I first heard about KoN from a review in Paper Wars Magazine. The review was quite favorable and suggested the game could be played solo. My review is based on my first play of a solo game using only the Basic rules.
The components are simply exceptional. The box itself is a reminiscent of the Commands and Colors/Combat Commander Boxes in its thickness/sturdiness. Although the box is not the same size as those and does not need to be as deep as they are. The game includes 5 black and 5 white dice. These are very nice dice. I usually replace dice in games with my own stock, but not here. The color differential is very helpful for distinguishing simultaneous rolls in combat. In addition to the dice, there are very nice military miniatures provided for the three factions - the Germans, the Norwegians and the Allies. The Germans are black, the Norwegians green and the Allies are tan. The miniatures are similar to those found in Axis & Allies as far as their pose and posture. These are only infantry miniatures. But the quality and size of the miniatures exceeds Axis & Allies and more akin to the size and quality of Memoir 44 miniatures (actually larger than Memoir 44). Very nice indeed. There are chips provided to deal with excess units in a zone, very much like A & A.
The other components include cards, maps and rules. The cards are quite nice. They feature a thematic photograph in black and white. They are of reasonably nice stock - a bit thin, but nice. They are not linen, nor are they the thickness of the Commands and Colors series. I will likely sleeve them. The backs of the cards feature the national symbols of the various factions and have a nice thematic finish to them. The only downside is that the cards have Norwegian text on them (not a problem if you are Norwegian!). The cards use symbols that are language independent, but you still need to be able to read the text to apply the card properly. The game came with an appendix that provides an English translation for each card, which is essential. It definitely detracted from the flow of the game having to constantly refer to the appendix. I started to learn the cards a bit, but there are some minor tweaks to each card and how it is used that required me to consistently use the appendix throughout the game. Having English paste ups would be really nice and I hope either the company or some BGG user will do this. There are not that many different cards, so this would not be too taxing. This was a minor drawback for me in enjoying the game.
The game board is absolutely beautiful. It is an area movement type of game (not hex and counter). The map is incredibly well labeled. It is mounted. There is ample room in the various areas and the map does not feel crowded. It is a long thin map, which should not be surprising because Norway is a long thin country! I cannot say enough about how absolutely delightful this map is! There is a turn and combat sequence on the board, but again this is in Norwegian. It would be nice to have a paste up for this, but the gameplay is pretty simple so not a big deal.
My copy came with a lush copy of rules in Norwegian. They are full color and glossy. My copy also came with a photocopied black and white paper version of the rules translated in English. Really wish I could read Norwegian because the color glossy rules look awesome. My drab English rules are quite boring! You can print out a color copy in English from the publisher's webpage. I printed out the card appendices in color because I used these more like play aids during the game. Oh, the publisher also includes a couple of scenarios for the game that can be printed in color, and in English, from their webpage. Very nice touch and kudos to the publisher for providing this additional content free of charge.
Although my English rules paled in comparison to the Norwegian rules, the actual translation of the rules is very good. It seemed like they were translated by native English speakers. Very easy to follow. This game is definitely in the low to moderate complexity category and an experienced war gamer will pick this up quick. It is also a great, and I mean GREAT, gateway war-game. The basic rules allow for a quick entry into the game and the Advanced rules really do not complicate the game very much. Some will likely choose to start with the Advanced game, but I enjoyed the basic game very much and am glad that I started there.
COMPONENTS RATING: 4 out of 5 (would be 5 out of 5 with English paste ups or translated cards)
The components are delightful and inviting, but the gameplay is simply sublime! What do I like about it? Well, first is the basic simplicity of the system. Move, Combat and Reinforce. That's what you do on a turn. Combat is also extremely simple. You get one dice per battalion (unit) that is attacking or defending and then you can use card play to boost your die rolls. You eliminate enemy battalions on a die roll of six and then you determine the overall winner of combat by totaling the value of all the dice rolled. So you can have more units eliminated and still win the battle. It really works incredibly well. The attack has to play cards first and then the defender responds with cars that can counter the cards played by the attacker or supplement defense. The attacker then has another option to play counter cards (there are only few cards in this category). This back and forth card play layered on top of a solid basic combat system makes for quick, fun and surprisingly interesting combat choices. Obviously, there is built in fog of war here because you do not know what the opponent has in his hands and he may be much stronger than he appears to be based on his on board units. This even works, although to a lesser extent, in solo play. Because hands are refilled at the end of a turn you don't know what your opponent has (similar to playing Combat Commander or Commands and Colors solo). Simply excellent system.
Another exciting aspect of gameplay that adds depth to the strategic/tactical choices present in the game is the fact that cards are not only used for attack and movement bonuses, they are also the source of your reinforcements. Each card depicts a number of infantry unit symbols on the bottom of the card. Three such symbols are required to recruit on battalion to the board. So if you use a card for a combat modifier, you have lost it for reinforcement purposes. This is a very simplified version of card play that you see in the CDG games like Paths of Glory. I absolutely love how they did this and integrated it into this game. Not surprisingly, some of the best combat cards also provide many reinforcement symbols. Also, needing 3 symbols makes the game interesting two because cards may have 2 symbols on them or even one and then you have to combine cards in interesting ways. The Allies and the Norwegians have the interesting disadvantage of only having three cards in their hands and thus reinforcements are hard to get, particularly if you are blowing cards in attacking and defending. The Germans have an easier time of it in bringing in reinforcements. They have five cards in their hand. But the Germans have another particular issue, and this is one of the great parts of this game, the Germans lose the game if their draw deck runs out whereas the Allies and Norwegians are allowed to reshuffle their decks. So the Germans are constantly faced with the challenge of burning cards and ticking away the game clock. The German card deck is about 4 times the size of the other factions individual decks, but it goes pretty fast!
GAMEPLAY RATING: 5 out of 5
This game is a refreshing game. It is an absolute joy to play. It is tense, filled with interesting choices and beautiful components. It does not overstay its welcome, but leaves you wanting more. It extracts an amazing amount of depth out of a incredibly simple model. I can't tell you how much I want to see them employ this system to other battles/settings. I have tried more complicated CDGs and really don't like them. I like the core concept of using cards either for tactical reasons or for RPs/reinforcements, but most CDGs are simply too complicated for my taste and tend to award those who can memorize/count cards. This game gives me the best core aspect of a CDG without the downsides.
I have to believe this game is better with two or three players, but my solo game was a blast on its own. I am looking forward to soloing the game again. My game came down to the last turn. Germany can only achieve victory (other than eliminating all enemy units on the board) by retaining control of all the victory cities on the board. On the last turn, the Allies/Norwegians held two cities. Germany attacked both and had very good cards maximizing their die rolls. I literally stood up for the die rolls. The Allies/Norwegians only had to retain one of the two cities. That's exactly what they did. They held on to Narvik and won the game (a marginal victory according to the rulebook).
Bottom line - the game is super fun for those looking for something different. Those who want something simple, fun and deep. The only downside for me was the Norwegian card text. Also, for some, the price will be a bit steep. I purchased my copy from Noble Knight Games and it was around $90. Most of this cost I think is due to the importing of the game. This is not a big company. The components are very nice, but it is sill a steep price. I am not disappointed by my purchase at all.
Great game! Please make more games using this system!
Edit 1/29/2014: The publisher has graciously made available English rules and English language cards which can be purchased through The Game Crafter at a reasonable price. This only enhances my view of this game!
- [+] Dice rolls
- Eivind Vetlesen(eivindv)Norway
Thanks for such a great review Mr Selvaggio. I am really glad you enjoyed the game. There are a couple of new games, using the same system, in the making. The coming games will be published in English. I can't give you the details quite yet though.
Paste ups of the board summary boxes are now available here:
- [+] Dice rolls
The good review is well earned. Thanks for publishing such a quality game. Thanks for the pasteups!
Looking forward to the new games and happy to hear they are being published in English. Although, I am learning a bit of Norwegian! I am very pleased to learn more of this courageous period of Norwegian history. Look to Norway!
- [+] Dice rolls
eivindv wrote:Thanks for such a great review Mr Selvaggio. I am really glad you enjoyed the game. There are a couple of new games, using the same system, in the making. The coming games will be published in English. I can't give you the details quite yet though.
Paste ups of the board summary boxes are now available here:
Oh, send a copy to Marco Arnaudo! He will do a great review of this.
- [+] Dice rolls