Sometimes the best ideas mean taking something and making it better.
In some respects that is what happened with the creation of Kasl from Canadian game designer Marc Baudoin.
When you first pull Kasl, from Magma Editions, out of the box, you can't help but be reminded of Risk, a game which more people have played, and is widely known as sort of an entry level war game.
Kasl is certainly the same genre, with the same basic premise in that you start with territories on the board. Each turn you add to your forces on the table based on what territories and forces you already have, then you move those forces to capture area from your opponents.
However, Kasl adds a few neat new twists to the mix, which at least in my mind add immensely to game making is superior to the aforementioned Risk.
To begin with Kasl has a finite time limit imposed on the game. Too often these sort of territorial games can bog down toward the end as two superpowers are left trying to gain an edge. The near stalemate can be a bore for the players still involved, and is even worse for those who have been literally wiped off the map.
Kasl, which accommodates up to four players, is limited to only eight rounds, and then points are awarded to determine a winner based on territory and forces.
The good thing about the eight round limit is that it will be a rarity a player is actually wiped out before the game ends, keeping everyone active in the game.
The second mechanic which really sets Kasl apart is the introduction of the possibility of the plague beginning to ravage the lands.
Each turn a random roll is made, and the plague can gain a foothold, not so unlike it might have happened with disease in the Middle Ages. The later in the game, the higher the probability plague starts. If it does start, a territory is selected at random, and the forces there are obliterated.
The next turn there is a chance plague spreads to one, or all neighbouring territories.
While the spreading disease can devastate a force, and it is insanely random, so too would be the occurrence of real disease out breaks. It just works.
Kasl also diversifies the force list for players, giving players more options in terms of both attack and defence. Choice is a good thing.
With infantry, archers, cavalry, war machines and lords, each with some advantage in terms of play, for example cavalry easily defeat infantry, and a war machine is a huge benefit capturing a city, there are a lot of decisions to be made along the way.
The game also has a good system in terms of developing strongholds. Each player starts with a single fortified city. Over time you can build additional cities, or grow the ones you have, first to a fortress and then to a castle. The additions help in terms of force recruitment each turn.
The additional choices a player has, the fun black plague idea, and the set time limit make this a winner in terms of game play.
The board is serviceable, if a bit bright in terms of colour choice. The pieces are wood, and that just adds to the aesthetics in terms of recommending this game highly.
Simply a great entry-level war game which anyone can learn rather easily. Check it out.
-- CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 10, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada