You might be part of a peaceful llama herd but that’s not enough to save you. Your prescient llama pal Esmerelda has seen the future and it’s bleak: There’s a meteor shower hurling towards your corner of the meadow and if you and your llama friends don’t whip up some shelters pronto, it’s not going to end well! Worse still, the other llama herds in the meadow are competing for the same resources so you not only have to scrounge and build, but you have to fend off those roughnecks too. Jeez, why can’t we all just get along?!
That’s the wacky premise of the amusing family card game Llamagedón, a reprint of a popular South American game from designer and artist Jose Denza and Valor Mountain Games. This new second edition includes the Safe Zones expansion, but I stuck with the basic game for this review. Llama a Llama, though it supports 2-5 players. It’s a quick game, maybe 10 minutes per game once you get the hang of it, and is suitable for all ages with very minimal reading required. Better yet, all the cards are multilingual so you can learn un poco de Español along the way too.
BASIC SETUP: METEORS EN ROUTE!
The game is played with a deck of 55 cards, broken down into ten different types. About half are resources or shelters, and there are 26 action cards that produce the take-that excitement of the game! Each player starts out with four cards, then each turn consists of picking a card, building any shelters possible, and then either playing one of your action cards or passing on the rest of your turn. There are two types of shelters; shelter cards or shelters you build out of pairs of matching color resource cards. Remember, though, as you build, your opponents are trying to steal or destroy your shelters too!
Once you’ve dealt the initial hands, split the remaining deck in half and shuffle the Llamagedón card into the lower half. Reassemble the deck and you’re ready to play. The Llamagedón card indicates the end game and can happen pretty quickly or be the very last card in the deck.
In the above I have a red resource, a green resource card, a shelter, and an action card: Draw 2. To begin my turn, I draw a card from the deck and decide how to proceed. Shelters (“Refugio”) must be played immediately, but you can hoard your resource cards to avoid too many built shelters as a defensive strategy. Your max hand size, however, is seven, which is pretty easy to attain with those Draw 2 cards that are fairly common.
Here’s a closeup of a few cards so you can enjoy the whimsical artwork:
They have words, but the pictures are unique enough that even a pre-literate young gamer can understand the game. For younger players, however, it might be wise to be judicious about your take-that strategy in the interest of avoiding tears and having subsequent games with them in the future. 🤓
I’m going to use the Draw 2 action card after having to play the Shelter card I was initially dealt. My hand looks like this:
Worth noting is that three different resource cards can be played to take a second bonus action if you have sufficient action cards to justify the move. I only have one (Attack) so it would be a waste at this early point in the game. For that matter, there’s no point in attacking my opponent’s shelters because they don’t yet have any!
A BIT FURTHER ALONG: METEORS GETTING CLOSER
Switching sides for a moment, my opponent has built a shelter, then played the terrific Protect card to ensure that it cannot be stolen or destroyed. Savvy, that other player!
Notice the wild resource card too; that’ll match any color, so this player could actually build a second shelter if they wanted, but they’re going to play conservatively by holding on to these cards.
A few rounds later, they opt to play two red Resources cards to build a shelter that I immediately ATTACK!
My llamaness overpowers their building skills and their shelter is destroyed. Bwahahaha!
Even better, when they try to attack one of my shelters, I BLOCK it with my reaction card (the only action card you can play out of turn. In fact, they could block my block, and I could block their block of my block, and so on, a sort of crazy blockapalooza!)
Phew! My shelter survives intact, hopefully helping protect my llama buds when the meteors arrive!
A bit later my opponent builds a shelter by utilizing their yellow Resources card and the Wild Resources. Mistake! Turns out that either player can substitute the correct Resource to steal the Wild Resource and use it themselves.
That wild is darn nice because it allows one more shelter to be built with any of the four Resource cards. Assuming, that is, that someone doesn’t then steal it for their own use.
AS THE GAME WRAPS UP
A little bit further into the game and we’re just about done (though the Llamagedón card hasn’t yet surfaced!) so we’re both playing our shelters out:
Once that Llamagedón card does show up, each player then gets two more moves before the game is done, with the player who drew the card getting the very last move. Here’s how things looked after we’d resolved all turns:
I built 5 shelters while my opponent rocked it with 7 shelters. If we had the same number of shelters, we’d then count points; Shelters are worth 8 while Built Shelters are only worth 2 * 3 points (per Resource).
FINAL THOUGHTS POST METEOR
We did our best to build as many shelters as possible while destroying those of our opponents, and it definitely moved quickly! The game would play better with more players, and there’s a little bit of an Uno feel to it too with those +2 cards, but overall, this is a fun winner of a game. The Safer Zones expansion adds some complication where you decide where you want to built each shelter, with the goal of dominating the most locations, not just having the most shelters. Omit that and Llamagedón becomes an extremely portable game with just a deck of cards. That by itself can make it a winner for families: You could leave that deck in your minivan for entertaining the kids while on the road.
The artwork is delightful and the rules are straightforward (it’s a fundamentally simple game), my greatest comment being that the heart of the game is the take-that theme. If you or someone in your family or game group doesn’t enjoy that type of game or gets unpleasant if they feel people are ganging up on them, this is not a great choice for you. Otherwise, there’s lots to like about Llamagedón that makes it well worth the acquisition!
Llamagedón, designed by Jose Deza and published by Valor Mountain Games. $16.00, coming soon to Kickstarter.
Disclosure: Valor Mountain Games sent me a late prototype of the second edition for the purpose of this review. Which was very kind of them, if I may say so!