Let’s talk Llamanomics. Oh, you know – that real-time case study on supply and demand, four-legged transportation and scheming competition. I also hear it’s a great Kickstarter card game! It has llamas.

Well if alpacas are more your thing then you’re in luck too, unless you like neither of our soft-toed, communal-pooping, humming camelids, in which case the exit’s that way and a thousand spits upon you. Honestly though, Llamanomics isn’t banking solely on its appearances as it has some neat mechanics backing it.

What it’s about

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You’ll never forget your first llama.

2–5 Players | 30–60 Minutes
What you get:

  • 12 Llamas / Alpacas
  • 32 Action Cards / Llama Upgrades
  • 48 Commodity Cards
  • 8 Supply and Demand Cards

You’ll also need:

  • A way to record scores
  • Decently-sized playing area

Provided in a hard plastic case are the above cards – separated into Demand, Commodities, Action, Upgrades, Llamas/Alpacas and Burgermeister! – as well as the instruction booklet.

You play a merchant whose objective is to obtain Llamas/Alpacas (each with their own unique abilities) and load them up with Commodities that’ll meet Demand either now or later, all the while keeping your competitors at bay. The player with the most points at the end wins.

Everything you see in that photo above will be shuffled together into one deck (except the booklet but hey do what you want), so expect lots of randomness.

To prevent this being all down to luck, however, Commodities can only be sold during three specific occasions: when either of the two Burgermeister! cards are drawn, and once more when the game ends. Therefore what you should invest in, whether you should trade (mutually or forcefully) and how you generally manage the board becomes extremely important, though not to the point where newer players feel overwhelmed.

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Apparently someone’s feeling good about this.

The game’s set up is as above: Each player receives the first Llama/Alpaca found in the deck, followed by four cards (the default hand limit is six). Similarly, the first Demand card found will be used to kick things off. The rules state that the person who loves llamas most goes first, so have fun arguing over that one.

I won’t delve into the nitty-gritty of how to play because the booklet says all and, frankly, videos do a better job. There happens to be an official one too so yay everyone!

What it’s like

In my limited experience with card games, there haven’t been many that work incredibly well with just two players; either the pacing gets thrown off by the extra cards or there’s this distinct, sticky feeling that other players are missing. Not so when it comes to Llamanomics, as it turns out.

With the exception of a three-player session earlier this week, all of my time in Llamanomics has been spent facing off against just one other person. As our familiarity with the game grew so did our tactics, our grubby hands hoarding increasingly more Action Cards for that perfect opportunity. We entered a world of feints and predictions, and even if luck was against us we simply laughed at how silly everything was. Llamanomics can take on a competitive air if you want it to but that’s not the point – it’s about having fun with this fleet of wool.

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A feature we loved is the limitless Llama Upgrades, something poor Strawberry Fields here went through. I’d go so far as to say they’re half the fun, and rightly so considering its namesake. When you see a llama that missed the aesthetics department carrying two Purebred Upgrades, the jokes almost write themselves (or maybe I’m the only that thinks “inbreeding” there). Slap on a Vain Upgrade on top of that and you have a keeper.

It helps that the pace is excellent too. The game never drags for too long and we’re always left pining for that one extra turn before things wrap up. Again, this is with just two players so it’ll end much faster with more.

Yet things aren’t always a fresh field of grass. With only two Burgermeister! cards in the deck, I find that the Commodities has very little pay-off for the amount of time invested in them. More often than not they’d just end up being worthless. It’s probably done to keep things streamlined but seeing your vast inventory totalling only 2 points isn’t what I’d call fun. Perhaps an additional two Burgermeister! cards or revised Demand values is in order.

That said I find it a small negative in the grand scheme of things. Minor issues that don’t deserve their own paragraphs include a strong disinclination towards trading as items may become valuable, absolutely zero interrupt cards, and issues with some rule interpretations.

What you should do

A Gaming Nation Llamanomics Review 4Buy it! Llamanomics is a nice addition for any collection with its easy rules and fast games. It’s great for any casual night and would definitely be something new for a majority of your guests. This won’t be part of your gaming routine but when you do decide to pick it up, you’ll be glad you bought it.

This being a Kickstarter release I seriously doubt you can rent this anywhere locally. Great if you know someone who already owns a copy, but even that sounds tricky. Unfortunately it isn’t widely available either, though some Google-fu did return two official sources with strangely different prices: Celery (US$20) and eBay (US$12).

Official Site: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tobeytown/llamanomics
Designer: KC Tobey  (@Tobeytown)
Publisher: KC Tobey

No. of Players: 2 to 5
Playing Time: 30 to 60 minutes
Ages: Everyone

A personal copy was used for this review.
Played at Hobbyist Cafe in Bishan, Singapore.