Has your mind ever drifted as you gaze unfocussed out the window, wondering what it would be like to be a conservation expert and build a thriving nature reserve in Africa? Well if it has, you are in luck! As Kavango gives you the opportunity to vicariously do just that in board game form! If that daydream has never captivated your wandering mind, you’re probably still here to find out more about the game rather than read this poor excuse for an introduction! So let’s stop rambling and instead share my thoughts on the prototype we played ahead of its Kickstarter campaign…
I also just need to add the caveat that this is based on playing a prototype and so some things will change from what you see in the photos here!
How it plays
The game is played over three rounds and the person with the most points at the end of the game is the winner. Points are obtained by adding animals to your habitats, conducting research and completing contract bonuses. Each round players will draft cards that help rewild their ecosystem. Thus creating a personal nature reserve tableau before them. To create this successful biome, players will need to invest in Poaching Protection, Habitats and Climate to keep their nature reserve thriving. There is also a solo mode, but I haven’t tried it out – sorry!
Like all good drafting games, play moves around swiftly. There may be a minor analysis paralysis pause, but it sets itself a nice pace. There is also a little asymmetry with different starting producers on each board and different powers granted by Conservation Experts too.
The age rating of ten plus feels appropriate.
Can you tell me more about the game?
The game is designed by Matt and Zara. The duo moved to Botswana when Zara secured a job combatting the illegal wildlife trade. Their first-hand experience of the commitment and innovation to conservation across Southern Africa shines through the game.
The pair are looking to inspire and motivate people to protect wildlife and biodiversity by offering an optimistic narrative via their board game, Kavango.
Final thoughts on Kavango
This game was getting lots of love at the UK Games Expo. Friends and acquaintances were raving about it, so I was keen to give it a whirl. A few days later I was lucky enough for a parcel arrive through my door with a prototype in that I could try.
While I like the table presence overall, the slight ‘elephant’ in the room is, that I’m not entirely sold on the artwork on all the cards and all the graphic design. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good and iconography is clear. However, for me, it’s not incredible or fabulous, as some others have described it. I feel that some of the individual cards need a bit of polish. That statement comes with a big caveat… I am playing a prototype and I know some of the cards are being revisited, or already have been. You can also make your own judgement about the appearance when you see the final version on Kickstarter!
Where Kavango really does excel is in the superb gameplay. Which, let’s be honest is the crucial bit! Kavango offers a brilliant dilemma to ponder, particularly what animals to pick, when to complete research and when to up your investment. There are lots of lovely decisions to make throughout.
Research is particularly interesting as you can decide to research at any time. Go early with potentially less reward but free-up your cash quicker, or, wait to try and max out the rewards for bigger payouts and more points.
Having chatted by email, it seems like the designers are taking on feedback, which leaves me optimistic. They’ve also teased some of the planned stretch goals and upgrades which will be included in the Kickstarter campaign. I therefore can’t wait to see the finished product!
I have thoroughly enjoyed every game of Kavango and will certainly be keeping an eye on the Kickstarter campaign. I really recommend you do too!