- Designer: Eric B. Vogel
- Publisher: IELLO
- Players: 2-4
- Age: 10+
- Time: 30-45min
- Played with review copy provided by IELLO USA
Kitara was one of the games that I’ve been watching since first getting a demo of it at SPIEL 2019. Each year (well, not 2020) I am invited to a nice exhibition at the IELLO stand at Essen where they showcase their upcoming games. The new releases are often for the next Spring, but Kitara didn’t arrive until this October.
In this game, players take on the role of a ruler of an African tribe – each trying to reunify the square sized kingdom of Kitara as shown on the board. Each player gets the 18 wooden army pieces in their color as well as a movement marker and a scoring marker (placed on the track on the outside of the board). Each player also gets a player board which has the player aid printed right on it. Each player also gets their starting kingdom card which is placed to the right of the player board.
The Kingdom cards have rows on them, each corresponding to a different action. The number of icons on each line tells you how much power that card gives towards the action. Choose either the Red or the Blue deck to play with (Blue recommended for beginners), and then separate the cards by the Era number at the bottom of the card. Shuffle each group separately and then stack them so that the Era 1 cards are on the top and the Era 5 cards are on the bottom. Then, a display of six cards is dealt from the deck placed in a row next to the deck.
The game of Kitara is played over a number of rounds (7 in a 4p game, 9 in a 3p game) – essentially until the end of the round when the Era 5 cards are revealed. Each player takes their turn in order, going through 5 phases.
1] Draft – chose a Kingdom card from the row near the board. The top row of your Kingdom cards has rectangular card icons. However many of these icons you can see tells you how far away from the end of the line that you are allowed to choose you card. Your starting card has 2 icons in this row, so you can choose either the card furthest from the deck or the one next to it. Take your chosen card and place it to the right of your Kingdom card row. Then slide the cards away from the deck to fill in the gaps and flip over the next card to replenish the supply to 6 cards.
2] Recruit – if you newly drafted card has any symbols in the second row, take the matching wooden pieces in your color and place them in any region of the board that you currently occupy. In the case that all of your pieces of a type are already on the board, you simply don’t get to place any more of that type
3] Move – The third row on the cards has the double chevron move icons – For each icon seen here, you can move one or more pawns (as a group) from one space to an adjacent space. Pawns can cross white land borders but cannot cross the dark black borders of Lakes. You can use your wooden Move marker to keep track of each movement. If you want to attack, you can move your pieces into a territory occupied by an opponent. To do this, you must be able to move at least one more piece than the number of pieces the opponent has there. Your opponent must then retreat, moving their pawns into the closest space that they still occupy. All pawns must retreat to the same space. If you made a successful attack with a Hero piece as part of your group, you can draw a Hero Bonus token from the bag (worth between 2 and 5 VP). If you pull multiple tokens in a turn, you can look at them and you will keep only one – return the rest to the bag. Continue moving until you run out of Move actions or you choose not to use the remaining Moves
4] Score – Use the track on the outside edge of the board. Score 1VP for each VP symbol seen on the 4th row of your cards. Score 2VP for each Ruin space occupied by an Animal figure.
5] Manage – now count the number of your savannah spaces which are occupied by warriors; each occupied space will support one card in your row of Kingdom cards. If you have more cards than you can support, you must choose which ones to discard. As you discard those cards, remove the matching wooden pieces from the board for any icons seen on those discarded cards.
The next player then starts their turn and goes thru the 5 phases. The game starts to end when the Era 5 cards are revealed. The game continues until the end of that round (so that all players have the same number of turns), and then one more turn is played by each player. After that, players gain a 2 VP bonus for each card they are able to support at the end. Finally, reveal your collected Hero tokens and add those points to your total. The player with the most points wins. Ties are broken in favor of the player with the most Hero tokens.
My thoughts on the game
Kitara is a neat take on the idea of an area control/war game. I like the fact that pieces generally aren’t lost in the battles – they are simply moved around the board. I also like the way that the combat resolution is simple; just count up the number of pieces. No dice rolls, no CRT, no calculating relative piece strength, etc. To me, that makes the game really accessible, easy to teach and learn.
The game is quite tactical. You really have to wait until the start of your turn to see what you can do. The map changes fairly dramatically with each turn around the board as pieces move back and forth. While you fight for control of areas on the board, the game seems to really come down to who has the most pieces. In the end, numerical advantage of pieces is what determines attack success, and no pieces are lost through battle – so armies then to just regroup and then come back the next turn to take what they lost.
For me, the challenge of the game is to keep your army flexible enough that you can move each turn to take back enough territory to keep your growing number of cards. Early in the game, it’s easy to support all of your cards, but once you get up to 4 or 5, it can become difficult. Each of the different actions has its place, and you have to balance your needs carefully. Sometimes it’s good to have a better selection in the draft so that you can get the card you need the most, but this could end up lessening your ability to move or the number of figures you have on the board. You can have a huge army, but if you don’t have enough Move actions, you might not be able to spread far enough to deposit your warriors in enough places to support the cards. The interplay of constantly adjusting your cards to meet you needs is a neat puzzle in the end portion of the game.
Individual turns tend to move fairly quickly, which is good for me because there’s not a lot for anyone to do when it’s not their turn. Sure, you have to make some decisions on where you are going to retreat your pieces – but other than that, you can’t do any forward planning until you see which card you draft and what board situation confronts you at that moment.
So far, I much prefer the game at the 3p count; mostly because you get two more turns in the game, and I enjoy the challenge of juggling the cards at the end of the game. In a 4p game, there are only 7 turns, and that really only gives you one or two turns where you can’t support everything.
If you like your Euro game with a bit of confrontation to them, Kitara would be a great choice. You still get that sense of conquest as you march your army across the board, but the lack of piece destruction makes it feel a little friendlier – more in tune with my sensitive Euro-gamer personality…
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Mark Jackson (1 play): Really impressive design – it’s a “dudes on a map” game that doesn’t use dice and doesn’t cause players to lose pieces from combat. The card drafting system is also very clever and works not only as a way to give players a way to plan ahead but also requires upkeep as you feed your people. I only played with 3 players… and part of the way I pulled out a win was managing my card row well.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y, Mark Jackson
- Neutral. James Nathan
- Not for me…