Design by: Malcolm Braff, Dominique Ehrhard & Sebastien Pauchon
Published by: Game Works
3 – 4 Players, 30 – 45 minutes
Review by: Greg J. Schloesser
I normally shy away from games that are designed and promoted to be “educational”. Past experience with these types of games has not been very favorable. Indeed, most of these educational games have been very poor games. Sure, the information being conveyed might be informative and useful, but the game itself is often, well, terrible.
So there was a bit of trepidation when I received Kimaloe, a game designed in conjunction with the Swiss organization Terre des homes. The purpose of the game and the organization is to inform people of the plight of children around the world who are facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles to leading a healthy, happy, productive life … and motivate concerned people to take action. This is a very serious subject, and I had considerable reservations as to whether it could be incorporated into a decent and fun board game. Fortunately, the trio of designers – Malcolm Braff, Dominique Erhard and Sebastien Pauchon – is all quite experienced, so my worries were somewhat soothed.
The goal of the players is to travel around the world and participate in various projects that help children achieve and enjoy their fundamental rights, including healthcare, education, nutrition, protection, etc. The deck of cards is divided into three colors, with each card graphically depicting one of the nine fundamental rights of children. There is a clear explanation of these rights provided in the rules. Players will each receive their own deck of rights cards consisting of a mixture of these cards. Cards are valued from one-to-three points, which is important when scoring.
Fifteen “child” boards are mixed, with five being placed around the central round board, which depicts our planet. A score track is also placed adjacent to the planet, upon which players will place two markers – big (adult) and little (child) pawns. A deck of special cards is placed on the planet. Players each receive their “rights” deck and place their truck and one goods cube on the starting location on the planet.
A bit more information on the child boards is in order. Each board artistically depicts a child from a specific country and spaces whereupon specific rights cards can be played to help meet that child’s most pressing needs. The presentation booklet gives the name and background of each child. This background information is often quite distressing and depressing. While it accurately reflects the often severe obstacles and hurdles facing children, it is still tough to stomach. For example, here are the stories of Felipe in Brazil and Anne in Haiti:
Felipe lives on the street. He doesn’t go to school, nor does he dream of a better future. It is almost impossible for him to find a real job since no one will hire street children. He and his band of friends help each other, but this is a limited support: each puts his own survival ahead of anything and anybody else.
Anne was born HIV positive. Her father rejected her a birth and her mother died shortly afterwards. Her grandmother is very poor and sick, and Anne, even though she is weak, needs to work in the fields before school. Her vegetables sell very badly at the market: nobody wants to buy food from a person who is HIV positive.
Oh, my Lord. This is at once horrifying and depressing. I understand that the game is designed to increase people’s awareness of the hardships facing children around the globe, but reading these stories is truly depressing and saps much of the fun of playing the game. As a catalyst for charitable and social action, the game could prove highly successful, which in the scheme of things is FAR more important than the game itself.
So what about the game? Actually, in spite of my fears, it is not bad. Each turn a player will move his truck clockwise around the globe one-to-three spaces by rolling the special die. The player then has the opportunity to play one or more “rights” cards to the adjacent child board, hoping to satisfy the needs and rights of that child. The cards must match those that are currently needed. Alternatively, instead of moving and playing cards, a player may draw one-to-three cards from their deck. The hand limit for each player is ten cards.
If all of the spaces on a child’s board are filled with rights cards, a scoring immediately occurs. The player who played the final card to complete the board earns two points, which are recorded by moving one or both of his pawns up the scoring ladders. The player may split these points in any manner he desires between the two pawns. Additionally, the player with the most points on the child’s board earns points equal to the value of the cards he played to that board. He must move his adult pawn the same number of spaces up the ladder. Likewise, all other players earn points equal to the value of the cards they played to the child’s board, but these are recorded with their child pawn.
When scoring, it is important that the rule of solidarity is observed. At no point during the game can there be more than three empty spaces between a player’s adult and child pawns. Thus, players must attempt to balance their scoring so as not to waste extra points.
Once a child’s board has been filled and scored, it is replaced with a new board from the stock. Play then continues until one of the player’s pawns reaches the top of the ladder – the “ideal world.” This generally takes 30 – 45 minutes to accomplish.
There is more to the game. A player can gain a bit more flexibility when moving by discarding the goods cube it is carrying. This allows the player to move his truck forwards or backwards one space. This provides the player with the opportunity to land on a space wherein he can play cards to satisfy a child’s rights. Players can load a goods cube if they land on a space where one was previously unloaded.
Further, each continent depicted on the board provides the player with a special action. These actions include scoring points, drawing extra cards, playing cards to non-adjacent boards, or drawing one of the special cards. Special cards can be quite powerful, as a player can use them to move to another continent, score points, move additional spaces, etc. Grab them if you can!
Much to my surprise, there is actual game in Kimaloe; it is not simply an educational tool. The game is by design lighter fare, aimed at the broad family market in attempt to educate and alarm people to the plight children around the globe face every day. Hopefully, this information will motivate people to take action to help in some way alleviate these horrible conditions and help provide the opportunity for children everywhere to pursue happy, healthy lives without oppression. That certainly is a lofty and admirable goal, one with which few could quibble.
The game certainly has been successful in raising my awareness. Much to my shame, the horrific plights and trials faced by children around the world is ordinarily something I prefer not to think about as I continue to pursue a life of comfort. As I played the game, it was emotionally painful to read the heart rending stories of these fictional, but oh-so-real children. It certainly raised my awareness in just a small way of the terrible conditions and obstacles that children around the world face each and every day. That is undoubtedly the goal of the game’s designers. Mission accomplished.
That being said, it does make the game troubling to play. The game itself is a decent family game with a few light decisions to be made. It would be a pleasant experience if it were not for the real-life horror underlying it. One could play the game without reading the stories, but then one would be missing the true point of the game. The game is designed to trouble, teach and motivate people to do something … anything … to help alleviate the terrible situations and conditions in which millions upon millions of children live each day. I am praying for its success.
Thoughts of Other Opinionated Gamers:
Nathan Beeler: I applaud the idea behind trying to create a “message” game, though in reality it just doesn’t work for me. Playing board games is to some degree about escapism. So games like this that try to inject the harsh light of reality into proceedings usually fail out of the gates. I had the same problem with the workaday theme of Ad Acta. And the same issue has stopped me from seeking out a play of Kolejka, a game about waiting in lines for groceries in communist era Poland. Give me spells and civilizations, and keep the depressing stuff for other arenas. Having said all that, my scant notes from playing Kimaloe years ago seem to suggest the game play itself didn’t excite me all that much, either.
4 (Love it!):
3 (Like it): Greg Schloesser
1 (Not for me): Nathan Beeler