Knee Jerk is a party game about reacting with the first thing that comes to mind when you hear a situation. The situation is made up of three different cards. Each card has three lines of text on it. The top text is the beginning of a situation, the middle text is the middle of a situation and the bottom text is the end of a situation. But you don’t use all the text on one card, you only use one line from each card by placing three cards next to each other, off-centered, to get a funny and unique situation. Here are some examples:
“I feel like we’re about to have fun” “In the stadium” “Because Someone is Eating...”
“I feel like I should change my clothes” “In the hot tub” “Because someone put...”
“I feel hopeful” “In the haunted mansion” “Because a zombie said...”
This game is best for highly social situations that often involve alcohol and/or very creative and free-thinking individuals. I am not part of that crowd very often and so it was hard to get this game to truly shine. The first group I played it with was primarily strategy and eurogamers. So their responses were mostly umms, uhhhs and silence (and crickets). The second group was better as they were actors and improv comedy people. Even still, they had some trouble at first since many of the situations were funnier than anything they could think of and so their responses paled in comparison. After warming up, though, it flowed more easily and there were many laughs.
The 6 C’s
Chance: This game is very random in how a situation is created, but that adds to the humor when people try to respond. Party games, in general, are more about having fun than winning, and Knee Jerk is very much that. People will probably not care much about keeping track of points and will much rather just go through more combinations of the cards to see what crazy situation comes up next.
Choice: The choice that the host has is which of the cards in their hand they are going to play as the conclusion to the situation. This is just enough choice to have meaning without slowing down the game. Even though the host is “left out” in coming up with responses, they get the opportunity to craft the “best” situation they can, which is usually the craziest possible.
Character: The theme is pretty open, but there are definitely some fantasy and sci-fi influences in many of the cards. I particularly like this as it results in even wackier responses than what would happen if the situations were all based in the real world.
Conflict: The hard part for the host to handle is everyone shouting out their responses all at once so it’ll take good hearing to be host for this game or else you’ll be asking people to repeat themselves a lot. However, not everyone will respond every time. At least with my two groups, there were usually at least one or two people who couldn’t think of anything and so they stayed silent. I think this works well and these people should not be pushed to come up with something. To keep the game flowing, just pick one of the responses and move on to the next situation.
Clarity: I received a prototype copy of the game, but the rules were very simple and easy to understand. This is not a complex game and, like many party games, there can be a lot of ways to play the game. While I didn’t get any variants in the rules, there will probably be some later. Even if not included in the rules, this would be an easy game to come up with your own rules.
Concealment: The only thing concealed is the cards in the host’s hand so when playing with visually impaired gamers, they will only be able to be players, not the host. However, for some, this could be a positive as it allows them to rest their eyes and just focus on their hearing, thinking and, of course, vocalization.
Knee Jerk, like all party games, is not for everyone. I do not recommend playing it with most heavy strategy and/or eurogamers. It will not go over well. As one guy said, he was two beers short of being able to play Knee Jerk. The other problem some people had is that often-times, the situation was funnier than anything they could think of so they had nothing to respond with. However, the second group, after a few rounds of stuttering, the juices got flowing and people were able to get into their grooves and come up with great responses. In the end, this game is best for those with quick wits, can talk fast, like to laugh and probably have a few drinks in them. If any of this sounds good to you, check it out on Kickstarter starting September 16th and going until October 15th.
This review is also posted in the game's forum.