Feed the Kraken (Game Preview by Chris Wray)

  • Designer:  Maikel Cheney, Dr. Hans Höh, Tobias Immich
  • Publisher:  Funtails
  • Artists: Hendrik Noack, James Churchill
  • Players:  5-11
  • Ages:  12 and Up
  • Time:  45-90 Minutes

Feed the Kraken is a big box social deduction game that is launching on Kickstarter tomorrow.  I collect games with a hidden traitor mechanic — games like Shadows Over Camelot, or Battlestar Galactica — so I was excited to play Feed the Kraken this past spring.  And it didn’t disappoint: my group enjoyed it so much we asked to have another game (via Zoom) for a friend’s birthday.

Feed the Kraken is an addicting hidden traitor game.  It has plenty of those tense, who-is-telling-the-truth moments, along with some refreshing new gameplay elements.  The components are beautiful.  This is certainly one of the best social deduction games I’ve played, and I think it is going to be a hit. 

The Gameplay

Note: This is not a comprehensive rules overview, but instead designed to give a quick feel for the game. 

Players can play either the quick journey — which is recommended for 5-6 players — or the long journey if there are 7-11 players.  The game board has hexagonal areas representing a sea area.  The Instabil (the ship containing the players) move along the journey each turn.

There are three teams in the game.  The sailors (the good team) want to sail to Bluewater Bay, the area to the right of the gameboard, and they win if they get the ship there.  But they do not know if they can trust their fellow players: some might be pirates!  (Okay, some are definitely pirates.  Although all deny it.).

The pirates (the bad team) want to sail to Crimson Cove, the area to the left.  They wake at the start of the game, learning their team’s identities. 

The third team — the cult — starts with just one player, but their following can grow, and they win if they reach the kraken space in the north, or if the leader is fed to the kraken on one of the “feed the kraken” spaces.  (In an 11-player game, the cult team starts with an additional player.)

And not only is each player on a team: they also have a character, which gives them an asymmetric in-game power. 

A given round starts with the selecting of the navigation team.  The captain gives one player the lieutenant badge, and another player the navigator badge.  The crew need not accept this determination: each of them have a number of guns (which act like votes), and they can use them in a question of loyalty.  If there aren’t enough guns used, the mission continues, but if there are, the player playing the most guns becomes the new captain.

But if the mission goes forward, then the navigation happens.  The captain and lieutenant each draw two cards, which will show a direction of the ship.  One card goes away, and one gets passed to the navigator.  The navigator then picks from the two cards handed to him or her.  (In a clever twist, the navigator can refuse to carry out an order, but if they do, they are eliminated from the game.)  The ship then sails left, right, or forward.  Some map spaces have a bonus action — usually that gives players additional information about who is on teams — and that gets activated if applicable. 

Additionally, the navigation cards contain one of six different symbols, and the powers of the cards can also be activated at this time.  For instance, the Drunk causes the current captain to lose their position.  The Armed gives the navigator an extra gun.  These are sometimes useful little bonuses, but not always: for instance, one symbol triggers a cult uprising, which can cause a cult ritual that adds a player to the cult team.   

After that is completed, certain players go “off duty” (which means they can’t be picked for the navigation in the next round).  The next round begins, with the Instabil continuing its journey until one of the team prevails. 

My Thoughts on the Game

If you like social deduction games, you’re going to love Feed the Kraken.  Not only is the game gorgeously produced — Funtails has done an exceptional job, like they did with Glen More II: Chronicles — but it has engaging and clever gameplay.  Feed the Kraken is one of the best social deduction games I’ve played, and I can’t wait for my group to play it again next year.    

Social deduction games are marked by who-is-telling-the-truth tension, and Feed the Kraken brings that feeling forward in droves.  There addition of a third team ramps up the mystery, especially since the cult is constantly growing.  What you thought you knew early in the game may have changed, so you have to watch for clues, especially as you veer towards Bluewater Bay or Crimson Cove. 

My favorite aspect of gameplay is how the votes are conducted.  Most social deduction games follow the idea of there being one vote per player.  That forces everybody to take a side, but it doesn’t show the strength of their convictions.  Here, the players have a number of resources (specifically guns) to manage, and that means they have to say if their attempt at a mutiny is all in or halfhearted. 

The result is a game that is fascinating not only as it advances, but in how it ends.  Feed the Kraken is one of those designs that will always have a great ending, and like most social deduction games, it’ll include a lot of accusations and exclamations of “How did I miss that?”

The game is pretty easy to learn, and thanks to a well-written rulebook and well-designed in-game iconography, you can begin moving the Instabil forward in just minutes.  The game can go a couple of hours or more for new players, but that is standard fare for big box social deduction games.

Overall, I’m highly impressed.  Not only is there a clever design here, but throw in the top-notch production value, and this is one of my most anticipated games of 2021. 

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!  Chris Wray
  • I like it.
  • Neutral. 
  • Not for me…
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