Charta Krymenesiae – Battle of the orcas is a strategic game for 2-4 players in which players are trying to close of their opponent’s orca from open sea by placing sea monsters that direct the orcas in a certain direction.
This game is always played by 2 teams (1vs1, 1vs2 or 2vs2) which are both in control of one of the two colors of orca meeples which look like… orcas. The basic principle for the game is always the same except the number of cards that each player has varies according to the number of players. For this review I will be explaining the setup and rules for 2 players.
The setup is done in no time, each player chooses a color of orca meeples and gets 2 Caller tokens and 2 Silence tokens (more on this later). The dealer places his orca on the start card and gets 4 Krymenesiaen Water cards which are placed face up on the table. The other player gets 5 Krymenesiaen Water cards (I will reference to them simply as cards in the future) and is the first player.
During a turn you can do one of three actions, occupy a territory by placing a card and an orca on top of it, draw a new card or change any number of cards in your hand. After doing your action you may place a Caller on Silence token on the last placed card.
The card placement is done in a brick formation and where you can place a card is dictated by the sea monster depicted on the previous card placed. The first card is always placed next to the starting card, afterwards you have to follow the directions of the sea monster. These are explained in the rulebook which you will refer to regularly the first few games. It is really hard to explain these movements without examples so I’ll briefly tell what the sea monsters do. The Dragonfish makes you swirl around other cards once, twice or three times. The Gladiatorfish points in a straight line through the cards. The Mermaid hops over one card if it is occupied by an opponent’s whale. The Mustang leaps in a J-Shape and the Giant Octopus also points in a straight line but has to make one bend. Then there is also the Dragon King and the Jokerfish which can guide like any of the three Dragonfishes. When the card has been placed you have to place one of your orcas on the card. Twice a game both players have the option to lay their orca down. You may not place a card next to another card that has a laid down orca.
When you want to draw a card you may not exceed your ‘hand’ limit of five cards. If you take the option to change the cards you may only do so if you do not already have 5 cards and you didn’t change cards in the previous round.
After you have done your action you have the option to place a token but remember you only have two of each so use them wisely. The Caller token forces your opponent to place card as his next action. The Silence token on the other hand makes sure that your opponent may not place a Caller token after his next action.
This keeps on going until an orca gets surrounded in which the surrounded orca’s player loses. If more than one orca is surrounded at the same time and one of those orcas is from the player who placed the card that caused the surrounding, that player loses. Another end condition is when the draw deck runs out and there are no more cards in front of the player’s in which the game ends in a draw. A player loses when he cannot place a card that can ensure a valid position for the next player to place card.
To be honest, I needed a couple of playtroughs to start appreciating this game unlike my game-buddy who was immediately enamored by the game. It takes a bit of getting used to how the sea monsters card placement is done but once you get the hang of this it plays like a charm. Since all the information is open on the table you are always thinking about your own options and the possibilities of the other player and how you can affect those. Because of all the different movements of the sea monsters and that you do not always have to place a card makes for some really interesting decisions to make during the game. Are you going to play aggressively and try to surround an opponent’s orca or are you going to play more defensive and draw as many cards as possible to keep your options open and place a card only when needed or something in between. Knowing when to use the tokens and when to lay down your orca is really important in this game. It is perfectly possible that playing a Caller token at the right time makes you win the game. A strategically placed laid down orca can provide protection for a lot of your orcas on the table. Every game we played came down to the wire with less than five cards left in the draw deck. In my opinion the best number to play this is two players. It is still fun with three or four players but with two players it shines. Before I forget there is even more in this game. You can also play a puzzle. There are 48 puzzles included in the game which vary from easy to really hard. The rulebook tells you which cards you have to use to make the chart depicted. By placing the cards and following the sea monster’s rules for the next card it is your task to make the chart shown. Very nice addition to the game. As you have probably noticed I started loving this game and the strategy it brings to the table.
Play with honor