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Kraken Ataken!

Published by Titan Forge, Kraken Ataken! is a light pirate-themed card-based game where you're putting together attacks in order to seize treasure to cash in for points when all but one of the ships have been plundered.

Tho' Kraken Ataken! adopts a pirate theme, designer Michal Kozak has placed the focus of the game very much on the Krakens rather than the pirates. Art is by Slawek Kosciukiewicz and is entirely in keeping with this game's tongue-in-cheek theme. The 2–5 players each represents a Kraken (or rather two Krakens - since players each have two Kraken cards). Each turn, players have four tentacle cards showing the colour and strength of the tentacles as well as any special powers for that card. At the start of the game, ships are laid out so that there is one more than the number of players. Three treasure tiles are placed at random on each ship but only the top tiles are displayed. For each ship there is also a pirate card that represents that ship's defence.

To plunder a treasure tile, you choose a ship to attack and place by it one of your Krakens with a tentacle card concealed beneath it. Each player takes a single action in this way; either positioning a Kraken by a ship or adding another tentacle card to a Kraken already on the table. When the round ends, you'll want to ensure you've enough tentacles to beat the number shown on that ship's pirate card; and your tentacles cannot be the same colour as those of the pirate card because the pirate is immune to them. However, even before these attacks can take place, you'll first have to resolve the 'take that' conflict from opposing Krakens. With only one more location than the number of players and two attacks apiece, players will almost always find themselves competing at at least one location. And only the strongest Kraken can go on to challenge for the treasure.

Tho' the mechanics are simple, Kraken Ataken! offers ample scope for bluff and strategy. Playing cards to the table for their powers instead of their tentacle strength means you can screw with other players' actions, including moving their Krakens or swapping pirates from one ship to another. If you hold cards in reserve, you can play them during the combat phase to skew the result of battles, either between Krakens or in the showdown with the pirate. None of this is deep strategy but it's indubitably fun. Ties between battling Krakens are not uncommon and these are resolved by the Kraking (start player for the turn). However, the player who the Kraking rules against (ie: the loser of the tie) gets the compensation of being able to choose a card from their hand at the start of the next turn and swap it with a random card from the hand of the outgoing Kraking.

There's a set collection element to the game, with most treasures worth more the more you have of each type. That can make competition for some tiles especially fierce as the game progresses. And Kraken Ataken! incorporates optional rules for the use of the Krakid. This allows the Kraking (who also controls the Krakid) to choose one of five special effect cards and place it face down by one of the ships. The chosen card is revealed only at the start of the combat phase, where it will have an effect on Kraken v Kraken and/or Kraken v pirate battles in relation to that ship. We liked the extra element this introduced: more scope for strategy for the player controlling the Krakid; more mayhem for the other players. However, we wondered whether it might be better if the Krakid and Kraking weren't both vested in the same player.

You can expect a game to take around 15 minutes with 2 players, rising to no more than 30 minutes with 4 or 5 players, so Kraken Ataken! is never going to outstay its welcome. Release the Kraken!

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