Carlos Moreno
3 - 5
8 - 199
InteractionComponents & Design

Convert to worship me, unbelievers. I promise, when you worship me, your children will be healthy, your harvests will be plentiful and your women will be pretty, for I am a merciful god. Nah, just kidding. Eat some Tornado, suckers! – The Yellow God

King of the Holy Hill
King of the Holy Hill

That’s pretty much the feeling you’d get as a inhabitant of the beautiful tropical island of Kalua, where three to five gods compete for worshippers. They compete for worshippers because being the only god left wins the game. Monotheism rocks when you’re the only god. To attract worshippers, your religion must be happy. Happy religions poach worshippers from less happy ones. Makes you wonder why the big world religion don’t do more parties, doesn’t it? Maybe the reason is this: happy worshippers pray less, they already have all they need, why would they ask their god for more. Unhappy worshippers are really the bees knees when it comes to prayer. And so your main objective in Carlos Moreno’s Kalua is to balance the three resources Happiness, Worshippers and Prayer Points better than your competitors on the theistically overpopulated island paradise.

Kalua is basically a straightforward game of card and resource management, the only thing that takes a bit of getting used to is the turn order: one player is the active player he gets to fill up his hand with five cards. But when it’s time to play cards, for every card the active player plays all other players may follow with a card of their own. That means that, between redrawing cards, you have many, many opportunities to play cards. Manage them wisely, because with an empty hand comes utter omni-impotence.

My children, don’t fall for the promises of the false gods. They will promise anything, just to lead you astray from the true path. From my path. Only you, the true believers, will find happiness. Earthquake? What earthquake? Oh, that may have been me, but you must realize, it’s for your own good. And everyone else suffered the same, so stop whining already. – The Green God

Long Life and Increased Happiness
Long Life and Increased Happiness

The action cards are what drives most of the game. They all cost Prayer Points to play, but they come in two very different flavours, Bonus Cards and Disaster Cards, between which you may choose every time you draw a card. Bonus Cards are played for your own benefit: increases happiness is the most common bonus effect, but others convert atheists to your point of view or protect you from the malevolent machinations of the other gods. Said machinations are enacted with the Disaster Cards. If they are Local Disasters, you pick one player to visit ill effects on, including yourself if you want, because an unhappy worshipper is an efficient worshipper. Global Disasters always hit all player, including yourself. But if the prize of hurting all the other gods is killing some of your own people, what kind of god would not make that deal? Besides, Global Disasters have the appeal of not costing prayer points. Except if you voluntarily pay six of them when you play the card to protect your own people. Or if you pay twelve to double the effect of the disaster, without any protection: the apocalyptic option. Disasters include all the fun things the holy book of your choice tells you about: tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, locusts and more, causing fun effects like decreased happiness, deceased worshippers and conversion to atheism. Ah, good times. The action cards, both types of them, have beautiful and stylish black, white and gray illustrations that we really enjoyed and that go very well with the theme

I will not lie to you, my worshippers. Worshipping me will be an ordeal, and occasionally I will punish you and you won’t know why. But make no mistake, the others are just as bad, and I’ll make your life more of a hell if you convert. – The Blue God

Losing all your worshippers is bad, but it’s not the end of the world. Well, it is for them, but why would you care? As long as you have your Leader, the Chosen One, your Prophet, the One True Meeple Of Your Color you’re still in the game, and although you cannot gain many prayer points without worshippers your Leader can perform some small miracles of his own. His Purity, his Goodness, his Piety and also the Great Big Club he’s probably carrying can inspire your people to increase happiness or convert atheists and even other gods’ worshippers to your cause. When things are especially grim, your Leader may even sacrifice himself to convert even more atheists to your cause, but not having your Leader makes you vulnerable to player elimination.

Atheism - it's for everyone
Atheism – it’s for everyone

Once the active player decided he created enough misery in the world, he may end his turn and see the natives of Kalua change their prayer and creed before the next players turn: all gods who’s worshippers are not the happiest in the game will lose worshippers, more if their people are the unhappiest, who will split evenly between the happiest religions. If an even split is not possible, or there are leftovers after each Cult of Joy and Happiness received the maximum of three worshippers, the rest all converts to atheism, going into a meeple pool that belongs to no player. Then all gods receive Prayer Points based on their number of worshippers, plus a bonus for the more unhappy ones. Nothing inspires piety like unhappiness. Now if only one god is left with worshippers he’s the winner of the game, otherwise the next player becomes the active player and the game continues.

Ehehehehe, your prayers taste like marshmallow, manlings, I will devour you last if your underwear is clean. Wheeeeeeeee. – The Red God

Divine Protection
Divine Protection

As you can probably tell, Kalua is not on the deep end of the gaming pool and luck is an important factor even in the affairs of gods. Everything depends on having the right cards available. But make no mistake, young god, wisdom is just as important for your ascent to monotheism. The wisdom to manage happiness and prayer points, the wisdom to punish your tribe at the right time for negligence in prayer and especially the wisdom to never play a card unless it brings you an advantage. It’s tempting to play Kalua as a take that sort of game, punishing those that stood in your way. Tempting and fun, actually, but mutually exclusive with victory. Play cold and strategic, and with just a bit of added luck you will soon be the one and only god. Soon meaning after about 30 minutes of playing, for the gods have little patience. For a longer game, Kalua would not pack enough depth. Even for a short game, it’s a bit on the lucky side and, between one turn as active player and the next, your luck may swing so widely that you don’t recognise any of the people in your congregation. But Kalua mostly makes up for that by being fun and pretty.

I am not the one and only god. Not yet, at any rate. But soon, I will be, and you would all like to be on my side then, wouldn’t you? When all other gods have been vanquished and only I remain, there will be no more need for excessive prayer, no more need for hardship, no more need even for hard work. You will all be living in paradise. – The Purple God

And in the end, most everyone is either dead or went atheist. I’m not sure if that’s meant to be a statement of some sort, it’s just the inevitable.

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