Design by Arnaud Urbon & Ludovic Vialla
Published by Matagot
2 – 5 Players, 45 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser
What family with young children wouldn’t be attracted by the theme of leprechauns scurrying across the lush fields and hills of Brittany (not Ireland?) on the back of furry animal friends, searching for the fabled gold at the end of the rainbow? It is an idyllic fantasy that children from many cultures have been taught, and the theme is one that has not been overused in board game design. I am sure game publisher Matagot and designers Arnaud Urbon and Ludovic share these same thoughts and have high hopes that their game Korrigans will tap into the appeal of these childhood tales.
Unbeknownst to me, Korrigans is a term in Brittany referring to dwarf-like creatures that populate the countryside. Some tales depict them as benevolent, albeit mischievous creatures, while others depict them as evil with glowing red eyes and pale white skin. The designers have opted for the more friendly leprechaun interpretation, which is undoubtedly more suitable and appealing for families with younger children.
The designers seem to borrow from the Irish tales, with players scurrying their pair of leprechauns across the countryside in search of four-leaf clovers that either conceal treasures or attract friendly companions, the latter being used as modes of transportation. While treasures are collected along the way, the big prize is the fabled pot of gold that is hidden at the end of the rainbow. Just where that rainbow ends is a mystery that is gradually solved as the game progresses.
Matagot has done their usual outstanding job in term of production. Each of the ten Korrigan pawns are uniquely carved miniatures, while the abundance of cardboard tokens and tiles are thick and sturdy with pleasant artwork. There are even over a dozen Menhir (standing stone) miniatures, each revealing a treasure, companion or pesky foe underneath.
The large, double-sided board depicts 17 fields of different terrain types, with bright colors making them easy to identify and distinguish. The board has a 7×7 grid superimposed over the terrain, with sun symbols along the top of each column and cloud symbols beside each row. This is important in determining the ultimate location of the rainbow’s end and the elusive cauldron of gold. A set number of clover tokens are placed in each field, along with one Menhir. Players place their two Korrigans at the specified locations along the edge of the map. Each player examines the clover tokens in his initial two starting fields, taking one of the tokens from each. Tokens depict one of six animals (companions) or gold coins (1 – 3). Animals are needed for moving, so it is wise to take at least one companion in this initial selection.
The start player begins each turn by randomly drawing a rainbow token from a cloth bag. There are 14 tokens, two of seven different colors. The tokens serve as a trigger for the end game, as well as serve as the mechanism for the eventual locatition of the fabled cauldron of gold The first time a color is drawn, it is placed on one of the seven sun spots. If the token’s color had previously been drawn, the token is then placed on one of the cloud symbols. The cauldron will only be placed at the intersection of a row and column that does not contain a rainbow token, so this process gradually reduces the potential spaces where it may appear. When the seventh unique rainbow color is drawn, it is not placed, and the game end is triggered with the appearance of the fabled cauldron of gold. Players can score quite a few points by having their Korrigans present on this space at game’s end, so they should keep a careful eye on where the cauldron may appear and have their Korrigans in position to reach its space with their final turn.
Each player then takes his turn, which primarily consists of moving one of his Korrigans, examining the clover patch in his new space, and taking one of those clovers. To move across territory boundaries, a specific companion is required. For example, the squirrel allows the Korrigan to move through a door, the mouse allows him to cross a bridge, while the bird can fly the Korrigan to a field that is the same color as his present location. One side of the board depicts the companion needed to cross a boundary, making it easier for all. I am not sure why the other side does not depict the companions, but it is supposed to be used in the advanced version, which has only one or two slight rule changes. If a player does not have the correct companion to cross into a particular field, he cannot move that way. Players collect companions via their discoveries in the clover patches, and it is wise to collect as many different companion as possible, as this will give the player wide movement flexibility.
The game does provide a safety mechanism wherein once per game a player can discard a previously collected clover token to take one of the useful rabbit or squirrel “backup” companion tokens. These two companions are quite useful, so an unlucky player who cannot find one in his searches is able to acquire one via this mechanism.
After moving, the player may examine all of the face-down clovers in the new field, taking one behind his screen. As mentioned, clovers will either depict companions or gold. Usually the decision of which one to keep is fairly easy, particularly as the game progresses. Companion tokens are revealed when used in the course of movement and remain visible for the remainder of the game. They may continue to be used by the player, but each companion can only be used once per turn for one territory crossing.
If a player takes the last clover leaf token from a field, he inverts the Menhir and gains the rewards or penalty indicated. Some Menhirs reward the player with gold, while others cause other mythical characters to appear. The friendly fairy allows the player to take a second turn, while the generous elf gives the owner of the token two gold tokens at the end of the game. The elf is fickle, however, and he will transfer his loyalties to another Korrigan who enters the same field. There is danger underneath those Mehirs, as several cause pesky characters to appear. The nasty goblin will steal two gold from the Korrigan to which he is ultimately attached, while the troll blocks passage between two fields. Obtaining these rewards or penalties is a matter of luck, but at least there is a method to transfer the pesky goblin or steal the beneficial elf.
The game continues in this fashion until the seventh unique rainbow token is drawn. Remember, only the start player, which rotates each turn, draws a rainbow token, so the game usually lasts about 10 – 12 turns. Once this occurs, the cauldron of gold is placed in a space where a column and row containing no rainbow tokens intersect. If there is a choice, the start player chooses. Note that if possible, the cauldron cannot be placed in a field containing a Korrigan.
At this point each player has one turn to move both of their Korrigans in an attempt to reach the field containing the cauldron. The player may use all of his companions, but only once each. The incentive is considerable: 15 points if both of a player’s Korrigans reach the cauldron, or 10 if only one is present. Thus, it is wise for a player to collect numerous companions—even duplicates—and try to have his Korrigans in a position to reach the field when the cauldron appears.
After all players take this final, expanded turn, gold is tallied. Gold is earned via clover leaves, Mehirs and reaching the cauldron. The player with the most gold will live on in Korrigan lore and, of course, win the game.
Korrigans succeeds in its apparent goal: to be appealing to families with young children. The theme is enticing, the components attractive, and game play is easy yet engaging. Most rules are easy to understand, even for younger children. There are a few that are confusing, however. There is an exception to the rainbow rules that actually can trigger the end game when the fifth color is placed on a cloud. This seems unnecessary and is easy to forget. The rules concerning the special characters triggered by the Menhams are not thorough. For example, when players race to the cauldron on the final turn, it appears that the last player to move that turn will be able to steal the loyalties of the elf, thereby gaining two gold. Likewise, the player burdened by the goblin will be able to easily transfer it on the final turn when he moves into the space containing the cauldron. Thus, it is too easy to steal and transfer these characters on the final turn. It seems it would be better to forbid the transfer of these characters on the final turn.
The problem in reviewing a family game—particularly one aimed at children—is that I must transform my thinking and expectations from that of a strategy gamer to that of a parent with young children. My child is now 27, so I no longer play family style games on a regular basis. I have to force myself to observe how the game is received by parents and their children, and sometimes overlook any lack of strategy, depth or tough decisions. That separation is sometimes difficult to achieve.
Thinking as a gamer, Korrigans is quite shallow with few real decisions to be made. There isn’t enough here to maintain the interest of folks who are immersed in the boardgaming hobby. But the game is clearly not intended for that market. Rather, it is part of Matagot’s budding family line of games. In that environment, the game does just fine. There is a general delight with the leprechaun theme, and using different companions to travel in search of treasure seems to delight younger children, which, of course, pleases parents. What also pleases parents is that the game is not mindless drivel. While the decisions aren’t tough or taxing, they are decisions nonetheless, something that is often missing in many mainstream games. So, parents won’t be looking for ways to avoid playing.
The nastiness of the goblin and troll is mild, so should not prove too hurtful or disturbing to children. Indeed, there is often a sense of glee when they steal the elf from an adult or inflict them with the goblin.
So, as mentioned, Korrigans succeeds in being a fine family game that should have wide appeal in that market. It will likely be the rare gamer who finds success with it in his gaming group, but that is not the intended market. Rather, it is light family fun as you journey with the leprechauns and their companions in search of that fabled pot of gold.
NOTE: Thanks so much to Jakub Kurek for the use of his excellent photos.
Thoughts of Other Opinionated Gamers:
Dale Yu – Like Greg, I found this to be a bit light for the usual gaming group, and in fact, also perhaps a bit light for my two teenaged boys who are turning into accomplished gamers in their own right. However, it has worked well with middle school aged boys (that do not usually play strategy games). The art is pleasing and appropriate for the target audience – or at least what I perceive to be the target audience.
I would disagree with Greg to a point as far as the “lack of decisions”. There is a somewhat interesting logic/induction puzzle here as you try to figure out how to get your Korrigans on the right spaces as the possibilities dwindle down. Admittedly, it’s not a hugely difficult puzzle, but still something that can teach long term strategies and some advanced reasoning.
4 (Love it!):
3 (Like it):
2 (Neutral): Greg J. Schloesser, Dale Yu
1 (Not for me):