One element of gaming that I think is often overlooked is the different sounds that are produced. Classic sounds like shuffling cards, placing game pieces on the board, and the all-time classic rolling dice on a table.
Today we will be looking at a kid’s game, Knuckling Knights that produces a unique sound of its own. In Knuckling Knights, players take control of a group of knights attempting to be the first to find the secret door in the castle. Once they find it, all the knights will spill onto the battlefield hoping to be the last one standing. Does the game become another classic children’s game from HABA? Read on to find out.
Knuckling Knights is a dice rolling game for 2-4 players to play in around 15 minutes. The game plays well with all player counts.
Throughout the countryside, people are talking about the greatest knights’ tournament of all time going on at King Benjamin’s castle. Today, the knight’s task is to find the secret door hidden in the castle. Players will roll the die to determine if they will add knights to the rumble or find the elusive door. When the door is pulled, the knights will cascade onto the board hoping to avoid the pitfalls on the castle lawn. If knights manage to survive the scrum, they will go back to fight another day. The player with the most knights left at the end of the round will earn a gold coin, with two needed to win the game.
Once again, HABA hits it out of the park when it comes to the bits in the game. Everything is top notch. I was impressed with how the game was designed with the castle piece being placed into an opening in the game board that sits on an insert in the bottom of the game box. It is one of the best component designs I have had the chance to play with.
I do think you need to help your gamer kids with the setup of the tower though. My kids attempted to do this on their own and caused a slight tear where the drawbridge piece connects to the rest of the tower. I was able to fix this issue, but just a word of warning.
How to Play:
Everyone starts with his or her own army of eight knight pawns and the game can begin. Players will roll the die on their turn and the number of dots determines the number of knights you will have to put into the mouth of the castle.
One side of the die has a door image and that result allows the player to pull the door piece out of the castle. This will cause the knights in the castle to spill out onto the game board, hopefully avoiding the two holes in the board. Knights that fall into these are lost until the next round.
The pawns that are left on the board are dispensed to the players. The person who pulled the door piece takes all of their color back into their supply and one of each of the other player’s knights if they survived. You can use these knights as you wish and count toward your total at the end of the round. If there are more pawns left, they are given back to the players that control that color.
The round ends when a player is unable to place the necessary number of knights into the tower determined by the die roll. That player will pull the door and the round is over.
Players will count the number of knights they have left and the player with the most gets a coin. Once the coin is dished out, players will collect their fallen knights and start the next round. The first player to collect a second coin; wins the game.
The one thing I keep coming back about this game is the ingenuity when creating the game experience. The idea of using the game box as part of the game is pure brilliance. The thing I like the most is how the tower rises up above the table. I personally think that vertical space is not utilized enough in game design and the game does it right.
I also like how the knights fall into the game box from the game board during the game. You do not get this visual experience with many game pieces falling out onto the game board. It’s a unique experience. The game also has a wonderful sound, see that sound stuff in the intro was all leading to this. The pawns fall out onto the game board and slowly find their stopping points. It’s the sound of chaos as they fall and settle, something that both kids and parents will enjoy.
I have played this game with gamer and non-gamer kids, all under the age of 7, and they all enjoyed the game. It is natural for kids to enjoy the spilling of pawns because they find ways to make messes wherever they go. I like that it’s so contained within the game. I will say that kids will end up being disappointed with rolls that do not end in pulling the door piece. Even though it’s just a one in six chance of rolling this action, it happens enough that you do not go through entire rounds without rolling it. The gameplay is very easy for the youngest players, three in my case, to understand the rules. This allows the game to be played by anyone, but the enjoyment level is low for older ages.
The major issue for me is the lack of decision making in the game for the players. The game boils to roll the dice and occasionally take an action. There is no decision making struggle for the players. This is a game for kids and I do not expect to play a game on the complexity of War of the Ring, however, I want a game to cause those decision-making synapses to fire. The game pretty much runs on autopilot and it’s just disappointing as a gamer dad.
I will admit that I had moments of fun during the game. Just like the kids, I enjoy watching the knight pawns roll around on the game board. I did question only having two spots for the knights to fall through the board, but it’s clear a lot of testing when into the size and location. Quite a few will find their way down into these pitfalls. You will definitely need to wait until they have completely stopped rolling before you start to remove them, because they are designed to maximize the rolling.
I also want to talk about a house rule I have implemented to give some excitement to the last action of each round. When the round ends, the player who is unable to fulfill the required knights into the castle pulls the secret door. I switched how the knights are distributed. Instead of allowing the player who ended the round getting the first pick of the other players pawns, the first one is given back to the player controlling that color. This adds some extra drama by allowing the last roll of the pawns to determine the winner of rounds. I find most rounds to be very close in the final scoring and this adds some tension and importance to the last action in the round.
I am of two minds about Knuckling Knights. First, it is a fun game. The action of pulling the secret door and watching the knight’s fall into the pitfalls leads to some exciting moments. My kids love to play the game as much as they can.
However, as a gaming dad, I wish the game had more decision making for the players to make. I am not getting rid of the game anytime soon and I think it has a place in your kid’s gaming collection because of the unique way that it plays. Therefore, I will leave it in your hands, fellow gamer parents, to decide if Knuckling Knights has a place in your gaming collection.
If you’d like to try out Knuckling Knights for yourself, you can pick it up for about $20.
Final Score: 3 Stars – A game with some fun moments, but the lack of decision making for the players holds the game back from being great.
• Game is played on autopilot
• Tower requires adult supervision when constructing