If you have had the chance to read any of my previous family-friendly game reviews here on Meeple Mountain, you’ll note that there is a consistent hook with all the games that shine.
If the kids like it, they will ask to play it again. In the case of the KOSMOS 2017 family-weight dungeon crawler Karak, my kids not only asked to play it again after our first game, but my six-year-old son played it by himself later that same day.
If you’ve got a good-sized table and young kids itching to battle evil skeletons, mummies and dragons with six-sided dice, Karak is an easy recommendation.
Dice Chucker, Jr.
Karak’s story involves something about a curse, some adventurers, and a quest to defeat a dragon. (Don’t worry, the manual gives you more. Just know that my kids didn’t care, so I will gloss over it here too.)
Players take on the role of one of the six adventurers in the game, each with two special powers that may provide an edge during play. Starting on a map the size of a single tile, each turn will involve a player exploring a dungeon hunting for action. Drawing tiles from a face-down, shuffled stack, walking into the unknown will usually lead to more rooms being added to the ever-expanding map.
Some of those rooms will then be populated with monsters, which can be beaten by simply rolling two six-sided dice to see if you’ve attacked with more strength than the monster’s hit point total. Defeated monsters have loot—spells, weapons, or maybe a key that can be used later to open a treasure chest found in a future room.
And that’s it. One of the tiles in the monster bag is a dragon, with a massive total of 15 hit points. Since you can only roll a total of 12 damage on your best day, you’ll need to gather weapons and spells that add to an attack roll so that you can kill off the dragon and end the game. When the dragon is defeated, whoever has the most treasure wins.
30 Minutes is the Sweet Spot
In my experience, plays of Karak come down to one thing: will the game last under 30 minutes, or over?
That’s because Karak’s only negative is that it is too easy. Like, really easy. In my first game of Karak, my Warrior character didn’t lose a single battle, meaning I also didn’t take any damage. All game long! Many of the monsters have a total of seven hit points or less. So, rolling a 6, 7 or 8 is pretty common (judging by the pips on those CATAN tiles, right?), and with weapon and spell bonuses, you will regularly win combats, particularly by the halfway point of the game.
I’m OK with the lack of drama, especially because I don’t want my son to spin into a massive tantrum because his thief character has been murdered off the board by a giant rat. But if you don’t draw the dragon tile from the bag, Karak can easily veer into 45-minute territory (particularly with more than two players) as your maxed-out wizard is strolling around the dungeon taking down minions while blind-drawing yet another minion-level monster.
Otherwise, Karak is a blast. All my kids want in this world is to go into a dungeon, kill monsters, and loot treasure. Games like Karak and 2021’s The Quest Kids still get the love in the Bell compound because they succeed at offering such simple pleasures.
Also, I love the level of production in the Karak box. The player boards are fantastic. They house health tokens, a tile depicting your chosen character, and all your loot. The way the dungeon develops can turn into a table hog, but it’s a fun way to build the drama with each move around the map. The double-sided monster/loot tokens are nice and chunky, and the component insert does the job.
If you’ve got kids looking for an entry-level dice chucker, Karak is very much worth the dive!