When people think of New Zealand, they probably think about one of two things; sheep or Lord of the Rings. There is much more going on in New Zealand and many people call the island home in addition to those sheep. One such group is the Maori people. They are the indigenous Polynesian people of mainland New Zealand and in Ka Pai, a roll and write by Mads Fløe and White Goblin Games, you are trying to bring together three different tribes of Maori people.

What is Ka Pai like?

Ka Pai is a roll and write, like many others, where you roll a set of dice and all players record the results on their sheet. In this review, though, I will only be reviewing the solo game. The solo and multi-player gameplay identically, so technically I will be describing both the multi-player and solo games, but I will only be reviewing the solo game variant.

Each player takes a score sheet and pencil and someone rolls both of the dice. It doesn’t matter who rolls the dice as everyone will write what is found on the dice on their score sheet. The two dice have triangles, squares, circles and slashes (supposedly representing different tribes). The circles being the rarest and triangles being the most common. Once both dice have been rolled each player marks their score sheet with the two symbols. The very first symbol in the game can go anywhere, but future symbols must be drawn horizontally or vertically adjacent to an already drawn symbol. When possible, both symbols in the round must be drawn adjacent to one another. The game continues until all spaces have been filled.

Decisions, decisions

Deciding where to put the symbols is where the strategy of the game lies. At the end of the game, you score points for every group of three identical, vertically or horizontally adjacent symbols. In addition, you score points for connecting totems with identical symbols. There are a total of 5 totems on the score sheet and the symbols only need to be identical from one totem to another, so connecting the second and third totem in your network could use a different symbol than you used for the first two. The more totems you connect in one network, the more points you score. Finally, you score points by creating groups of slashes allowing you to unlock bonuses that increase the value of one of the 4 groups of symbols. Multiple bonuses can be applied to the same symbol making it very valuable.

Rating

I played the multiplayer game and wasn’t super excited about it, but after giving it a chance as a solo game I was glad I did. It isn’t an amazing solo game, but it is a very quick playing a compact solo game that you could travel with or play when you only have about 10 minutes or so.

What stands out for me about Ka Pai, as a solo game, is that it is a good puzzle. You would think that with only two symbols to draw each turn you wouldn’t have many tough decisions. But you actually do. Since both symbols have to be adjacent to each other and an existing symbol you have to look at the score sheet and figure out where both of the symbols can potentially be included in a group. Or where it is safe to throw away a symbol you don’t want. In addition to the totems, the score sheet has blank spaces that create obstacles to go around and potential dead spaces between groups. The choices are tougher than you’d think, but they still aren’t particularly challenging.

What I don’t particularly love about the solo game is that it is a beat your own score style. Sure, it gives you ranges for 5 different rankings to try to achieve, but that is not the style of scoring I prefer in solo games. Plus, I can’t seem to get past the 3rd level, so incredibly mediocre is how I would sum up my scores.

Good

  • Quick game and portable, so great for travelling
  • Interesting puzzle to try to plan around

 Bad

  • Beat your own scoring system
  • The theme doesn’t show up much at all, especially with basic symbols

Facts

  • Players: 1 – 4
  • Playing time: 15 minutes
  • Suggested age: 8+

A review copy of Ka Pai was supplied by White Goblin Games.

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Originally posted at Table Top Together