Published by Rio Grande Games
Had a chance to try out this little cardgame at the Bristol hobbymeet in April. Little I more sense of the word as all the components, a 56-card deck, ¾ A4 rules sheet and six high quality dice, come in a handy 12x9x2 cm box. Unfortunately the box is of ordinary playing card type and is not very robust. The card deck also includes five blank cards for your own variants or replacements(handy for a pub game), and three reference cards for victory conditions. Knights uses features of a traditional card game combined with elements of dice games like Yahtzee to create an abstract game of middle-ages castle conquest and tournaments. Players roll the dice and try to build their winning hands by capturing cards from the central stacks, and later from other players.
Looking at this castle card here as an example to capture it and bring it into our playing area we need to beat the three 4's and a 1 printed on the card. We roll the dice up to three times keeping those dice that will go some way to gaining victory, re-rolling those that do not match. You would think that with six dice this would be quite easy, but there's a catch in that any 6's that you roll are dead dice and do not count and cannot be re-rolled. A failed attack or capturing a castle ends your turn and the card goes to the bottom of the stack, and you cannot attack a card that you already have, making the coulour of the castle important.
While castles make up your basic route to victory the deck also consists of tournament cards that offer a short cut, for distingushing oneself at the tournament brings prestige. If a player choses the tournament card from the stacks, they become the tournament organiser, they get four rolls of the dice to build a winning hand while the other players in turn get three tries to gain a better score. The player with the best roll takes the tournament card to their play area, and if they secure three tournaments this will reduce the victory conditions from 4 castle cards to only two. Good news here is that tounament cards are safe from attack by players. Another sneaky way to win is gaining three castles, then toppling the king but with four fives and a one this is quite difficult and you may need the protectrion special card to avoid losing a castle in retribution. There are also various types of special cards that allow you to bend the rules a little. For instance a trebuchet aids your attack on other players castles by giving you four rolls instead of the standard three, castle guard protects two castles from attack, but himself is liable to attack, cards that give you an extra die of a fixed value, and other types. As the game progresses you will be tempted to capture cards from other players, then use a simillar procedure to the above but your opponent will have an opportunity to defend his castles if you succeed in breaching it's defences i.e if you can beat the combination on his card then he gets three rolls to beat yours!
Impressions? Well I have reservations about the six player game that degenerated into a round robin of get the leader and would be happier with four-ish. Yet the rules are easy to grasp and play speedy enough that I look forward to a few more goes of this before I issue my final judgement.
Variants? I think the tournament win criteria should increase to three castles from two. Also Special cards cannot be defended, but I would suggest this be allowed in large (5-6) player games with the two special guard cards, one for castles one for special cards be allowed to defend themselves.