Will you succeed in unifying the Empire of Kitara?

2-4 players
40 minutes

Note: We were gifted this game for an unbiased review

The Great Lakes of Africa. The long-standing unity and peace is gone. It has been replaced by warring kingdoms fighting over the ruins of the once great Empire of Kitara, attempting to restore it to its former glory. Each player is the ruler of an independent Kingdom with the dream of unifying Kitara.

It’s a light strategy game perfect for introducing area control, with some very interesting twists. You are hoping to score more points than your opponents, by claiming enemy territories, controlling temple areas and by owning point scoring cards.

The way your turn works is that first you draft a card from those on display. However you can only pick one card from the leftmost 2, 3, 4 etc. cards depending on how many card symbols currently in your display (you start with only 2). The cards you draft will have a variety of benefits. Some will increase your drafting ability, some will allow you to place more units onto the map, others will give you the ability to move those units and others will give you victory points. Most have a combination of these!

There are two boards included, one for 2p games, and then a double sided board for 3p and 4p!

So you’ve drafted your card, next you deploy any units that were displayed on the card. There are three types of units; Warriors, Master Animals and Heroes. Warriors are the most common and don’t have much use other than adding to your force. Master Animals score you 2 VP at the end of your turn if they are on a temple space (the green spaces on the map), and Heroes get a random VP token from the bag for each enemy territory they conquer on their turn.

After your units are deployed, you count how many movement points you have, and you can move your forces around accordingly. You can move an entire group of units as one movement point. You can force your opponents to retreat if you enter their territory with a greater force than them! Once you’ve finished moving, you also count how many VP tokens there are on your cards and add them to your score.

So you want to ensure your Master Animals are on temple territories, and you want your Heroes to take enemy territories, what else do you need to worry about? Well, at the end of your turn you need to feed your herd. The cost to feed your herd is one per card currently in your tableau- so four cards = four food required. You get one food per savannah (yellow) territory you control, so if you only have three of them your herd is underfed! In that case you would need to discard one of your cards.

This is where the real strategy lies, you need to make sure you control enough territories to feed your herd, and it makes your card selection at the start of your turn really important. It can be so tempting to grab the cards that will give you VP, but if that means you can’t deploy any new units or can’t move your units then you’ll struggle to expand your kingdom enough, it really is a fine balancing act! When we played, I lost two cards on one turn because I couldn’t get enough territories back and it was disastrous!

Each turn follows the same pattern, until the first Age 5 card appears, triggering the final round. Once the game is over, points are tallied and the winner declared, I lost by 3 points (I got unlucky with the tokens I drew from my Heroes conquests!) on our first game but have won every game since so I am happy now 🙂

Two Heroes ready for battle…

I really enjoyed this game. I like light games just as much as I like chunky heavy games, and this definitely comes under the light category. There is plenty of strategy though and very little luck, so its a great area control game. It doesn’t outstay its welcome as you’ll get through a game in 40 minutes or so, but you’ll have an absolute blast for that 40 minutes! The decisions you make drafting cards really influence your entire game, and the ebb and flow of your Empire growing then declining reminded me a little of Small World (another game I love).

As you would expect for a game this light, the rulebook is really straightforward and we were playing within 10-15 minutes of taking the cellophane off. As usual for Iello games, the production quality is very high, the meeples are very cute and as you can see the artwork is superb!

Overall we would definitely recommend this game, obviously if you only like heavy complex games perhaps this isn’t for you, but otherwise it’s great fun to play, looks awesome on the table and doesn’t take longer than it needs to! Also, some games seem like they guess at the age range appropriate for a game but 10+ definitely seems right as you could teach kids this and they’d have a blast too. Thanks Iello for sending us the review copy, we really enjoyed it!

Perhaps an expansion could introduce asymmetrical player boards?

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