WBG Score: 7.5
Player Count: 2-5
A sense of adventure in games is something I often look for. Especially with a game that targets younger children. I know my family will enjoy a game more when there is a story to be told. We all enjoy getting lost in a new world surrounded by monsters, cardboard, and plastic. A lot of games do this, but I don't think there are many that do it well with a simple ruleset that works for kids. Karak nails this. It's very simple to learn and teach. I have loved playing it with my 6-year old who grasped the game within minutes. And crucially, it offers a good dungeon crawl experience without the usual fiddley set-up, components, or rules. Let's get it to the table.
Getting Karak to the table is so simple. Each player chooses a character from one of the six available and takes their character board (filled with hearts) and standee. Shuffle up and then arrange all the tiles into stacks face down, finding the one tile with the dragon symbol on the back. This is the starting tile. Place this into the middle of the playing area and add each character standee to it. Finally, ensure all the treasure and monster cards are in the draw string bag provided, and place this somewhere convenient on the table. Or not, depending on how irritating you want to be. My kids like to hide it.
How to Play
Players will then take four actions each in turns, searching for the Dragon. The main action being to move into an undiscovered zone. You will do this by flipping the top tile from either stack, and placing it next to the tile you are in face up. You will then move your standee into the new space. If this is a pathway you can do this again, moving through each tile as you lay it. If the tile has a room in it, then you must pull a token from the bag. This will either be a treasure chest that you can only open when you have the key, or a monster that you have to fight.
Fighting a monster is a simple process. Take the two dice and roll-em-up! Each monster will have a face value you have to beat with your roll. If you do, you win. Flip the monster and take whatever is on the back. Either treasure, weapons, or a key. If you roll too low, then you take one damage, and retreat one space, back to wherever you just moved from. The monsters difficulty rating ranges from five to 12, with the final Dragon being 15. As soon as someone kills the dragon the game ends immediately and the person with most points from treasure tiles and the dragon is the winner.
Whats in the box?
But how could you fight a Dragon who has a strength of 15 when you can only roll two D6 dice? Great question. As you can see above, when you fight and defeat a level 5 Rat, you can then add a level one sword into your armory. Meaning, the next time you fight, you start with a plus one added to any die roll. On your character inventory sheet there is space for two weapon upgrades, the highest being the battle axe won from fighting the Skeleton King. Tool up, then go on a dragon hunt!
As you can see, there is also space for the key. Useful for storing when there are no unopened treasure chests on the board. And three slots for spells. Spells come in two forms. Magic Bolts and Portal's of Healing. The Magic Bolts allow the heroes to add a plus one to any fight, but the spell is then used, and the token must be dis-guarded. The Portal of Healing lets you move directly to any Healing Fountain on the map. These are the tiles with a heart icon on them, and when there, your full health is restored.
Children will love the simple progress the game allows. Flip a tile, roll some dice. Fight a monster, gain a weapon. Get better. Fight more monsters. Find the dragon, win! The game moves quickly and you will feel you are making progress through the game in no time. It's a nice feeling for children and adults alike. It has a nice pace and game time. And of course, the dragon could be found at any time. Drawing from the bag is random. But you will need a few upgrades before you can defeat him.
I love how the boards are double layered so all the additions you make to your character stay in place. Double layered boards are always a winner with most people, and they work so well in this game. For a game designed for younger players, this is a solid addition!
Children will also love the choice of characters. They are a little generic and full of the classic tropes you would expect in fantasy games. But I don't have an issue with that. They are used a lot as they are popular. And I find the art to be bold, striking, colourful, and the iconography is simple, and very clear.
Each hero comes with two unique special powers. They are all clearly explained in the rule book, but the icons give very good indications as to what they are. For example, Lord Xanros, the Warlock who is the first on the left below has the ability to sacrifice one health point to add a plus one to any attack they make. Check the symbol for this below. Hopefully that all adds up?
I particularly like the Stealth power for Aderyn, the Thief. She can creep into a space and if there is a monster there to fight, she can chose to do so, or if it is a little too strong for her right now, she can sneak past without engaging in combat and continue moving to the next tile.
As you flip tiles, you will find the board starts to get quite big, very quickly! You wont need to move back and forwards too often. More, a linear path through a weaving dungeon will be created. But sometimes you need to head back to heal, or if one person finds the dragon and you want to rush back to join the fight, you may want to move vast distances quickly. This is not easy in the game with only four actions allowed, but there are portal tiles, represented by blue doors. When these are laid, you can move from one portal on the board to any other portal you chose, once there are two on the table that is! They are very easily identified with their bright coloured glow. Especially against the backdrop of the otherwise very grey tiles.
The game comes with a brilliant insert too. For a game priced on the cheaper side, (you can get this for around £20) all the components are great. And the separated insert with different sections clearly marked with pictures of what goes where is a nice and welcome addition.
Overall, I think Karak is a steller game, and would come highly recommended from WBG for anyone looking for a game to introduce their children to a dungeon crawler game. It is so simple to learn, but fun to play, kids will very quickly be able to play this one of their own. And if they enjoy the mechanics, perhaps would be more encouraged to try a more complex game in the genre afterwards. The game is perhaps let down from being more highly rated due to its lack of replayability. One game to the next will offer largely the same experience. But the six different heroes are all very different and offer unique abilities. And the game is so simple to get to the table, I can see this getting a lot of plays from it's accessibility alone.
If you want to teach your kids how to play a dungeon crawler, look no further. If you want to get a game your kids can enjoy and play on their own, this could be the one. If you want a game you can all enjoy as a family with minimal set-up or rules, Karak is a great addition. There are so many reasons why this game comes recommended from us you may be asking why it is not ranked higher than a 7.5.
There is a bit of randomness and luck in this game from the dice rolls, and the order at which you draw the monsters and treasures. And I found a lot of games to be won by someone with somewhere between 2.5 and 4.5 points. It is quite low scoring and children tend to not like that. First from the low, unexciting scores; but secondly from the small margins of loss. You could play the game perfectly, fight the most monsters, and still loose as someone else stumbles upon one more treasure chest than you. It would have made more sense to me to offer more ways to score, and give higher rewards for each monster you defeat.
Other than that, Karak comes highly recommended from WBG. For the price point, I would say it is pretty close to being a must have for anyone with younger children. I would say this is perfect from 6 and up.