By Chris Bowler
Every now and then you buy something on impulse, maybe because you think it looks good or would make a good present. Sometimes it’s the best idea you’ve ever had, other times… well, other times it’s just not.
For me Bakong was an impulse buy, I saw it in the bargain bin over at Board Game Guru and I figured for £10 even if we only played it a couple of times, how bad could it be? And you know what… It’s Ok.
You are Indiana Jones (although you may look like a skittle style pawn) racing through the jungles of Cambodia towards the sacred Bakong temple in search of emeralds. To make it through you’ll need to have the right equipment and plenty of space in your pack to haul the loot out. Race through jungles, into caves, over quicksand, across rivers, down waterfalls and up cliffs, and triumph as the best treasure hunter of all.
I’ll be honest here, the cover of the box is what sold this game to me. I read a pretty mediocre review of the game, but still in the back of my mind a little voice was saying “But look at the pretty picture.”
And it’s a similar story inside the box too:
- 24 Jungle Tiles
- 1 Starting Camp Tile
- 1 Temple Tile
- 6 Rucksacks in 6 Colours
- 6 Pawns
- 2 Six Sided Dice
- 20 3 Emerald Tiles
- 20 1 Emerald Tiles
- 6 Large Emeralds
- 12 Ouch Tokens
- 2 Sets of 8 Items
- 1 First Back Tile
- Rules in many languages
So this is my first Asmodee game, but I’m guessing most of them come with multiple rulebooks for different languages? All the components are pretty nice, the artwork is great and any complaints I have are pretty minor.
The Backpacks are very thin and the emeralds/equipment tokens are slightly bigger than they should be (by less than a millimetre probably) to fit inside the squares of the back packs. The 3 point tile for getting back first is rather unnecessary and could have been used instead as an extra jungle tile.
Also the box is far bigger than it needs to be, I’d say possibly three or four times too big.
Running the Gauntlet
To set up the game place all the Jungle Tiles on the table so that they form one path that starts at the Camp Site and ends at the Temple.
Each player then takes a pawn and a matching coloured rucksack. Then, starting with the youngest player each player chooses one piece of equipment. Most of these allow you to break one rule of the game and there is no single piece of equipment that is more powerful than any other, but they do add some much needed control over movement.
On their turn a player rolls both dice. One die roll will be used for movement, the other will be used to flip a tile that many spaces in front of the player.
The player first flips a tile and then moves. Each tile is double sided with a different result on the back. Generally a bad tile will have either something good or neutral on the back, so flipping a bad tile like Quicksand or the Pit is always worth doing, unless your opponents are likely to suffer more from it than you!
And that’s your turn, some tiles will reward you with small emeralds or pieces of equipment, others will harm you and others will halt your movement unless you have the right equipment.
The first player to reach the Temple gets the biggest (17 point) emerald, each subsequent players gets a smaller less valuable emerald. The players then turn around and race back. Once one player gets back the game ends and that player gets three bonus points for getting back first. The player with the most points wins.
This is not a game for adults. This game is roll and move with limited and often obvious choices. I like the theme and it fits well, the game does feel quite race like, although going slow and steady to collect more gems from Caves can be a perfectly valid tactic too.
The items in the game feel quite thematic too, the machete allows you to move further on your turn, your torch allows you to find gems in the dark caves etc. I like the artwork too, the game looks nice on the table and I like how you can only carry items that will fit in your back pack (possibly the most innovative part of the game.)
I think there is a good game to be had in this box, but it’s not quite there yet. For younger children this is a great game, it has some decision making, like which tile to flip or which equipment to drop to fit that last emerald into your pack. It also has a nice memory element so that you don’t flip a bad tile face up in your path. And it plays quick, fifteen minutes is a long game for Bakong.
However, I think there are definitely areas for improvement. With such a large box the game could have held way more tiles, the game has an RRP of £25, that’s way more than Carcassonne which manages 72 tiles and a lot more wood. With more tiles the jungle could have had branching paths to allow multiple options for movement. Or it could have had a wider variety of tiles with different game effects.
Another thing is that whenever you roll a double (unless you have the Machete or the Compass) you have to flip the tile you’re going to land on, there is no choice in this and the whole thing feels pretty arbitrary. What about including a deck of Event cards that, every time a double is rolled one of them is flipped face up. This way the game could have been made more thematic too.
Overall I don’t regret the purchase, although I wish it were either in a smaller box or there was more game in the box. I certainly wouldn’t recommend the game at full price or to anyone but the parents of young children who are ready to move on from Candyland, but we’ve had fun playing it with my little brother and it’s a nice, fast way to knock out a game before bedtime and it does look pretty!
Don’t forget, just one week left to vote in the poll, can anyone break the stale mate between the Lord of the Rings LCG and Mystery Express and can Sid Meier’s Civilisation make an awesome comeback from behind? Find out next week as I do an “If Only”.post on the winner!
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So what do you think?