Kalimambo contains several profound truths for those of you who might consider going on safari. First: avoid the charging rhino. Second: don’t trust strange little monkeys. Third: watch where you step.

Zoch’s beautifully illustrated game introduces the players to two characters: the mischief making Kali (a primate of questionable provenance) and the implacable Mambo (a large, myopic rhinoceros). In the course of their safari, the players get on the wrong end of Mambo’s horn and have to run through a savannah littered with elephant droppings. Talk about being hip deep in the—watch your step!

The game’s core mechanic comes down to the first principle of running away: you don’t have to be faster than the rhino, you just have to be faster than the slowest member of your group. Each player has a hand of cards which are numbered 0 – 11. There are 12 turns in the game. On each turn players choose one card and then reveal their cards at the same time. Highest card moves to the front of the line. In case of a tie number, only the farthest back player with that number moves. Playing a zero means the player does not move.

Once all the players have hop-scotched their way forward, Mambo charges. Whoever is at the back of the line gets hit and gains a number of points equal to the number of spaces Mambo moved. In this game, points are bad. Whoever has the fewest points at the end of the game wins. And getting hit by Mambo is only one way to get points.

Major Fun Award

Stepping in a pile of elephant poop: 3 points. There are 6 piles that players scatter around the board at the start of the game. We played with 7 explorers which meant we went around the board a couple of times. You might not be able to step in the same river twice but you can step twice in the same pile of elephant—watch out for the money!

The strange monkey-like Kali acts like another player. It has a play piece and a deck of 12 cards. These are chosen randomly each round and Kali moves by the same rules as the players BUT if points befall Kali, those points are “gifted” to the player or players who revealed the lowest card in that round. So if Kali gets hit by Mambo, those points go to some hapless player—usually one who thought he or she was safe at the front of the line.

Much of the fun, the Major Fun as it turns out, is generated as the players move their pieces. There is a great deal of anticipation followed by a surge of relief (or grief) when Mambo finally moves. There is a lot of luck involved but enough strategic choice to help you shape your luck. Lots of laughs to be had along the way.

For 3-7 players, ages 8+

Kalimambo was designed by Antonio Scritorre and published © 2011 by Zoch Verlag. It is available in the US from Lionrampantimports.

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