- Designer: Renier Knizia
- Publisher: Helvetiq
- Players: 2-6
- Ages: 6+
- Time: 15-20 minutes
- Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Helvetiq
Kartel was a surprise find in my recent box of games from Helvetiq. I was not aware that there were doing any Knizia games, and I have always found his designs to be interesting to explore. As Helvetiq is a company that is focusing on games for the entire family, I knew that this would be on the lighter side of the gaming spectrum.
In Kartel, your city is infested with a crime ring made up of seven different gangs, each of which conveniently uses a different color to denote its faction. The crime ring is an actual ring of discs made on the table of 42 different discs – six each in the seven colors. The players jointly control a detective who is trying to infiltrate the crime ring and put the gangsters in jail. Each of the gangs has the following discs: 1 boss, 1 bribe, 1 single gangster, 2 double gangster, 1 triple gangster.
The detective is placed randomly between any two discs in the crime ring. The jail (comprised of 5 spaces) is placed in the center of the ring. Then, the first player starts the game. The movement die is rolled (2,2,3,3,4,4) and the number shown on the die is the maximum number of spaces that the detective can move this turn. The detective must move at least one space on each turn. A space is essentially the gap between two successive discs in the ring.
When the detective stops his movement for the turn, the player takes the disc which is directly in front of the detective figure and places it face up in front of him. If the next disc is a Boss disc, it is instead placed in the jail – the boss of that gang is captured! All players look at the discs in front of them, if they have any gangsters in that color in their area, they are flipped over and placed in a success stack. These gangsters will score points at the end of the game as the detective has successfully placed that gang’s leader in jail!
The game continues on with players either collecting discs or putting bosses in Jail. The game ends when the jail is all full – that is the fifth boss token is placed in jail. At this point, players score their collected discs.
Each flipped over gangster disc (that is, colors whose boss is in jail) is worth one point per depicted gangster on that disc. Then, bribes from the two colors which are not in jail are scored with each bribe in that color being worth 3 points each. Finally, gangsters in those two remaining colors are worth NEGATIVE one point for each gangster visible on those tiles. The player with the most points wins.
My thoughts on the game
Kartel is a simple game that involves a bit of luck, a bit of planning and a little bit of strategy in deciding when to pick up discs to add to your stack and when to spend a turn capturing a boss. The big thing here is that the value of collected tiles changes depending on the status of the boss in that color. If you have a lot of gangster tiles in a particular color, it’s in your best interest to make sure that the matching boss is in jail so that you score positive points for all those gangsters. However, you may not be the only player collecting that color, and it may turn out that one of the other players will use their turn to catch the boss… But, can you count on that happening?
That’s the bulk of the strategy here… either choosing the most “valuable” tiles to collect versus capturing a boss to lock in the positive point value of those tiles. When faced with a decision between two tiles of equal value, you might then also want to consider the placement of the detective as your choice could deny a desirable tile from the next player in order – but generally, it seems like players make the best choice for themselves and the game just keeps chugging along.
The artwork is simple and the gangsters kind of remind me on Minions (as they are just yellow circles with a bandit mask on them). There is no player aid, but with the simple rules and scoring values, I don’t really think that the game needs anything else.
Kartel is a nice filler for a ten minute time slot. Easy enough to teach kids and non-gamers, and just enough decision making to keep a gamer interested. The game is rated for 6 years and up, and that’s a perfect description for the low end of the playing range of this game.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Steph H: Simple and cute. It is not exactly one I am excited to play a whole lot.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y
- Neutral. Steph Hodge
- Not for me…