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Subject: [An Open Hand Reviews] Name something beautiful, whimsical, and shallow. rss

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Kurt
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Introduction

Knit Wit is the latest release from Matt Leacock, designer of Pandemic and Forbidden Desert. He's trying something new here: Knit Wit is a word/party game that asks players to name things that match a series of adjectives. To cut to the chase: it's beautiful, but fails to capture the depth of excitement of Codenames-- another recent word/party game from a well-respected designer. Why not?

The Rules

A game of Knit Wit lasts about as long its set-up. To begin, players take thread and encircle areas on the table. Each thread represents an adjective, like "evil" or "fuzzy". Each thread acts as a circle within a crazy, colour-coded Venn diagram. Within the intersections, numbered spools are placed. Each of these numbers will be encircled by some of the adjectives. Once this process is finished, all players simultaneously attempt to write one thing beside each number that matches its associated adjectives. The earlier a player finishes (or calls it quits), the larger a bonus they get. Once all players (except one) have finished, the game is over, and players verify their words.

Mechanics: What Almost Ties Knit Wit Together

At its core, Knit Wit lives in the same family as games like Scattergories. Naming words that match a category is nothing new. Everything Knit Wit does could be done with a deck of adjective cards and a few sheets of paper. The rules are very easy to learn, light, and in many ways familiar.

There are clever elements to it: the spacial element to the adjectives mean that players have something interesting to look at while they think. The scoring system, which rewards players for answers that had more adjectives to match, allows one to choose between easy points and more difficult words-- though most players will find answers for almost every number. Interaction arises when players have matching answers: duplicates don't count. Players often have to get creative.

Problems often arise with the answers: how silly can an answer be and still be accepted? If a player gives a ridiculous answer (ex. "fuzzy" "stinky" "intelligent" --> the three month-old mold in Eleanor's unwashed pots), it can be funny, even delightful. But if a better answer is present among other players' responses, it's impossible to reward the more thoughtful one. The mechanic that filters answers is to challenge, and it just seems mean-spirited to reject fun but clunky answers. It's hard to imagine a cutthroat game of Knit Wit, though that might improve gameplay.

These problems might be solvable with the right group. Maybe that group is really easygoing, and just likes to imagine answers together. Maybe that group is cutthroat enough that only perfect answers are accepted, and the game is played fast and hard. But a game shouldn't need a velvet glove to run smoothly.

Presentation

Here's the thing: this game is gorgeous. You know that! It's probably why you're here. The string, the spools, the clips, the adjective tags, even the pencils and sheets of paper. It's so utterly charming, so beautiful. The production is through the roof. You could get anyone to play this game. It's so carefully crafted that this fundamentally abstract game has been given a gushingly prominent theme.

I just don't know if it deserves it.

Player Count

I would argue this game doesn't work as well with two or three, in spite of the fact that you're doing the same thing as you would with more players. There are less spools to name, and the clocking-out mechanic is simultaneously more gutting and less effective.

Final Thoughts: a Game in Context

Knit Wit tries to do a familiar thing in a new way. But it might have ended up doing an old thing in a new-looking way, and those two ideas are very different. I like the trend of established designers making word games, because it's a genre that gets ignored too often. But Knit Wit is no Codenames-- and I don't know how much of a place it has in a world where they both exist.

Your friends at the office will probably like Knit Wit. Your sister-in-law, who loves Scattergories, will probably like Knit Wit. Everyone who sees this game will be completely charmed. But I'm not so sure about everyone who plays it. And at the price point that this kind of production necessitates, I would pass.
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