TABLE GAMES REVIEW: Kerala

If you’re looking for a quick to set up and play game that is easy to learn but has a good strategy / luck balance then Kerala is certainly one of the options available. A tile-placement game for two to five players, we were sent a copy for review. We’ve played it a few times now, with various numbers of players (which should give you some indication of whether or not we enjoyed it!). Here’s the official description from publishers Thames and Kosmos:

Welcome to the elephant festival in the Indian province of Kerala! Exquisitely decorated elephants parade the streets. The celebration is alive with color and music. To participate in the revelry, you want to fashion the most elegant platform for your elephants. You want your festival platform to have at least one tile of each color, with all the tiles of a color contiguously placed, and showing as many elephant symbols as possible. Each round, you move one of your two elephants to place a new tile and expand your platform. You will have to adjust your plans as your rival platform builders grab the desirable tiles before you can get them. You will need clever tactics and good luck to win the award for the best in show!

  • Publisher: Thames and Kosmos
  • Number of Players: 2–5
  • Play Time (Approx): 30 mins
  • Ages: 8 +

The object of Kerala is to place tiles (randomly selected from the supplied cloth bag) in patterns to create the largest areas of each of the five game colours. Each player works on their own design and must try and end the game with one area of each colour – except the colour they are playing, which they can have two areas of without a penalty score at the end of the game.

In Kerala, players are each given two elephants and a starting tile in “their” colour. A game turn consists of one of the players randomly pulling a number of tiles from the bag – one per player – and placing them out. This player then selects a tile, then the next player and so on until all tiles have been placed. The bag is then passed to the next player who repeats the process. Tiles can only be placed where one of the two elephants can be moved to, and there are special tiles which allow the elephants and tiles to be moved around if the player chooses to do so. The game ends once all tiles have been placed and scores are then calculated based on several factors.

Here’s the official product video to show more about the game and how it plays:

The rules look more complicated than they are (here’s a link to the rule book on publisher Thames and Kosmos’ web site). Most of the rule book is examples of tile-placement and the scoring – the only real rules are: take a tile. Place a tile connected to your existing tiles where an elephant can move onto it vertically or horizontally (not diagonally) then move an elephant onto the new tile. Tiles can be stacked on top of each other, but this obviously reduces the potential area (and thus points) available to the player. Stacking is a useful tactic for keeping a single colour area though!

Kerala Components

Chunky Tiles and Lovely Wooden Elephants – The Contents of Kerala’s box

While there are special tiles that allow either the elephant or a stack of tiles to be moved at the end of a player’s turn, it’s the positioning and movement of the elephants themselves that is really the key to Kerala. There’s a good balance of strategy and luck in the game – strategy from tile positioning and elephant movement and luck from the drawing of the tiles and being left with viable tile choices by the other players. We like this kind of balance as it means first time players can win without necessarily working out all the complexities in their first play-through.

The components provided are of excellent quality. The tiles are an extremely robust and thick card stock, and the elephants are beautifully painted wood affairs that have a really good feel when held. If I were to have one complaint, it is perhaps that the game could be packaged in a smaller box as the contents do appear somewhat lost when the tiles have been removed from their initial sheets. As criticisms go, this is particularly minor but there’s genuinely not much else to say that is negative about Kerala.

Kerala Components Close UpKerala Three Players

 

The game is simple to learn and quick to play, making it an ideal candidate for a starting game in a games night or a small game between other, more weighty games. We reckon that Kerala would be a great game to play with children too – though our two-and-a-half year-old is a bit too young for it yet! At £32.50 retail, it’s not a budget-breaker either and all the components can easily be transported in the included cloth bag if necessary, making this a great game to take on breaks away from home.

Rating: 4 / 5
Reviewers: Amy-J & WedgeDoc

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