There is an elegance of design to many Gigamic games that is impossible to ignore and Kabaleo keeps up the tradition. The conical pieces are simple, colorful, and they make a satisfying clack when stacked. This is not trivial because clacking and stacking are what you will do a lot in this game.
The elegance of the pieces underscores the elegance of the game. There are six colors. Each player has a different color, and the winner is the one whose color is on top of the most stacks once all the pieces are used.
So not only is the design of the pieces unique and striking, the design is also functional.
There are 24 Bases (cones with a single stripe of color) and 36 Pieces (cones with a double stripe). There are also 6 Target cones which are not colored on the outside but are colored INSIDE the cone. Players draw a Target at the beginning of the game and this becomes their color—a fact they keep secret during play. The number of colors with which you play is always two more than the number of participants. This makes it very difficult to guess exactly which color any player has.
Before play begins, the bases are scattered in the middle, and each player draws a certain number of Pieces from a bag. The Pieces may not be kept secret.
On each player’s turn, you take one of the Pieces and place it on a Base in the middle of the table. Pieces may not be placed on Bases of the same color, but you may place any Piece on top of any other Piece (say that 5 times fast). So a blue Piece could go on a pink Base and a green Piece could go on top of that blue Piece (making a 3 stack of cones). A green Piece could now be played on the previous green Piece BUT instead of stacking higher, you remove both green Pieces.
Different colors STACK. Same colors REMOVE. Piece on Base must be different colors.
That is some elegant game design.
Planning ahead is maddening. You don’t want to reveal your color so misdirection and blocking are good strategies; however as your opponents and you are running out of pieces, it becomes very important to free up your color in such a way that cripples an opponent.
Kabaleo is incredibly intuitive and gameplay is quick. The rules take up two very small pages in a rulebook that covers maybe 2 dozen languages. The rules also include wordless, pictorial directions that show what moves are allowed and what are not (especially handy for you anthropologists, semiologists, and sociologists studying cultures with no written or verbal language). Kabaleo is Major Fun because it feels fun to play and feels GOOD to play.
(Although I bet anyone of the Cold War generation who opens the box will think “Missile silo.” Go get the game and you’ll see what I mean.)
2 – 4 players. Ages 8+
Kabaleo concept by Jean Luc Renaud and is © 2010 by Gigamic.