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Kero

It's a dangerous world and resources are scarce! Will you use your limited fuel efficiently to claim food, bricks, and territory? Or will your truck be left stranded on the side of the road?

Kero is a real-time dice rolling game for two players in which you must race against the clock to roll dice, and make decisions on which results to keep, as quickly as possible or risk running out of time and losing the rest of your turn. With a post-apocalyptic setting, the game is quite thematic, but how does this combine with the gameplay?

Gameplay

Each player takes a truck sand timer. Any sand in the front cab portion of the truck is considered to be the fuel currently in the vehicle. At the start of each turn, you may choose to spend one or two fuel resources to refuel your truck once or twice. When you refuel, your opponent takes five white dice and three colored dice and starts rolling them as you tip your truck so that the sand runs towards the cab. Your opponent sets aside any dice that show a flame and keeps rolling until all dice show the flame result, at which point you must immediately lay the truck flat to stop the sand from moving.

After you choose whether or not to refuel, you continue into the rest of your turn. You flip your truck so that it stands on end and the sand runs from the cab to the back of the truck. While the sand runs, you roll five white dice and may keep rolling any dice you choose that do not show the flame icon, until you roll the resources you are satisfied with and lay your truck flat so that the sand stops running. If your timer runs out, you are out of fuel and your turn immediately ends (though you do get to do a mini refuel without spending any resources, during which your opponent rolls five dice instead of eight). If your fuel does not run out, you then spend your resources.

There are five types of resources. Resources can be used to buy cards from the supply line, move one or more of your seven explorers onto a territory tile, or purchase a Tuarek tile, which have one time special abilities you can use during the game. Any fuel you don't use to take an action, you take as a token and can save for later. It is the only resource that carries over to future turns.

Each round there are four territory tiles placed in the center of the board. These score points in different ways — for instance, some are worth a flat number of points at the end of the game while others may be worth a number of points based on the cards you collect. Some territories also award additional bonuses when you claim them.

There are six cards in the supply that you can choose to purchase. These can award points, even permanent bonuses such as an additional color die when you roll on your turn (these dice can roll extra resources or special actions such as allowing you to place an explorer on a territory). After your turn, if you rolled more than 2 flames, one card in the supply is discarded. Next, all empty slots are refilled with cards form the draw pile.

At the start of the game three claim cards are shuffled into the deck. When a claim card is drawn from the deck, each territory is awarded to the player who has the most explorer tokens on it (in case of a tie the tile is discarded unless a player has an ability that states otherwise). Players then take back their explorer tokens, new territory cards are drawn, and a new round begins. After the third claim card is drawn, the game ends and the player with the most points wins the game.

Kero Components

Review

Kero is a game of fast decisions and adaptability. You need to be aware of the cards and territories on the table, the fuel left in your tanker, and be ready to change course based on what you roll.

There are plenty of opportunities for scoring. You can choose which territories to go after, which in turn can affect which cards might be most beneficial for you. This can also lead to situations where you decide to go after a particular territory in order to prevent your opponent from claiming it. All the different scoring mechanics are simple to grasp but give the game some added depth.

The truck game pieces are aesthetically thematic but also serve as a clever visual to present limited fuel while providing the real time aspect for the gameplay. The need to fuel up also gives a chance for your opponent to race against the clock and set you back as they try to roll the necessary flames as quickly as possible. However, we did find our fingers were left a little grainy afterwards and there was some sand inside the game box. While we couldn’t be certain, we believed this was caused during packaging rather than leaking trucks, but it wasn't ideal either way.

There is a good bit of iconography across the territories, Tuareks, and cards. Some of it is intuitive but some isn't and it's a shame there are no player aid cards or even a guide printed on the back of the rulebook. Instead you need to turn to the relevant page when you have a question, which can be a frustrating way to learn a game.

Overall, Kero blends its real-time dice rolling with a theme it nicely embraces. Turns are fast so there's limited down time, and the unpredictability of how long each round will last keeps each territory uncertain right up until those claim cards are drawn. If you're a fan of real-time games, this is a fun one to check out.

Pros: Thematic, good scoring system, trucks are a clever component

Cons: Lacks player aid reference for iconography, some stray sand from the trucks found in the box

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.