Review: Kaleva – telling a Finnish legend

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At those times, though humans were not there, world was not empty at all. Gods enjoyed it to the fullest for thousands of years. In their wild long celebration, they damaged the place, that holds heaven and earth together. And now it’s time to fix it. But opinions, how to do it, differ. Should the new pillar supporting heavens be gold or silver? It is not possible to decide otherwise, than by a fight.

All will be decided in boardgame , that came to our office with a delay of a few million years. Well, we’re kidding a little. But still, its an ancient history, when the Finnish gods roamed beyond our country! Wiik Esa created game in present times only based on legends with illustrations by . Their creation was created under auspices of and arrived on all tables in .

Square box is very dark and has a wooden pattern all over it. Weight of the whole packaging does not match that material, so we will not let be deceived. Still, you can see one of the gods, that does look ready to go into battle. And we will stand by his side soon as we open the box. And there’s waiting for us folded game board composed of five rows and six columns. One side has a golden starting line, while the other turns to silver. And each column has one card position at both sides (silver and gold).

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Cards are precisely those other necessary components to play the game. They are available in two colors on rear side (gold and silver, of course) and always carrying a portrait of one of the deities printed together with value from zero to nine. But even the very stones have to be there. Even from their rumbling in the bag, you will reveal their plastic nature, but they are wearing engraved runes.

Each player chooses one side to fight for. Game board is placed between them on the table, each player takes and places his stones on his side of the board in the boundary lines. Then, both rivals shall also take deck of cards in their color, shuffle it and draw top six cards. Before they’re secretly spread on six card positions on the board, they show their values to each other. Both opponents know their starting power, but they will not know the layout.

And then fighting can start. Player may move one of his stones in his turn and it may move one position in any of eight basic directions. Prohibited is only slipping through two opposing stones in a diagonal (this allows players to defend).

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Players will of course try to get rid of enemy stones by moving their warrior to a place, where is a hostile counter. But this is not enough to remove it. They must defeat enemy in direct combat using cards. Always using cards in those columns, where stones lie before start of the movement. Higher number wins and stays on the board, while loser must vacate the field.

Cards used are also set aside. Any vacancy left by them needs to be immediately filled with new card, this time of hidden value (no showing to opponent). Discarded stone is also not completely dead and unusable. If the owner sacrifices one full turn, he can put one back to his starting colored line.

Magic stones gradually cross the chasm formed by the board. Players try to get their tokens to the other side and thus occupy a magical line in opponent color. It cannot be accessed by moving diagonally, but only straight forward. The first player, who manages to occupy three positions on the opponent’s side, becomes winner of the game.

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Kaleva looks like an interesting puzzle game and has its theme and processing poised in the right direction. Even the very beginning of the game is very promising and tactical battle can be sensed there very much. Unfortunately, as the cards begin to change and planning will slowly fade from the game and everything is suddenly dominated by coincidence. Players completely lose idea about numbers on their rival’s cards. And upcoming attacks can not be thought out at all.

Our editorial staff were so disappointed by this property, that we invented our variant home rules. Newly drawn card is always shown to other player, but instead of immediately placing it on one and only vacant spot, player picks up one already played card from the board. He adds it into his hand, but does not reveal its identity (he had seen it either at the beginning of the game or during the game). Each player then chooses, where to put which one of that pair. This guarantees, that players have some control over they own chances and still know, what enemy has at his disposal. It additionally adds another possibility to tacticise for cardholders, who can move cards (it is possible also in the official rules, but only in special occasion).

But back to the game, which is intended purely for two and that is good choice. Match takes a reasonable time and usually fits in the reported twenty minutes. This is just right for a tactical game and because fortunately of this, luck is not as significant disappointment as it would be with longer games.

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We really like idea of ​​adding battle with card value to traditional fights. It is now not enough to simply walk over your opponent’s piece. In the game, it is imperative to plan ahead. In addition, stones can move in all directions, so no movement is irreversible in the future.

Towards end of the game, it really becomes a battle for happier hand of cards. Their values are already long shuffled and you’re running fights only on the basis of probability. The higher the number, the better. But at the same time, you have to get rid of lower values, which only take place without a reasonable chance of winning the fight. This dilemma could be even more important, if the rules were a little different.

Processing gets our attention. From boxes and graphic solution of the plan to cards themself. All are decorated with portraits of supernatural beings. And each of them has its own profile described in the rules, so you will also learn something about Finnish gods.

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Kaleva is a game, that has real potential. But it almost perfectly killed by randomness. The beginning is very interesting and tactical, but gradually degenerates only into attacking and hoping for luck of the draw. Matches last reasonable period of time, and eventually entertain. But Kaleva could definitely be better, and we sort of hope, that authors still show some variants, thereby enabling you to enjoy the game and focus on players with more tactical approach.

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DesignerEsa Wiik
ArtistPasi Juhola
PublisherMindwarrior Games
Year Published2015
# of Players2 - 0
User Suggested # of Players Best with 0 players
Recommended with players
(1 voters)
Playing Time0
Mfg Suggested Ages10 and up
User Suggested Ages10 and up
(1 voters)
Language DependenceNo necessary in-game text
(1 voters)
CategoryAbstract Strategy, Card Game, Fighting, Mythology
MechanicGrid Movement
Primary NameKaleva

Infos courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Infos.

Review: Kaleva – telling a Finnish legend
Final word
Kaleva is a tactical game with an honest basis. Everything interesting happens in the first few turns, when the stones of the opposing sides are just beginning to move. Their options are wide, there is little to stop them, but when they meet on one space, they must put up a fight. Only the higher value (secret) of cards lying in the column survives. But there are new cards, that players can no longer see and this spoils the whole tactical impression. Rest of the game is riding a wave of uncertainty. And that's a shame for a game, that does not last long and still looks good. Kaleva is a missed opportunity, but this still can be corrected.
Reader Rating0 Votes
Pros
combination of stone elimination and cards
processing and theme
fast game time
movement in all directions
Cons
luck spoils whole planning process
2.5
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