Celtica, a game by well-known designer duo Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling was published recently in Finland. I was curious to try the game; for background, I had read the less-than-favourable comments from the Geek, combined with Bruno Faidutti’s recommendation.
The game certainly looks delicious, from the beautiful box cover to the shiny pretty bits. The lush green colour fits the Celtic theme well. The background story has druids, vikings and amulets broken in pieces — player rush around the board, collecting amulet pieces.
Druids on the run
The basic idea of the game is very simple: players move the five druids on the board by playing cards that match the colours of the druids. There are three possible outcomes when the druid stops moving: player gets few amulet pieces, player loses few amulet pieces and gains an experience card or player gains a card, if they want to. All players can move all druids, based on the five cards they are dealt each round.
It’s simple, but not completely devoid of decisions. Sure, if the white druid is standing one space from a juicy spot and you have a white card, you play it and score the amulet bits. But what if there are two good spots in a row and you have two cards? Do you play both and leap to the last spot or do you play one and wish the opponents don’t have any? These are fairly simple decisions, I agree, but they do make the game a bit more interesting.
Then there are the experience cards: they are like any other cards, but unlike the basic cards, you don’t have to play them. You can hang on to them as long as you want to, and use them when you really need that extra step. Even better, if you can hang on to them until the end of the game, you can trade them in for amulet pieces.
Once the first druid makes it to the end of the 16-step track and the round finishes, the game ends. The player with the most complete amulets wins the game, extra amulet pieces breaking the ties. The whole affair should take about 30 minutes.
I like the game, I really do. The amount of decisions and mix of skill and luck tags Celtica firmly as a family game. I’d say the luckiest player wins, but the journey through the board is fun, exciting and offers just enough decisions and small gambles to make it worth the 30 minutes of your life. You’ll curse your opponents when they move the very druid you were planning to move, try to gain extra cards to avoid the amulet-eating ruins and have a good time while you’re at it.
I have played the game with two and four players and enjoyed both. With two players, the game is definitely less chaotic. I think this game could’ve been a small hit amongst gamers, had it been packed as a Kosmos two-player game. With four, there’s more chaos, the game is shorter (there are about half as many rounds as with two players) and luck plays a higher role, but the timing of playing your cards gets more interesting. I’m fairly sure five players would be too much.
With the right expectations and attitude and enough tolerance for luck and chaos, Celtica is an enjoyable 30-minute filler for gamers. Celtica is also a good family game — easy enough, good luck beats skill and yet the game offers excitement instead of boredom.