Sports can be a tricky subject for board games because the essence of a sport isn’t easy to capture in a tabletop game. Koasball takes elements of rugby, soccer, and a few other sports and creates a “fantasy sport of total domination.” The combination of unique team abilities, ringers, tactical card play and so much more merges into this amazingly entertaining board game.
The components of Kaosball are amazing, and when set up, are going to be a big part of drawing people into the game. There are four teams that come with the base game: the Fangs, The Ogres, The Daemons, and the Amazons. Each two has two models, one for the runners and one for the bruisers. In total there are 64 figures. Each team also has one coach bust figure.
The other 8 figures in the game are the Ringers. These ringers don’t belong to any team but may be recruited and used for their special abilities. They also come with a reference card.
The other plastic included are the 45 plastic tokens: the ball token, 4 minor scoring tokens, 4 fire tokens, 4 wall tokens, and 30 very cool skull damage tokens.
The magnetic team boards are magnificent. There is one for each team and they show the team stats, abilities, and track the teams cash, fouls, and active upgrade points. There is also space for the 24 magnetic upgrade tokens, which being magnetic, shouldn’t come off the board. Because of the magnetic and cardboard combination this boards tend to be warped and don’t lie flat on the table. Most people won’t mind, but it something I noticed.
There are 60 action cards with really nice artwork. The other components are the three dice: one blue first period token, one red first player token, and 1 tiebreaker die. These are really detailed and of great quality. The game board and scoreboard are also very nice quality and really clear and easy to read for each player.
While there are a lot of components in Kaosball, set-up is actually pretty easy. Place the game board and scoreboard one the table. The blue ball goes in the center of the field in the diamond space. Players choose a side. This determines the players scrimmage line and major scoring mound. If only two players are playing, they should sit opposite each other.
Next, players choose teams randomly or by taking any team they wish. Now players should set their cash to 12 (or 10 in a league game), the fouls to 0, and Active Upgrade Points to 3, on their team dugouts.
Three runners and two bruisers from each team are placed on the scrimmage line. The rest of the team figures are placed next to the dugout.
Players should then shuffle the cards and draw seven for each player. The rest form the draw pile. All tokens should be placed next to the board and the coach figures on the start space of the scoring track. Players should choose the first player and give them the red first player token. The blue die should be placed on “Period 1.”
If players are using them, next they would draft the Ringers and upgrades.
The field is divided into spaces and only one figure can stand in the space at a time. There can be any number of knocked-down figures in a space and one standing figure.
Each end of the field is a different teams scrimmage line; each team is a certain color. Behind the scrimmage lines are the backfields and one team’s major scoring mound. These are color-coded and players can only use that matches the color of their scrimmage line. In the center of the field is a diamond space where the ball starts each period. In a cross surrounding the center space are the four minor scoring mounds.
The magnetic scoring board or “dugout,” keeps track of the team stats during the game. Each team has a different ability. For example the fangs heal one damage, on any one figure, when they successfully attack or tackle.
Each team has two kinds of figures; the runners and the bruisers. The runners (circular base) score points and can steal the ball. Bruisers (square base) tackle and attack but can’t score or steal the ball.
Teams can hire Ringers (pentagon base). These aren’t part of any team but teams but can be used by the highest bidder during the draft before the game begins. They are both runners and bruisers and have special abilities.
On the field, each figure has a killzone, which is each adjacent space (not diagonals unless you are the Amazons). These are the spaces that figure can affect. Runners can try to steal the ball from others in their killzone and Bruisers can attack or tackle. Figures can also hand-off to teammates in their killzone. If there is a wall, the killzone stops there.
Damage, Health, and Kills
Whenever a figure takes damage, the player should place one damage token on the figure for each point they suffer. When they suffer damage equal to or greater than their health they die. The player who deals the killing blow takes the figure and puts it in their dugout. Players score bonus points at half-time and the end of the game if they have the most kills.
A figure may be benched for different reasons. At the end of the period if there are two figures in the same space they are benched. At halftime all figures on the field are benched.
A benched figure is placed next to the dugout and all wounds are healed. Figures on the bench can come back into play at the end of the period.
When you play a card from your hand it is placed face up next to your teams dugout so players can tell how many there are. This is called burning a card. When an energy card is burned, if a player plays the same number during that same period it is “dead” and they will lose a contest against a “live” card. Once a player has burned nine or more cards it triggers the end of the period bell. Each other player gets one more turn.
The red cards are the cheating cards. These cards are very powerful, but illegal. At the end of the period, the player who cheats more than anyone will get a penalty. Cheating cards tell you when they can be played. Players can avoid the negative effects of cheating cards by bribing the refs with cash.
Each game is 4 periods long with half-time after two periods. During the period the players take turns activating figures and playing tactic cards. Each period has the following steps:
1 – Player turns – play a card or activate a figure
2 – End of Period Scoring – score end of period points
3 – Bribing – buy off cheating points
4 – Cheating – receive fouls
5 – Set Up for Next Period – clean and set up board
Player turns follow these steps:
1 – Score – if able
2 – Play a tactic card or activate a standing figure
3 – Draw – up to seven cards
4 – Check for end of period buzzer
1 – Score
If a players runner or ringer is standing on a minor scoring mound at the beginning of their turn, and has the ball, they get a “minor score” equal to the current period. So if it is the first period, they score one point, and four in the fourth period. If the player is on the “major score” with one of their runners or ringer they get a “major score” of five points.
2 – Playing a Tactic Card
The blue cards are the tactic cards and a player can play a single tactic card per turn. Players follow the instructions on the card when they are played. For example “Power Play” lets a player activate one of their figures and until the end of the turn, all damage done to it is cancelled.
2- Activating a Figure
Players can choose one of their standing figures to take an action, either moving or interacting with the ball or another figure. Knocked down figures cannot be activated.
Any figure can sprint, or move up to five spaces. Runners and Ringers can try to steal the ball from a figure in their killzone at the end of a sprint. Bruisers and Ringers can move three spaces and attempt to tackle or attack another figure. A tackle will knock down the enemy. A knocked down figure cannot act again until the end of the period. An attack will damage or kill an enemy, removing them from the game.
Moving Restrictions – Figures can change direction when they move, but they cannot move diagonally or through a wall token.
The Ball: Pick-ups and Hand-Offs
When an active figure moves into the same space as they ball, they may pick it up, if they do then end their movement and cannot perform any more actions. They are now carrying the ball. The ball moves with them. They can hand-off the ball and pass it to a teammate in their killzone, during their movement.
Entering a Kill-Zone Reactions
When a figure enters an enemy Ringer or Bruiser Killzone during their movement, the enemy may try to tackle or attack. A Runner or Ringer can attempt to steal the ball if they wish. The active figure can only suffer one reaction and once an attempt is made that figure can continue moving without any other reactions.
If they a figure enters the killzone of more than one enemy player, the active players choose one team to react. If the figure is still standing after a reaction it can continue moving.
Whenever a player goes up another player trying to tackle, attack or steal as an action or reaction it starts a contest. During a contest, both contestants choose one card and place it face down on the table. Players reveal at the same time to see who wins. If a player uses a yellow card they add the number played to the relevant stat, the highest total wins. When there is a tie, the active player rolls the tiebreaker die and applies the result. Players may also play cheating cards.
If a player reveals a yellow card they have not already played that period, the card is live. Once an energy card has been used it is dead and will automatically lose a contest. Tactics and cheating cards are always dead unless the player uses the “Booster Bru” which counts as a +6. When a dead card is played by one player and a live card by the other the dead card loses. If players both use dead cards then they both count as o and they use the appropriate stats to determine the winner.
Resolving a Contest
Stealing – When a players wins a handling contest they steal the ball, if they lose nothing happens.
Tackling – If a player wins a tackling contest, the enemy figure is knocked down. If that figure had the ball they can follow-up by moving into the space and picking up the all. When a figure loses a tackling contest, they can be pushed back. The winner moves the loser one space in any direction (not diagonally) as long as they can legally move there. If any space is blocked or occupied the figure is smashed against it and knocked down in their own space.
Attacking – When a player wins a fighting contest the loser takes damage. The amount of damage equals the difference between the totals. If a dead card is played the damage is equal to the number on the energy card. When a player attacks and loses, they take damage.
End of the Player Turn
After a players turn ends, they need to draw back up to seven cards. If they have burned 9 or more cards it triggers the end of period buzzer. That player has had their last turn and each other player then receives one more turn.
End of Period
After a player has burned 9 cards and all players have played their turns the period is over.
End of Period Scoring: Each runner and ringer standing on a minor scoring mound scores a minor score. Each runner or ringer on the teams major scoring mound scores a major score. For these scores, they don’t need the ball.
Bribing: If any player has burned cheating cards they can bribe the ref to avoid penalties. For each 1 cash spent, they can discard one of their burned cheating cards.
Cheating – After players have finished paying their bribes, they roll the tiebreaker die for each remaining cheating card. For each +1 they roll they get 1 foul; for each +2 two fouls. They don’t get any fouls if they roll a -1 or -2. A player can only have 15 total fouls.
Set Up for Next Period
Step 1 – Clean the Field
All fire, wall, and minor scoring tokens are removed from the board. The ball is placed back in the center. Damage tokens are not removed. All knocked down figures are stood up unless two or more are in the same space. If this is the case they are benched and all damage is healed.
Step 2 – Replenish Cards
All burned cards are discarded and players draw back up to seven cards.
Step 3 – Substitutions
If a player has less than five figures they will need to bring out new figures. These are placed on the scrimmage line on the correct spaces. Players need to have three runners and two bruisers or a ringer to substitute for one of those. If the scrimmage line is occupied, the new figure can be placed on any unoccupied space on the board. If a player doesn’t have enough figures to complete the team they are eliminated.
Step 4 – Get Set for Next Period
The first player token is passed to the next player and the period marker moved to the next Period. Now, the next period begins.
At the end of the period it is half time. Players score kills and cheats. Bonus points are awarded for kills and penalties are given for fouls. The team that has killed the most enemy figures receives a bonus for most kills. The amount depends on the number of players. Players also compare the number of fouls they have. They player with the most fouls gets a penalty. This also depends on the number of players. If there is a tie, the tied teams both receive the bonus or penalty. The teams below them take the penalty or bonus for the next place.
All the figures on the field are benched (which heals damage). Each player then sets up their team on the scrimmage line, as they did at the beginning of the game. Players can also switch Ringers is they have more than one. Players also take their upgrades off of their dugout and secretly choose which upgrades to use for the second half.
End of the Game
At the end of the fourth period players score points for kills and cheats as they did at half-time. The player with the highest final score wins. If the teams are tied they go into sudden death overtime!
Losing the Game
A team can lose the game before the end of the fourth period due to Elimination or Blowout. If a player has fewer than five figures on the field at the beginning of a period they are eliminated and lose. If a team’s score is 20 or more points below the leading teams score, that team is eliminated and the other player wins in a blowout!
The production value of Kaosball is one of the best I have seen. Most of the components of Kaosball are amazing! Each miniature is so detailed and beautiful! Anyone handy with a paintbrush is going to make these things absolutely beautiful. They are made of a quality hard plastic, which I am told, is good for painting. A few of our more delicate minis were slightly bent, but I think they can be fixed. The packaging for the minis is nice and keeps them safely in the box.
The walls, ball tokens, fire tokens, and skull damage tokens are also very high quality. The first period tokens and first player tokens are these really cool dice, but serve no purpose other than marking the period and first player. The coach bust for each team just acts as your score token, but they are just as detailed as all the other miniatures. Each one has a unique personality to go along with their team. The coach figures and first player markers add to the visual appeal of the game.
The magnetic team boards are really ingenious. They have all the team stats, abilities, and places for the magnetic upgrades. Because they are magnetic there isn’t fiddly and everything stays in place. Unfortunately ours are a bit warped, but that is being a bit nit-picky.
The cards aren’t the greatest and are somewhat flimsy. I don’t like shelving cards, but these may end up with some. Cards are handled a lot in the game. The artwork on the cards is beautiful.
The scoreboard and game board are also very nice. They are cut well and lay completely flat on the table. I hate when board are cut so tight that they don’t lay flat, but ours is perfect. It is also very detailed. I am amazed that the field actually looks like grass, artificial grass, but still grass. This isn’t easy to do and down wrong can look horrendous. The colors are also contrasting, and it is easy to tell the difference between each teams scrimmage line and major scoring mound.
The artwork and graphic design is marvelous. The cards are easy to read and not too busy or distracting. The art draws you in and makes you want to know more about the game.
I have the second printing of the rulebook but I have heard the first printing left some questions for players. In fact, when I bought the game Cool Mini told us to just throw-out the rulebook in the box. So make sure you have the second edition of the rules when you start.
The rulebook is easy to read and has lots of visual examples. The rules can seem confusing at first but once you have played they make sense and game play really gets faster. I suggest learning from someone who knows how to play or playing one, re-reading the rules and then play again. Of course the more players on the field the more chaotic it will be; but then again that is the name of the game, isn’t it?
Some rules I have found helpful to remind new players about are the dead and live card rule. Make sure players understand that once they play a certain number energy card it is dead and if played again counts as a zero. Also be sure to explain the kill zones. Only the orthogonal spaces are the killzone, unless you are the Amazons. When moving into another figures killzone be sure to understand the order of operations. A player must first declare their move, then if they move into an opposing figure killzone, the opposing figure may interrupt, if they choose. After the contest is resolved the figure can continue moving if thy won.
I also highly suggest playing with the advanced rules. They add so much to the game and make it so much better. If you choose to not use Ringers or upgrades you may want to start out with less cash. This makes cheating cards a tougher choice to use because of your limited resources. We played the basic game once and cheat cards were used without much thought because they were so easy to pay off. They became so much more strategic in the advanced game.
On your turn you only activate one figure or play one tactic card. I really like the limiting factor of this rule. I can be overwhelmed in a game when you can move every figure on the board so I like to concentrate on just one. I also think it makes the game more inviting for newer players. The simplicity of this rule adds to the fun and strategy of the game. There is a lot I can choose to do, but I only need to make the best choice with one figure. It makes every decision meaningful and helps to balance the game.
First and foremost this game is pure fun! Once players know the game, which is after a few turns, game play really speeds up and starts becoming much more strategic. Of course I feel new players may be at a slight disadvantage against experienced players since they won’t know the strengths / weakness of the teams or the cards.
I love that there are so many different ways to score in the game. Of course you score for having the ball on the major and minor scoring mounds, but that isn’t the only way to get points. In fact, it may not always be the best choice to go after the ball. Players score for killing the most players, for just being on the scoring mounds at the end of the period, and avoid negative points for having the least amount of fouls.
Playing to the strength of your team is important, and the game rewards you when you play that way. A plus one or two in a stat can really be used as an advantage for a team. I have found that when a team is good at something; use it as part of your strategy. At the beginning of the game, you can get an idea of what your strategy should be. As for real sports teams you will see the inter-play between the opponents and be able to plan.
The draft at the beginning of the game can also help you play to your team’s strength and negate their weakness. The Ringers and upgrades also add the to the fun factor. I ignored the Ringer Macho Libre, trying to go after the ball at the end of the period, even though he was on the major scoring mound. Then he scored 10 points, since he scores double at the end of the period. So I had to kill him the next period. I chose the “Hardy Upgrade” for my Ogre team which helped me avoid the first point of damage to a figure each round, which helped to stop the Daemons “Smokin’ Hot” ability, and save my figures from being damaged if they were close to the Daemons.
The cards also help with the strategy. Choosing when to use a cheat card, or a tactic card can be the difference between winning and losing. They add a little bit of push your luck to the game.
I love using dice and was a little hesitant about the card combat in Kaosball. I didn’t need to worry at all because it works very well. You have both the open information of the burned cards and the hidden information of the players cards in hand. This gives you an idea of what to do and helps you make your decision. Even with three different types of contests (stealing/ tackling / attacking) the card system works and makes it a hand management game as well. When play an energy card, tactic, or cheat card will determine if you win or lose the contest and possibly score points. The tiebreaker die also works well to resolve ties without question or confusion. The card system will also make you weigh you decision to initiate a contest. You might let a runner go by without tackling or attacking if you know you can’t win the contest even if it gives them points. I will say that the “Team Huddle” tactic card came in handy a few times when my hand got clogged up with burned energy cards. It lets you discard three cards and draw back up to seven.
There are a lot of moving parts, scoring opportunities, and decisions in Koasball. This only increases with more players. Yet, it isn’t overwhelming. You can only move one figure per turn, (without a tactic card or special ability) so your choices are limited.
The card conflict resolution is a real strength of the game. It makes initiating a contest a meaningful and tactical decision. The card play also helps players control the length of the period. They can play more cards to help speed up the period, or avoid using a card to slow it down and position their figures.
Re-playability is also very high even with just the base game. The interplay between the teams, ringers, and up-grades makes team feel different every time. I haven’t used any up the expansion teams or bruisers, but can’t wait to try them out; I’m already tempted to seek out some of the other teams.
I haven’t played with four players or tried team play but I love that you can play that way. Depending on the number of players the game really changes. I really like it with two players. Three players also worked well. I really want to try four-player team play. I’m not sure about “Maximum Kaos” of four-player mode.
I can also see a lot more expansions for the game in the future. Of course there can be the obvious expansion of teams and ringers. I can also see the possibility of new cards, tokens, and abilities like kicking, intercepting, and passing more than one space.
It is a great game and I look forward to future plays, learning more of the strategy and trying out the expansion teams.
Designer: Eric M. Lang
Artist: Andrea Cofrancesco, Mathieu Harlaut
Publishers: Cool Mini or Not, Spaghetti Western Games
Game Length: 60 minutes
Ages: 13 and up