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Kulami from FoxMind

By James Jester
Published: June 13, 2014
FoxMind Kulami
Product: Kulami is an abstract spatial strategy game for two players designed by Andreas Kuhnekath and published by FoxMind. The game is comprised of high-quality components, including 17 wooden tiles in various rectangular sizes and 56 glass marbles in black and red. The game also includes two cardboard marble cups, which I found a little underwhelming given the high quality of the other components.

Gameplay: The game is easy to understand, with everything the player does guided by just a few rules. After the first player places a marble in any spot in the play area, players take turns placing their marble in the same row or column as the previously played marble. The only exception is that you cannot play a marble onto the same wooden tile that your opponent most recently played, nor the last tile you played. Play continues until either all marbles have been used or there are no more valid moves.

After the game is over, both players tear apart the board, taking any tiles on which they have a majority of marbles, no matter if the tiles are entirely filled. Players then score points equal to the number of spaces on each tile they control (for example, a two-by-three tile is worth six points). Whoever has the most points wins.

Great abstract strategy games shine at offering deep and thoughtful play through a simple set of rules and minimal components. Kulami is no exception. Players must find a healthy balance when attempting to control the larger high-value tiles so that they don’t overcommit to some while losing others elsewhere. Of course, some losses will be inevitable, but trying to control when and where they occur is key. The limited number of moves in each turn opens the way to deep analysis of a board position, similar to what can be achieved in Chess or Go, though at a more manageable level.

The real genius of this game is the use of the tiles for the play area. It allows for a lot of replayability, as each play area will be different and allows for a wide number of odd shapes on which to play (though FoxMind recommends either an eight-by-eight square or an irregular shape that fits within a 10-by-10 area). There’s also something pleasing about tearing apart the game during scoring, giving players a more physical gauge of their success.

If the game still doesn’t seem to include enough strategic depth, the rules also include two additional methods of scoring before tearing apart the board: One in-volves contiguous areas (marbles orthogonally adjacent to each other), the other the total length of lines of marbles in any di-rection at least five marbles long. In either case, the player with the most tile spaces scores points equal to the difference between his and his opponent’s totals.

Marketing:
The box follows the abstract nature of the game with a minimal style. The color choices should allow it to stand out on a shelf without any issue, along with the other abstract games you carry. Try stocking it with others by FoxMind, as well as those of the GIPF Project, or even classics like Chess or Go.

Even though a “game in progress” display would look very sharp, it is probably best not to set up a demo of this game due to the potential hazard of marbles underfoot.

Customers will not be disappointed with the quality components nor the hours of play they will enjoy.

VITAL STATS
Product: Kulami
Maker: FoxMind
ISBN: 871-7-344-31078-9
MSRP: $29.95
Availability: Various distributors

BOTTOM LINE
• Generally high-quality components
• Simple rules mask strategic depth
• High replayability