Is That A Bat Or A Deflator Mouse? - Kakerlaken Poker Royal - Review

Filler games are an important part of every gamers collection. While you're waiting for others to show up or when you've got less than 30 minutes before the end of a games night you need something to fill in that time, lest you decide to simply sit there and talk to each other - shock horror!




Designer: Jacques Zeimet (2012)
Publisher(s): Drei Magier Spiele 
# of Players: 2-6
Ages: 8+
Play Time: 15-20 minutes on average
BGG Rank/Rating: #2633/6.90
Dice Tower Peoples Choice Rank: n/a
Category: Bluffing Card Game

Filler games are an important part of every gamers collection. While you're waiting for others to show up or when you've got less than 30 minutes before the end of a games night you need something to fill in that time, lest you decide to simply sit there and talk to each other - shock horror!

Filler games are a dime a dozen however and most of them are immensely simplistic and straightforward. After all they are meant to be quick games - if it takes forever to explain the rules, it's lost already. However simple doesn't necessary mean bad particularly if the fun is derived from the players themselves rather than the mechanics of the game.

This is where Kakerlaken Poker Royal (KPR) comes in and boy does it shine. I was introduced to this game on my first night at Southampton On Board and I bought it the very next day. I'm just going to leap in here and say that this in terms of frequency of plays, this is the most popular game in my collection and possibly the best £10 I've ever spent on a game. But you all don't want to take praise without good reason, so here goes!

Simplicity At Its Best

The rules of this game are incredibly straightforward. Each player starts with a number of cards in their hand which represent 7 types of vermin creatures from flies and cockroaches to bats and toads. . . . . . is toad classed as a "vermin", I'm not too sure on that one. . . .


The first player takes a card from their hand and passes it face down to a player of their choice. They then make a claim about what the card is such as "this is a rat". The other player then has three choices:

1.      Agree with the claim and flip over to see if the player was telling the truth

2.      Challenge the claim and flip over to see if the player was lying

3.      Look at it in secret and then pass to another player making any claim he chooses.

If the agreement or challenge turns out to be incorrect the player takes the card and places it in front of him. If he is correct however, the player who gave him the card, takes it instead. If he instead passes it to another player he doesn't have to make the same claim as before - i.e. he can concur with the claim or claim he's lying and make his own claim. The player who loses the challenge then takes a card from his hand and the turn repeats as before.

In addition to the basic creatures there are "Royal" versions (one for each type). A player may claim that their card is a "royal" when passing it to another. This causes tension for the defence as failing a challenge with a Royal involves taking not only that card, but also one card from the spare cards set aside at the start of the game. Two special cards add a twist where the claim is either always true or always false regardless of what is been said by the player.



Gameplay ends when one player has either run out of cards in their hand or has 4 copies of one creature type in front of him.

Competitive, Yet Not Competitive

This game is all about bluffing and interaction - people are constantly laughing across the table as players come up with their own obscure reasons for whether someone is lying or telling the truth. Sometimes two players will get caught in a mini-war between each other where they keep trying to out-bluff each other, usually to the humiliation of one of the players involved and to the amusement of everyone else.

Even if you love bluffing games like I do, that's not the biggest pro of this game. You will have noticed above that the game ends when one player meets the losing conditions. That's right, ONE! There is no winning condition in this game, i.e. you don't count up who had the least cards, there's no victory points, etc, you simply are avoiding being the outright loser of the game.

This means there is no danger of over-competitiveness and even the angry gamer should be cool with playing this game as the whole concept of the game is about lying to each other on a regular basis. Everyone is out for Number 1 to begin with, but as soon as one player ends up with 3 copies of a scorpion for example in front of him, everyone suddenly turns co-operative and starts passing a hundred scorpions his way even though there are only 9 in the deck including the royal! The lone player fights for his own survival while trying to get another player in the "danger zone" so that he can take some of the pressure.


It's a great way of designing a game and I believe it's one of the main reasons why this game is always popular at our gaming groups. You'd think we'd overplayed this by now, but honestly I never grow tired of this game and it can potentially get 3-4 repeat plays in a night depending on how quickly a game goes. A game might be over in less than 5 minutes, but I've had one drag out to 25 minutes due to every single player having multiple varied creatures in front of them, but not 3-4 of a kind. Never however does the game feel like it's dragging too long and to be perfectly honest, you wouldn't care if it did - it's that much fun.

Verdict

There's little else to say about this game. There are few rules to learn, it's easy for anybody to pick up as the turn sequence repeats itself constantly and unless you have the worst poker face in human history, everyone can stand a good chance of avoiding being the loser. I don't want to blow my own trumpet or anything, but I've yet to lose a game. . . . . nothing to do with my side hobby as a poker player however!

The bluffing in this game drives it forward with players laughing and mocking each other constantly and it's great to call out "GET HIM" when one player nabs his third toad in the set.

The artwork is colourful and amusing and for those who are colour blind the symbols for each creature are printed in each corner and the rulebook has a useful summary on the back to identify the creatures. Though to be honest I've seen the occasional slow gamer struggle to distinguish creatures on occasion, particularly with regards to the stink bug which colour-wise is very similar to the toad. 

If I'm going to say anything bad about the game I suppose I should warn that the cards will show signs of wear and tear quickly with the constant shuffing, passing and picking up that occurs, particularly if you're playing on a surface where it's difficult to pick up a flat card with your fingers. But the game costs £10 and is a filler, what were you expecting?

Sleeves were my first answer to this problem, however even though Mayday Euro sleeves fit perfectly, the box is too small to accommodate the sleeved cards with the assistance of a rubber band to hold them in. A slight miscalculation on my part, but it's a minor inconvenience I'm willing to tolerate, just be careful if you're like me and like to sleeve every card you've got!

There you have it. Kakerlaken Poker Royal - possibly the best filler game in existence? If you know of a better one for the time and money, I'll be determined to give it a try!

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