Theme&andn’What is it?
Restore the greatness of the Kitara Empire, enlarging your territories through savannahs and antic ruins!
Kitara is a strategy game that mixes conquest, movement, and battle. Manage your cards to plan your actions: the more territories you control, the more options you get! Strengthen your army of hunters, cheetah-centaurs, and heroes! Protect livestock and crops, move your troops, and go to war. Kitara is a dynamic strategy game, full of tension and suspense.
—description from the publisher
We played a preview version of Kitara…
My wife and I played a preview version of Kitara with the game’s designer, Eric B. Vogel (Eric is no relation but a darned nice guy we’ve met several times). Kitara is a 2-4 player game that plays in 40-60 minutes. Dr. Vogel has been working on this game for 8 or so years, and is delighted to see it come to the table. It’s got a few “holy grail” elements that Vogel wanted to use in his designs — dudes on a map, a bag, and the card-reach mechanic (explained below) that Eric developed for Armorica from 2010.
In Kitara, players are working to plan actions, control territories, and deploy hunters, cheetah-centaurs, and heroes. Yes, I said “cheetah-centaurs”!
The art throughout the game is beautiful, from the functionally designed cards to the map board, which is rich with nice details (like flamingos), to the gorgeous player dashboard. It is a coherent and inviting world.
The player has to get their forces on to the map, move them into groups & position, and perform battles against fellow players to establish area control. All these actions depend on the player getting cards (which appear in a “market” at the top of the board) to power their actions.
Battles are simple — the winner is determined by majority, and the loser of the battle retreats to the nearest map area where they have presence. Point tokens are drawn from a bag if your Leader is involved in the battle. This is a good way to earn secret points. Having their cheetah-centaurs in the jungles earns public points at the end of a player’s turn.
The game is played in rounds, in which each player will take a turn starting with the first player and proceeding clockwise. On their turn, each player will perform all these phases before play proceeds to the next player.
- Draft: Take a Kingdom card from the face-up cards next to the board within the player’s “reach”. The Kingdom cards have several bits of information on them, including reach, forces, movement, scoring, and Age.
The player’s “reach” is determined by symbols on the cards in their Kingdom. All players start with a reach of 2, which means they may draft the card in the first or second position in the Kingdom row. Some cards add to your reach, which makes cards further into the Kingdom row accessible. The card is placed in the player’s Kingdom, the Kingdom row slides down to close the gap, and a new Kingdom card is revealed.
- Recruit: Some cards add forces to the board. On this turn only, recruit any forces indicated on the newly-placed Kingdom card and add them on the board in any spot where you’ve already got presence.
- Move: Count up the number of movement actions indicated on your Kingdom cards. Each player always has a minimum of two movement. Move groups of your forces up to the number of movement actions you’ve got. Attacking and retreating occur during the move phase.
- Score: The fourth row of the Kingdom card may show a number of score symbols. Score 1 point for each symbol on your cards, and 2 points for each Ruin (Jungle) space occupied by a cheetah-centaur. Review any Hero tokens collected this turn, select one secretly, and return the rest to the bag.
- Manage: Cards in your Kingdom represent people who must be fed. If the card is not fed, the people get angry and flee. Each Savannah space you occupy with at least 1 Warrior pawn feeds 1 card at the end of your turn. Determine the number of cards you can feed. If you have more cards than you can feed in your Kingdom, you must discard cards — and their associated pawn(s) — from your Kingdom. Choosing not to feed your forces has strategic opportunity, so it’s wise to keep that option in mind.
The mechanics of Kitara are simple to grasp and fairly intuitive. Area Influence, Area Majority, and Hand Management are the key concepts here, and all integrate very well. The game becomes very think-y as play progresses. Players tend to stay involved the entire time, watching the active player inching ever closer to their lands…
Using your actions wisely offers strategic depth with plenty to consider as you try to carve a path of dominance through the map.
It is fun to amass your forces and march around the map dominating the other players. Careful collection of Kingdom cards power and populate your forces, propelling them into pitched battles with other players.
It starts simply and turns move quickly — the rules stay simple throughout — but Kitara ramps up as the cards collect in your Kingdom and you’ve got additional actions to think about. Your last turn will certainly take longer than your first turn!
This game is good for people who enjoy thoughtfully considering their options before executing them, and for people who enjoy games with emergent strategy. The art is attractive to everyone, and it looks great on the table.
Age range is listed on the box as 10+, and that seems right. There are opportunities for those who have Analysis Paralysis to become fully locked-up! 🙂
Kitara makes hand management interesting with the “reach” mechanic and the need to feed your people. There are opportunities for significant planning, and the feeling of accomplishment when you manage to achieve your goals is a great feeling.
With its unique setting & theme, simple-but-deep mechanics, and outstanding artwork, Kitara is a sure-fire hit for serious gamers.
Kitara is set to release to FLGSs in the USA in late October 2020, with online sales beginning a couple weeks later.
Thanks to Eric B. Vogel for playing his preview copy with us! For the record, Eric ended with 84 points, my wife with 72 points, and me with 71.
Find Kitara on BoardGameGeek here.