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From the creators of Osmos comes Karmaka, a competitive card game that plays out over multiple lives.
From the creators of Osmos comes Karmaka, a competitive card game that plays out over multiple lives.
7,198 backers pledged $220,852 to help bring this project to life.

A Karmic Duel

Posted by Eddy Boxerman (Creator)

Hi everyone,

It's been a while! There have been a few fun things brewing in the Karmaka kitchen over the last year or so. Most of them aren't ready for prime-time yet, but I'd like to share something with you I think you'll enjoy: a two-player mod for Karmaka. It focuses the game into a quick, tight, two-player duel.

The biggest change is incarnation abilities – that is, an ability you have depending what incarnation level (eg. Dung Beetle, Ape...) you're at. Presenting... incarnation cards! [Note: These are prototypes I've put together from existing art & design. New art and graphic design to come!]


You can download a Print-and-Play of these (rough, prototype) cards here. Note that when playing this version you don't use the Karmic Ladder nor meeples, but instead use these cards to track and remind players what their current incarnation and ability is. Just place your current incarnation face-up in front of you - Dung Beetle to start of course - and you're good to go. (Personally I like to place it to the left of my personal Deck, with any Karmic Rings on top.)

Before I jump into details about the incarnation cards, I'll mention the two other differences in this mod:

  • Before playing, remove one of each 1-point and one of each 2-point card from the Karmaka deck. (For red, green, and blue cards; leave the Mosaics as is.) So that's 5 cards removed per color, or 15 total from the deck. This increases the average point-value of cards in the deck, as there are just as many 3-point cards as before.
  • At the beginning of the game, give each player a Karmic Ring. This gives players a bit more flexibility in scoring, and mitigates the impact of "take that" in the game a bit.

Back to the incarnations. First of all, you may notice there are only three levels rather than four before Transcendence in this version: Dung Beetle -> Raven -> Ape -> Transcendence. (Sorry, Snake and Wolf. You're still beautiful.) I find this makes for a great, quick, two-player game, and all your lives feel a little more connected like this. In addition, the points required to ascend are 4-6-8 rather than 4-5-6-7. That higher 8 at the end is partially offset by players' starting Karmic Ring, the higher point-spread from thinning out the deck's 1 and 2-point cards, and the Ape's ability.

Ah yes, the abilities! Each incarnation has a unique ability:

  • Dung Beetle. "Whenever you play a Deed, you may move a card from your Hand onto your Future Life." This gives the Beetle the ability to zip through a life fairly quickly, assuming you want to plan for your Future. (Hint: you generally do. ;-) It's hard to keep a good Dung Beetle down!
  • Raven. "Whenever you play a Deed, you may move one of your Deeds onto your Future Life." This is a surprisingly versatile and tricksy ability. I'll leave it to you to discover the various uses...
  • Ape. "When you first become an Ape, decide whether or not you will play the rest of the game open-handed. If you do, gain a Karmic Ring." Yup, open-handed Karmaka – at least in part. I've actually played a bunch of open-handed Karmaka at this point and find it really interesting – it takes some of the guess-work out of the game and brings it a bit closer to "perfect information" games like chess, etc. But it's by choice here; one player may choose to show their hand in exchange for a Ring, while the other may not. It's an interesting decision to make when you become an Ape, which I like thematically as well. I believe that in some situations the trade-off is worth it, while in others it probably isn't. And while we've tested a bunch, we could use more "data" on this bit in particular. I really look forward to hearing your feedback on how you (and your rival) play this, and how it works out!

Note: if you play this mod with a new player, it may be best to leave the incarnation abilities out for the first couple of games (especially the Ape's ability) until they learn the ropes. In that case try starting players with two Karmic Rings instead of one.

That's it for now. I hope you get to give this a try with a friend or foe sometime soon. And if you do, we'd love to hear any feedback you may have! Feel free to comment in response to this update or send us an email at


Never Bored Wes, Nate Strenger, and 57 more people like this update.


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    1. Francois LC on

      I'm late to the party for this update, but my wife and I love Karmaka, ans would love to see a real expansion to it.

      Even though you specifically rejected the idea of variable paths to Transcendence, I think this would be a great expansion especially with the use of these new Incarnation cards. It would be cool to each start as a Dung Beetle but to have access to several different type of animal for each steps (let say number of players+1 for each step, and the first player to reach a certain level choose to become one of these) in a display with the only one Transcendence card on top of this display. This would not change the core gameplay (like a new color of card with its own set of abilities, though this would be really great too), but it would add to the strategy and to the replayability, especially if there is several cards of each steps (4x Dung Beetles, at least 5x "Reptiles", at least 5x"Birds, at least 5x "Mammals" and then only one Transcendence).

    2. Eddy Boxerman Creator on

      @Markus: Did you not receive them? Please email me at and I'll get them to you.

    3. Markus Tomten Nilsson

      when do we get the digital walpapers?

    4. Eddy Boxerman Creator on

      Thanks for your initial thoughts and feedback everyone. Happy to hear some of you will be trying this out!

      There is the possibility of us creating a purchasable add-on for Karmaka with this content (when the art & design is complete), but that'll depend on how much interest there is and how much people like it. First step is to see what you think. So do let us know once you've had a chance to try it out a few times! (You don't even really need to print those incarnation cards if you can remember the 3 abilities and what incarnation you're at when playing.)

      @Philip, @Christopher: I tinkered with more incarnations, including variable paths to Transcendence, but it felt too complex for what it was worth.

      @BoardGameRevolution: I'm surprised to hear you say that. Have you played much 2-player Karmaka? We playtested that a ton (way more than 3 and 4 player counts) and it's my favorite way to play. This mod is just a new idea to spice it up further.

      @Never Bored Wes: Still tinkering... :)

    5. Julia Glenn on

      Love your idea and the time you spend making cool tweaks... thank you for creating such a beautiful and fun game!

    6. Christopher

      Please sell as an expansion somewhere! And cards for snake and wolf pretty please!!

    7. Philip Alexander Dale on

      Is there an incarnation card for snake? :)

    8. me on

      really loved playing this game with my family while I visited them. this sounds like a fun mod to try, thanks!

    9. BoardGameRevolution

      Bummer the or final game wasn't playtested more with two. Our copy site unplayed and is a paper weight right now

    10. Travis Morton

      Wife and I played this primarily at 2p and loved it. The wrinkle is nice for the different incarnations.
      I would like extra content, but truth be told there is not much that can be done without dsarupting the balance. So littlenthings like this are cool.

      Other ideas include:
      Incarnations with "Catch Up Effects". Like If I reach_____, I can give you a boost for a bump myself. Or if I reach_____ 2nd, then I get______

    11. Matt Campbell

      This sounds like a fun variant, and I look forward to trying it out. Any possibility of making this a mini-pack on Drive Thru Cards ( or similar? Maybe once you are happy with the rules/balance? I'd love to add this variant to my deck as real cards to keep in the box alongside the mini-ladder!

    12. Jonathan McDonnell

      Oh I hope these get printed and released as part of an expansion sometime. They look awesome!

    13. Lance Perro

      Great idea. My wife and I both enjoy the game but it never worked well as a two player game. I'll definitely be giving this a try. Thanks.

    14. Billy Bradford on

      Thank you for the new idea~

    15. Nate Strenger on

      This is great! Can't wait to try it out. Thanks.

    16. Never Bored Wes on

      Planning a Expansion Kickstarter?