Review – Kalimambo

3-7 Players, Aged 8+ with a 20-30 minute playing time
Kalimambo - The box artwork
A review copy of Kalimambo, designed by Antonio Scrittore, was kindly provided by Zoch GmbH.

Kalimambo is an amusing family game where an unwitting group of amateur explorers (the players) are led through the jungle by Kali (a newly discovered species - our group though that it was an African land based seal!), trying to avoid stepping in elephant dung and all the while being chased by Mambo the large and very fast rhino
Kalimambo - Mambo and the Elephant Dung
When Mambo catches you he inflicts a number of damage points, if he catches Kali then the slowest explorer receives the damage, if you tread in the elephant dung you get negative points and if Kali steps in the elephant dung then the slowest explorer again gets the points. There are no ways to get positive points this is a game of damage limitation and trying very hard not to land in the ‘brown smelly stuff!’

What follows is an overview of the game broken down into 5 sections: The Game ComponentsSetting Up The GamePlaying The GameWhat Did We Think? and finally Who Do We Think Will Like It?. So if reading the whole review doesn't appeal just scan down to the headings that do.

The Game Components
1 game board with a track around its edge made up of artistic images of animals.
Kalimambo - The board
7 Amateur Explorers (wooden tokens) in 7 different colours together with a Set of 12 Cards for each player, numbered 0 to 11, in the same colour.
Kalimambo - The Amateur Explorers
Mambo the grey rhino.

Kali and a set of 12 black cards, numbered 0 to 11.
Kalimambo - Kali and his cards
6 Dung Heaps!

1 Sore Pad

Setting Up The Game
The person who most recently stepped in dung pile (what an honour!) places Mambo on any of the spaces on the game board, facing in either direction - this determines the direction of the race.

Each player selects an ‘amateur explorer’ and the associated 12 coloured cards.
Kalimambo - The Amateur Explorers and their Cards
The explorer tokens are randomly placed in front of Mambo, one on each space. Kali is then placed at the front of the line.

Kali’s cards are shuffled and placed face down by the side of the board.

The 6 Dung Heaps are placed on any of the spaces on the game board including the spaces that Mambo, Kali and the explorers have been placed on. The only limitation is that the dung tokens should not be placed next to each other.
Kalimambo - The Elephant Dung

Playing The Game
Each Explorer selects one of their numbered cards and then all simultaneously reveal them. Kali’s topmost card is then revealed.
Kalimambo - The Amateur Explorers and their Cards
The numbers on the cards determine the order in which Kali and the player’s Explorer tokens will be moved NOT the distance they move.

We found the best way to do this was for one player to move the explorer’s tokens whilst another kept score.

The Explorer who played the highest card moves first. Their token is moved in a leap frog type fashion to the front of the line. As you do this, turn over the card to create a discard pile for that player’s cards.
Kalimambo - Being played
The Explorer’s tokens are then moved and cards discarded in similar fashion with the lowest card going last and thereby ending up furthest away from Mambo as they will inevitably be at front of the line.

The game then proceeds over 10 further rounds with Explorers selecting a card, revealing it and moving their Explorers.

Things to note are:

That, when moved, Kali and the Explorer tokens are always moved to the front of the line even if there are gaps in the line.

That if two or more Explorers have played the same value card then the Explorer whose token nearest the back of the line i.e. nearest Mambo is the only one to move which obviously leaves the others at risk of being caught by Mambo– oh dear!
Kalimambo - Mambo catches the purple player on the 11th round - she had zero points up to this point!
If your Explorer lands on a space with elephant dung then you receive three negative points.

When Kali and all the Explorers have had their cards resolved and been moved or not, Mambo moves from his current space to the space immediately behind the last Explorer counting the number of intervening spaces. This is then awarded to the last player as negative points, a penalty for getting caught! 

That the Explorer who plays the lowest value card gets any negative points that Kali would have received for either treading in dung or being hit by Mambo. If two or more Explorers have played the same lowest card then they all receive the negative points.
Kalimambo - Mambo catches Kali - not good for the player/s who played the lowest card
That if you have just been hit by Mambo then the next urn it is a really good time to play the 0 card as Mambo only inflicts damage when he moves. If your token is immediately in front of Mambo then he cannot move this turn. This will cause Mambo to inflict a lot more damage on subsequent turn as he will have further to run (OK this may not be nice but hey it’s a game!) and if you play your cards right then you will not find yourself at the back of the line i.e. play a low card on the next turn!

Make sure you have played your 0 card by the last turn as playing a 0 when you are not immediately in front of Mambo is a sure fire way of getting caught and having the inevitable negative points awarded to you.

The winner is the player who has been hit the least by Mambo and most successfully avoided the dung, or put another way has the fewest points!

What Did We Think?
Kalimambo is a little chaotic but frankly to our mind that is part of its charm.

The board is colourful and attractive and as you would expect given the theme of the game a little abstract. The wooden tokens are sturdy and colourful and will to my mind boost its appeal to the younger audience.

The playing time and complexity felt right as a game that is intended as a family game that will work with children aged 8+. The combination of elephant dung and being chased by a rhino caused great hilarity each time we have played it and will I believe have a strong appeal to all those young at heart.
Kalimambo - Players laughing during a game
Our Social Gamers really liked it, they enjoyed playing it, would happily play it again and felt it stood up well against other games we might use at the beginning or end of a games evening.

I have now played it with several groups of adults, adults and teenagers, adults and a 10 year old and adults and 7 year olds; in all bar one case we have had a very enjoyable game with lots of laughs - winning didn’t really come into it. However, on one occasion the game went down like a lead balloon.

As I have said before there are many games and opinions on whether a game is good or bad are seldom 100% unanimous.

Who Will It Work For?
Kalimambo - The boardAny families with children aged over 8 (maybe less, as said we played with 7 year olds but they are used to playing games).

Anybody looking for a game that can be played in about 40 mins, that doesn’t require much brain power, will result in lots of toilet type humour and noises and where they don’t mind being impacted by the random effects of other players choices.

It won’t work for those who:

  • Don’t find humour in elephant dung or being butted by a rhino
  • Nor for people who want to be in control of winning a game!
  • As for any game those people who don't fall into either of the above camps but for whom the combination of elements in the game just don't work

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