Loki have been making a name for themselves in the last year by publishing some of the most gorgeous kids games on the market. As the new children’s games division of established publisher Iello, Loki have pooled some incredible design minds together to create fun and great looking games for ages 4-8. Something all Loki games have in common is an excellent gateway approach to introducing young ones to traditional ‘grown up’ board game mechanisms.
One of Loki’s latest offerings, Kraken Attack, is a pirate/monster themed introduction to Co-op gaming for kids 7+. Designed by none other than Antione Bauza, the genius that brought us 7 Wonders, Takenoko, Tokaido and so many more great games. For Kraken Attack Antoine has teamed up with his no doubt equally talented young son Esteban. If the top notch production values weren’t enough to make you sit up, those design credentials should! Avast ye seadogs, lets dive into the gameplay.
Kraken Attack Gameplay
You and up to 3 friends have the unenviable task of protecting your ship from Tootone the Kraken’s grasping tentacles! You’ll have to do more than defend if you want to win though, you’ve got to stick it the the Kraken himself. The main board consists of your ship, which is divided into 4 quarters that your characters can move between, and 8 horizontal sea lanes each containing one tentacle. Each quarter of the ship gives any pirate in it access to the two sea lanes perpendicular to it and the ability to fight off the tentacles in them.
The left side of the board has blue tentacles and the right side red ones. Each sea lane has a symbol that also appears on the coloured dice. Every turn the current pirate will roll all available dice and move the tentacles toward your ship following the dice instructions. As well as the horizontal lanes the water is also split into vertical combat zones. The zone adjacent to the ship is the saber zone, next is pistols and then canons, beyond that is out of range. If a tentacle in the saber zone is moved by the dice it attacks the ship. If the ship still has a rail in that position it removes it, otherwise the nasty tentacle will make a hole in the ship. 4 holes and it’s game over me hearties!
Holy Pirate Ship Batman!
After resolving the Kraken dice it’s your turn to get your own back. Each pirate has their own deck of cards and unique special ability. You’ll always have two cards face up in front of you. Choosing one of these cards you can now perform any or all of the actions on it. You might move your character around the ship, repair a section of rail or attack tentacles in certain combat zones.
Then players check for the ‘funny face’ symbol on the card they just used, if it has one then the rather easily provoked Tootone moves closer to the ship releasing more dice into the pool as he goes. Lastly the card is discarded and a new one drawn. When the sensitive little Kraken makes it to the end of his track he immediately replaces one of the tentacles on the main board. This is a good thing because now you can directly attack Tootone in the same way you would attack the tentacle he replaced. Three solid hits to Tootone and the brave crew win the game, but remember if he puts four holes in the deck... it’s Davey Jones locker!
Release the Kraken
One thing struck me as my daughter and I finished our first game of Kraken Attack, this game ain’t easy! As another poxy tentacle punched a fourth and final hole in our hull we were already planning what to do next time. We’d figured we could take one side of the ship each and keep those suckers at bay, wrong! This time we’d make better use of the movement icons on our cards to help each other out a bit, still lost.
Okay, time to re-evaluate my initial thoughts on this cutesy looking game. We’d played Loki games before like Zoo Run and Little Battle. Like Kraken Attack those games are really beautiful and a lot of fun for young ones, but they don’t really require skill and strategy. Kraken attack has that all too rare quality in family games, it’s as engaging for adults to play as it is for kids!
A learning opportunity
As with all dice rolling games there’s an element of luck in Kraken Attack. It’s quite exciting and a little anxiety inducing rolling all 6 dice and seeing what damage those slime suckers are going to do. Having said that there’s no shortage of strategy either. The unique player abilities are great for teaching kids strengths and weaknesses and getting them to work together to solve the puzzle of the tentacle positions which is constantly shifting. When to repair the ship and when to attack, when to move and when to advance the kraken are all options that will get young (and old) minds thinking ahead and weighing choices. Not to mention building those essential discussion and debating skills.
Good looking squid
As I mentioned earlier, Loki make very attractive board games. Kraken Attack is no exception. The art is cartoony and perfect, the components chunky, colourful and tactile. The boards and cards are good quality card stock. Everything about this game is beautiful, so beautiful in fact there’s a clear viewing window in the box cover to show off the Kraken figure. Thats all well and good, it’s a cool miniature, but it means you’ll have to store the main board and rule book under the insert. Not a huge deal, but mildly annoying to have a nice insert and still have to pull it out the box every time anyway.
Sushi Go or Sushi Stay?
All in all Kraken Attack is a solid family game and an excellent introduction to ‘grown up’ mechanisms. While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it provides a good looking and engaging opportunity for young players to develop communication and strategising skills. Or indeed a subtle opportunity for parents to guide the kids through some trickier decision making. It’s challenging enough for family members of all ages to enjoy the game. There’s even a couple of variants included to alter the difficulty too which is a nice touch. I was particularly impressed with the addition of a solo mode.
So if you want to ease the kids into co-operative gameplay before dropping them into Pandemic, Kraken Attack is the ideal jumping in point! Easy to learn, simple to play, pleasantly challenging and easy on the eyes. Kraken Attack will be a hit for the whole family!