The Cosmic Karma Game is one of the most attractive looking board games I've seen. I was sent a review game and I tested it with some good friends over dinner. Here’s what we thought.
I'd read the rules of the game earlier in the day in preparation. I must say that they are a little complex at first sight and I wished I’d played a few trial rounds by myself as three expectant faces turned to me for an explanation when I’d set it up! I gave everyone a basic run down and said, “Let’s pick it up as we go along shall we?” The result was the first few turns were a touch experimental, but we did get the hang of it as we played.
The aim of the game is to remove all your negative karma from your Karma Account. You also need to establish your self-mastery by collecting the Master Tools, a sword, torch and a wand, before returning to Cosmic Consciousness as the winner. We joked that an attachment to being the winner should earn the competitive player bad karma!
Everyone agreed that the game itself has exceptional build quality. The board is sturdy, folds down into a quarter of its full size for storage in the box which is equally well made with robust compartments and a container for the game pieces. It has been built to last unlike some cheap and flimsy games on the market. The game is designed for 2-4 players and the suggested age is 13+, although we felt it would appeal more to adults than teens.
The game board is presented as a mandala with several realms. You move around by a throw of the dice or by using the Free Will Cards you collect. These cards turned out to be really useful as they allow you to make strategic moves. The first zone works similarly to many other games. You simply move clockwise around the board counting spaces and then following the directions on the space on which you land. You hope you land on a ‘good karma’ space with positive associations to win positive karma rings and tools, rather than a 'bad space' where you miss turns or collect negative karma beads. This zone is the Earth Realm.
When you are moving around the Earth Realm you may land on a space where you have to take a Choice Card or a Karma Card. I thought the Choice Cards were a clever concept. They each have two possible choices, ways in which we might behave to earn positive or negative karma. Many of these cards are humorously written; they teach the lessons in a fun way, for example:
1,000 Fleas Be Upon
You wish your enemy to be infested with 1,000 fleas. Take an orange bead.
1,000 Fleas Be Gone
You wish your enemy to find peace from his fleas. Take an orange ring.
The Karma Cards have succinct little lessons and then direct you to move on the board, or to collect or return game pieces. For example:
Even to want to forgive is progress. Move to any of the next two spaces.
The outer ring of the mandala represents time between incarnations in the Spirit Realm. You move through cloud spaces and follow the instructions. We were slightly frustrated by being compelled to stop on two of the clouds. The first cloud orders you to stop to do a ‘Past Life Review’ and the second to do ‘Future Life Planning’. I can see theoretically why a pause has been put in, however we felt it halted game play. I would only enforce the pause for Future Life Planning. You are given several options to choose between when you get to this space so strategic planning is useful here and even given pause for thought one of our friends spent an agonising few minutes deciding what to do next, much to our amusement!
The concept of learning about the action of karma as you move through the game is a sound one. As a group we were perhaps a little too well versed in this so we weren’t really learning anything new, but we were amused by the messages and none of us disagreed with any of the ideas being presented on the cards. We felt the game would make a good present for anyone just stepping out on their spiritual path or a nice game for retreat centres to have available for playing in the evenings.
We had fun with this game, but after an hour and a quarter of game play three of us had collected a considerable amount of ‘stuck karma’ and we were starting to wonder whether anyone would ever manage to remove all their karma! We’d suggest optional ‘quick play’ instructions. You could agree a time limit and then see who has the least bad karma and most good karma stored at the end of the time for example. We also felt that the instruction to take on the karma of another player when you landed on the same space would be more fun if you were made to take the karma from the other player.
I checked the predicted game time on the box, 30 minutes to 90 minutes. Our game seemed unlikely to be completed in the given time and then a breakthrough was made and suddenly one of our guests had removed all her negative karma, collected all her master tools and made it to the centre of the board where Cosmic Consciousness resides in the 90th minute! My husband and I still had a pile of stuck karma in our trays, pass me another karma bead for Envy!