Back in 2017, the South African city of Cape Town was experiencing one of the most severe droughts in its history. What better time for Pleasant Company Games, a Capetonian game company, to release Konja. This great little two-player press-your-luck resource management game casts you as one of two beardy shaman wizards, frantically rolling dice to call the rain.
Using a combination of dice, Spell and Relic cards and a little help from the gods themselves through Favours and Blessings, you race to earn at least 21 points, awakening Chango, the ancient God of Storms, and bringing rain to the parched land.
If you’ve played Ancient Terrible Things (or read my review of it here) you’ll have a good idea of the basic gameplay. This plays almost like a streamlined ATT, with some things stripped back and some things expanded.
If you have read my review of ATT you’ll be glad to know that the Angry Birds font is no longer in use, a small gripe I had. The artwork is more of Rob van Zyl’s dark gritty scrawlings. It goes really well with the theme of shamans and tribalistic magic. The components are the usual quality fare from Pleasant Company Games; solid boards, good sized quality cards and great little cardboard tokens. The version I played was a Kickstarter edition which came with stickers to put on the idol tokens, amongst other things. Nothing essential but adds to the flavour.
Setup (Rain Man)
The illustration in the rulebook shows the board setup clearly with great labelling explaining the game layout.
Each wizard begins with: Oodoo, At! and FieYa Relic; 3 Spell cards; 2 of each resource token: Power, Magick and Gold. It's great that both players start with the same relics, as there’s no arguments about one player getting an overpowered start. What you buy from there though is pure strategy.
It’s a relatively quick and painless set and setdown, which is always a plus, especially with this being on the short.
Gameplay (Is It Because I Lied When I Was 17?)
In Konja, each player gets one turn per round, with a turn consisting of three phases.
Phase 1: Ancestors
In the centre of the table are 5 Ancestors, with an Idol beside each one. On your turn you take one Idol and move it across to the Ancestor of your choice. Doing this allows you to get a little help from the gods in the form of a Favour. Favours allow different things like exchanging gold for upgrading Cloud points or gaining more resources. Once the gods have Favoured you, both players receive a Blessing from the gods, who can’t be seen to be too biassed.
Phase 2: Bones
In this phase of Konja, you’ll be rolling 5 green dice and 2 white action dice in an attempt to gain resources to buy Cloud points or even just to win Cloud points directly, like some kind of condensation king.
Once you’ve rolled your dice, you may play Spells and Relic cards using a combination of Action dice, Power tokens (green) and Magick tokens (blue). These allow you to do various things like rerolling dice or upgrading/downgrading Cloud points.
Phase 3: Collection
This is where you bank all of your sweet sweet resources. Unfortunately at this stage, your opponent can interfere by throwing red dice into your dice pool, with a higher number rolled replacing numbers that you needed. Say you had four 1s and then your darn fool opponent rolls a 3. They can replace a 1 with a 3, meaning that instead of cashing in four of a kind for a 5 point Cloud you can now only cash in for a 3 point Cloud. It’s a great way to rain on their parade.
You can refer to the Pyramid of Summoning to see what your roll gets you:
- A single of 4 or higher gets you a Power token.
- Two of a kind can be exchanged for two Magick tokens.
- Three or more consecutive dice can be exchanged for that much Gold, so a 1,2,3 gets you 3 Gold.
- Three of a kind equals a 3 point Cloud. 4 of a kind equals a 5 point Cloud while 5 of a kind gets you the coveted 7 point Cloud. Three of those would net you the 21 points required to win! Simple.
Gameplay proceeds at a merry clip with very few opportunities for analysis paralysis. The ability to mess with your opponent and set fire to their rain is something that was missing from ATT and I’m glad it was added in here. It feels less like Solitaire for Two and more like two beardy shaman wizards flinging curses at each other while trying to coax the skies to open.
Final Thoughts & Singing In The Rain
I love everything I’ve played from Pleasant Company Games so far and this was no exception. The production feels great, the theme felt engaging and there was always an option to mitigate a bad roll, replacing it with an equally bad roll. A great little two player experience, one that I’m always happy to pull out.
Also, I played Konja for the first time in Cape Town just prior to moving to the UK and shortly afterwards they experienced significant rainfall, leading to recovery of the dam levels. Am I seriously going to take credit for ending the drought? You bet your soggy trousers I am.