Recommend
16 
 Thumb up
 Hide
5 Posts

Knights of the Realm» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A Quiet Giant of a Fantasy Game rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Jason Rider
United States
New York
flag msg tools
In an industry made up of hype, hyperbole, and high expectations, Knights of the Realm is one of those games that draws very little attention to itself. I stumbled upon the title by accident in a botched search engine incident and, considering that I have a penchant for fantasy-themed games, decided it was worth the price of admission.

Designed by Doug Cook, Knights of the Realm shares the Funmaker Games label with another title, the popular Mimic. It requires a minimum of 3 players but also supports 4-player action. It is recommended ages 10 & up and a full game typically lasts 1 to 2 hours.

Packaged within a nice portable box (a bit larger than say Z-Man Games’ Dungeonville but a bit smaller than Steve Jackson’s Greed Quest to provide a sense of comparison), Knights of the Realm consists of 108 cards (56 land, 12 village, 12 knight, 12 dragon, 12 castle, and 4 reference), 50 plastic gold coins, two dice and a 12 page B&W rulebook.

While there’s no physical board to speak of, the game actually requires quite a play space as players are instructed to set up the center area in a unique but intuitive manner to represent the dragons in need of slaying to end the game, cards required to build villages, towers, and castle keeps, and a draw and discard pile that players make use of in each turn.

The goal of the game in its simplest summary is to end up with the most points after all of the 12 dragons are defeated. While this may sound simplistic, the truth of the matter is that the game is structured to offer a good deal of options and various strategies to master along the way.

Interestingly, the game’s dynamic is such where players do not compete directly against each other (except for the fact that each is trying to end up with as many points as possible in the end). In other words, no cheap moves to penalize your opponents here and certainly no ganging up on beginners or weaker opponents. Rather, this is a game of kingdom building and money management that encourages each participant to focus on their own developments.

Coins are earned by laying down land cards in groups of three either by like-terrain (examples: 3 fields, 3 mountains or 3 forests) of similar or different color (there’s a badge in the upper left corner of each to indicate the color). A run of the same color terrain cards pays out 5 gold coins while mismatched badges yields only 2. Additionally by matching the crest of these badges to that of the knights in the player’s possession, extra gold coins are earned.

All of this gold is essential in the process of either fortifying a player’s existing villages (which is necessary to attack the dragons) or purchasing new villages/ knights. Since all 12 of the dragons must be defeated for the game to conclude, it is essential that players build up their offense.

While this may sound a bit complex, the game doesn’t take long to establish quite a logical flow of events. A very nifty feature of the game is that each player begins his or her turn by rolling a black 6-sided die that contains the image of a dragon on one of the six sides. If the dragon is rolled, the player loses a card at random from their hand immediately. It’s a unique system that adds an element of chance to the game’s core play.

The core play, as stated above, works on the principle of building runs of similar-terrain cards (there are wild cards to aid in this task) whereby each turn a player reveals two cards from the draw pile and only discards those they’ve turned in for gold. Another nice touch is the idea that the player must show the two cards he has drawn to everyone at the table so that they may take a stab at making trades. Cards the player may need, gold coins, and combinations of both can be offered to the player before he adds the new cards to his hand. Of course he can refuse any offer made but it makes for a really cool barter system among players. Very cool!

Once a player feels confident enough to challenge a dragon, that counts as the single action of choice for that turn. Combat is well devised as well, with even rolls of the dice counting as a single point for either combatant (another player rolls for the dragon). Battles last 3 rounds but well-prepared knights have the option of purchasing reinforcements before entering a battle who can turn the tide if things aren’t going well. Players are encouraged to turn their villages into towers as doing so can add up to +2 points going into the battle. It’s a system of near flawless checks and balances.

Finally, not only does taking down a dragon advance the overall goal of the game, it also provides players with the added bonus in the ability to “steal” two cards drawn by another player at a later turn. Bottom line: Having a pile of slain dragons in your inventory provides a nice advantage in play.

The rules are pretty well written although attempts to simply read the book before playing will likely turn out a bit confusing. The best way I discovered to get a strong understanding of the game is to set it up as the rules describe and to practice playing, step by step, until every feels comfortable with the dynamics. Abundant photos really take the chore out of trying to set the game up the first time and the book provides adequate examples of in-game scenarios to work from.

Fortunately I found myself referring to the book very little in the early rounds (and only to decipher the end of the game scoring mechanic even then). This speaks volumes on a game’s intuitivism.

The pacing is steady and quite well balanced (players never find themselves waiting impatiently for their turn to come around). About the lengthiest procedure in a given turn would have to be combating a dragon but even that involves the other players (one has to roll for the dragon, another should keep score and so on).

The suggestion for ages 10 & up is pretty darn spot-on but like with most multi-phase strategic efforts, much of this involves attempting to learn the game by the rulebook alone. An adult with a strong grasp on the game’s mechanics would likely have little trouble teaching the game to children around the age of 8 or perhaps even slightly under.

While I was convinced the 1-2 hour average play time was a bit pessimistic after having a few mock rounds to learn the game, the truth is our first 3-player effort lasted closer to 2.5 hours! Of course the reason for this has much to do with the players’ confidence in deciding when to attack the dragons. My friends and I waited until our forces were pretty well fortified but presumably a more risk-taking group may be able to take down all 12 of the winged-beasts in less time. But then again, even with the backing of several reinforcement groups, we weren’t always victorious in our efforts so the safe conclusion is to set aside a two-hour window if you plan to play Knights of the Realm through to completion.

In all Doug Cook’s design efforts certainly pay dividends in Knights of the Realm. The game is one of few that truly works off itself to amplify it’s own challenges. In other words, never does it feel like rules were added as last-minute fixes or that the rule book needs to be handy at all times to get through a round. Instead the game wastes very little time in establishing a consistent and interesting rhythm. It combines some of the finer aspects of kingdom building with multi-phase combat and works off the idea that the duration of the game is entirely dependent upon the players and their decisions (rather than timers or monetary restrictions).

Thanks to near-impeccable game mechanics and an addicting, good-hearted playing experience, I find it very easy to recommend Knights of the Realm to gamers of all disciplines and skill levels. The only catch is the game can be rather difficult to track down. Googling the title seems to reveal no exact matches and large chains like Amazon.com and Walmart.com don’t seem to stock it. The best results come from going to the manufacturers website and ordering direct: www.funmakergames.com

The tragedy is that this game isn’t available everywhere as I’m confident it would manage to dazzle all who experience it.
9 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tom Boy
msg tools
Spot on review
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jason Rider
United States
New York
flag msg tools
Thank you kindly for the feedback, Tom.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jan Horinek
Czech Republic
Prague
flag msg tools
Dan Dare, 1950
badge
Stairway scare, Dan Dare, who's there!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Well done Jason, i've bought the game upon reading you review and i am happy with it!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Scott
United States
Wisconsin
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I have the 2nd edition, and I can't find the rule at all about rolling the dragon die at the beginning of your turn... though the game does come with one black dragon die and one regular 6 sided white die.

Oh, and thanks for the review!

This and Tom's review really interested me in this game. It's definitely a keeper.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.