, even with five players like we tried it only took about 40 min, it has good quality components: meeples (always a plus), little plastic cubes that look like ice cubes and cards with thematic fitting illustrations . Only the color of the family meeples (dark grey for single families and black meaning five families) is bad to see in low light conditions, a lighter grey would have been better. One thing to be noted though, at least in the two rounds we played, the real winner, with the most meeples, was the atheist team.