Inside the Box is an in-depth look at the contents of a board game. It covers the quality, quantity, and aesthetic value of what is found inside the game box.
Cosmic Karma has recently been released by Cosmic Karma Game Partners, LLC. I was lucky enough to receive a review copy from the designer, Linda Look, two weeks ago and finally got the chance to open it up this week. The game retails for $38.00 and it is available through the game’s website here. (A more traditional review of gameplay can be found here.) Basically the purpose of the game is to get rid of all negative karma you pick up throughout the game, gather three “master tools,” and pick up beneficial cards to help you jet around the board. Each time you go around the circular track, you die and go to the spirit realm, where you have some new choices to make before you are reincarnated. The first player to return to the start space with no negative karma and all three master tools wins the game. I’d categorize it as a “roll and move” game with a few twists.
As I first approached the game, the box immediately caught my eye. It’s sturdy and colorful and weighs about five pounds. The cover features a cute little monk (“Karma Boy”) meditating on a lotus flower. The note on the front says the game is for ages 13+ (in my opinion, it could be played by people much younger), supports 2-4 players (I’d imagine 4 is best), and plays in about 30-90 minutes.
And inside the box I found…wow, a lot! On top is one small rules booklet (full color), a square game board, four pawns, 2 six-sided dice, four “karma account” boards, about 200 cards of various sizes, and a small plastic tray with many small and colorful playing pieces (beads, rings, pegs, etc.)
Taken together and individually, the components are of very high quality. I was especially impressed by the eye-catching art on the board and cards, done by artist Crystal McLaughlin. Karma Boy features prominently in all the game materials, and although he’s simply drawn, he is very expressive and is often doing amusing things on the cards. The designer and artist also chose an easy-to-read font throughout the game.
The thing that really gets my attention about this game is the player aid (“Karma Accounts”). Rick and my wife both commented on how sturdy and helpful they were when we played yesterday. At the bottom of each account is a little depression cut right into the cardboard so your karmic beads and rings don’t roll all over the table. Very handy.
The last components are the playing pieces–orange and green beads (negative karma), rings (positive karma), and sticks (habits), and black pegs representing the two halves of each of the three master tools (torch, sword, and wand). Again, these are of high quality, and come in a handy storage tray with a lid. Considering the cost of the storage tray, I’m impressed this was included: most game companies would be content with giving you a couple of plastic baggies or letting you figure it out on your own.
If Cosmic Karma loses out in any way, it’s in the rulebook. Almost all of our questions were answered, but the arrangement of the rules is not ideal so you need to do some re-reading to figure out how certain rules might interact in play. However, this is not a huge problem as the rules are only four small pages, and a bit of skimming will help you find things pretty quickly.
In terms of its pieces, Cosmic Karma is beautifully presented. High quality components from a small, independent publisher are a welcome treat, and I think the people at Cosmic Karma Game Partners deserve a pat on the back for their hard work while keeping the cost of this game relatively low.
Expect Rick to post a session report in the next few days. I’ll chime in in the future with some further thoughts as well.