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Kahmate - bite size rugby

Ka mate, ka mate! ka ora! ka ora (I die! I die! I live! I live!)

If there’s one think more thrilling than watching the New Zealand’s rugby team perform their pre-match Haka, it’s watching them play rugby afterwards - unless it’s a World Cup year but we won’t go in to that.

From a gaming perspective rugby is a very hard game to model, for a start it has 15 players on each side, the re-starts are not uniform and 40% of the action (scrum, maul. lineout and ruck) is opaque to all but the cognoscenti. For the full 15 man aside experience Crash Tackle has the best reputation as feeling like a game of Rugby. However, for those needing a quick rugby fix without all the trappings could do no better than purchase a copy of Kahmate.

Kahmate is a stripped down and slightly abstract re-creation of rugby. There are only six players on each side. The set-piece is entirely lacking from the game and if anything it feels more like Rugby League (without the be-loved Eddie Waring ‘oop and oonders’). For all of the things the game does not have it has the most important it feels like rugby. Territory and match ups are all important, it’s hard to score from your own half and you are always looking to maneuver your players to get the uneven match up fast guy versus slow guy, big man versus small man.

How does it play? The game is played on a board eight squares wide by eleven long. Each player has 6 disk team members. Two of the team members are’ normal’ they can move three squares with no diagonal movement allowed. The other players have special characteristics, the fast guy can move four squares but is a runt so has a penalty when tackling or being tackled, the tough guy moves three and has a bonus when attacking, the strong guy moves two but has a bonus in attack and defense, and the clever man has a bonus when defending. Success depends on getting the right men in the right place at the right time.

On a players turn they can move up to two team members, pass an unlimited number of times backwards (behind of diagonally) to team members up two squares away or kick the ball forwards up to three squares. Kicking diagonally is allowed. Only one team member disk can occupy a square and when a player, with the ball, comes into contact with a defending player he can try to force his way through him. Force through and tackles are handled in the same way; the attacker is the player trying to force or a player attempting to make a tackle. Each player starts the game with an identical hand of six ‘Stamina’ cards numbered one to six and he plays one of his cards to resolve the play. Bonus points are added or subtracted from the cards and the higher number wins. The losing team member is flipped over to show he is collapsed in a heap and can’t be used on the players next turn. A successful tackle with a two point card advantage causes a turn over; otherwise the ball is reset behind the player tackled. The card played is discarded and can only be picked up again to be played after all six cards have been played. Thus timing the use of cards is crucial you don’t want your skinny bloke trying to tackle the strong man on the line when you only have a one value card left in your hand.

The game was a finalist for the French Tric-Tac boardgame award 2008 award and is the first game from Igor Davin. It’s a pleasure to play, each game takes about 15 minutes and it feels like rugby that for me is the most important thing and I’d recommend this game to anyone who loves the oval ball but does not have the time to play one of the longer rugby simulations.

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