"Ritter Ohne Furcht und Tadel" (in my English translation of the rules, it's entitled "Knights Brave and Bold"), which we will refer to now as "Ritter" for short, is a game involving knights, ladies, tournaments, and dice. Lots of dice. Lots and lots of rolling lots and lots of dice. But, I digress -- more on that later.
Anybody who has begun to read this review should first refer to Greg Schlosser's "Session Report", which is actually a full-blown review, here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/11000. Greg hates this game with a passion and offers no hope that this game could have any redeeming value. Having seen Ritter in a FLGS going-out-of-business sale for $6, I couldn't refuse, even after reading Greg's review. However, my gaming group for Ritter is slightly different than Greg's; my group is my four sons, aged 9-1/2, 8, 6, and 4. This review of Ritter is based solely on the experience my boys and I had playing it together, so please keep that bias in mind as you continue reading.
Again, I'll refer you to Greg Schlosser's review. He does a more-than-adequate job of explaining the mechanics of the game, and there is no need to waste the time and space duplicating his words. The only thing that I would like to add--and it seemed to be a somewhat important omission--is that at the beginning of each tournament day in which the knight is fully healthy, including the very first, he is allowed to designate two improvement points. The points can be allocated to increasing the number of offensive dice rolled, more defensive dice pips covered, or split between the two. This provides a slight hint of a press-your-luck type of mechanism, since you need to bow out of combat before your knight is too sorely wounded in order to heal up (3 wounds per night) completely in order to improve before the next day's fighting.
The artwork is beautiful throughout the entire game. The knight cards, the lady cards, box, and insert all do a tremendous job of drawing the players into the theme. The bottom of the game box contains a cardboard insert into which the dice are rolled and which makes the box look like a medieval tournament field; in fact, it is exactly the picture I have in my mind of Ivanhoe's tournament list at Ashby. The knight and lady cards come on acceptably thick cardstock and look suitably different from one another. All the text on the cards is in German, but the English copy of the rules makes it quite clear what the spaces on the card are for: (1) the top of the card is a prize scoring track, (2) the right side is the offensive dice capability, (3) the bottom tracks the wounds, (4) the middle is the dice pips that the knight defends against, and (5) the text on the card lists the characteristics the knight prefers in a lady. This last point is the only place the German text causes a hindrance. It is easy enough to match up the text between the cards of the lady and knight to determine which lady a knight chooses, but the continuity of the theme was broken each time we had to refer back to the rules to figure out exactly what each lady was described to be. So, overall, the German text caused only this very small inconvenience.
One other niggling point is the method of tracking hits, wounds and prizes. As I mentioned, there are scoring tracks along the edges of the cards for this, and each player is given three small wooden blocks to slide along the tracks. Unfortunately, the scoring tracks are along the very edge of the cards and the squares for the blocks are none-too-big. Hence, a jiggle of the table or a broken lance flying out of the jousting list (ahem, or rather, an errant die thrown by an over-eager boy) can cause blocks to fly everywhere and much debating about how many wounds and how many prizes the older-brother really had.
The English translation of the rules was acceptable in conveying the general flow of the game. However, some of the finer details about the process of resolving the knight/lady combinations were not as clear as they should have been. I ended up making some decisions on the fly where things were unclear, and we added some house rules to resolve some of the glaring issues that Greg noted in his review.
One of the biggest changes we implemented was to the way jousts were chosen. If you remember, Greg's huge complaint was that after the first joust of the day, the following knights would obviously choose the most wounded competitor to joust against. To rectify this, we created the "Chivalry Rule": a knight could not choose to fight against a wounded knight as long as there was a knight available who had not jousted yet that day. This resulted in fresh knights pairing up against each other with only the possibility of one knight (with an odd number of players) having the privilege of fighting his first joust against a wounded opponent. The second "round" of jousts then was comprised of the wounded winners from the first round who all had to follow the same rule for the second round. For us, it resolved the problem incredibly well: each of the players was involved in jousting more often, the knights progressed together from healthy to wounded as the day wore on, and the final joust of the day usually was a very delicate affair between two heavily wounded knights. I would heartily recommend this rule change to anybody who plays the game.
We had a great time playing the game. I gave it to the boys as an early Christmas gift so that we could play it during some of the vacation days I needed to use up in December. We played it four times the first day, and we've continued to play it on and off ever since.
I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the personalities of the boys show in the game. Our cautious 8 and 6 year olds always picked the heavily defensive knights and added improvement after improvement to covering up more dice pips (negating more hits of the opponent's attack). Jousts between them often involved both of them rolling four dice and needed three of a kind in order to score a single hit; it wasn't uncommon for that to last 8-10 rounds ("Ack! They broke their lances again! The two challengers swing around to face each other one more time...") Our oldest son preferred a more offensive knight and often chose the one who defended well once the knights were fighting on foot. As dad, I chose the knight with the most offensive dice and no pips covered, and I added only to my offensive dice, earning my knight the nickname of "The Brute". The boys dreaded to face him and we laughed and laughed at whoever had to suffer the onslaught of 8, 10, or 12 dice while on horse, and then another 8-12 dice on foot.
Yes, the game involves almost no strategy whatsover. Success is determined primarily by the luck of the roll and a slight bit by knowing when to pull out of a day's fighting in order to recover for the more valuable prizes the next day. However, the game passes incredibly quickly -- 15 to 30 minutes for an entire tournament -- so even those who suffered from terrible die rolling the first time around do not have to wait long to try it again.
Ritter certainly is not much of a game, if by "game" we involve the concepts of thought, planning, and strategy. Ritter is essentially a box of components that does an excellent job of evoking a very strong theme and rewards the best dice roller with success. In spite of that, or possibly because of that, if your group either includes kids or can revert back to being kids for a few minutes, Ritter can be a huge amount of fun. Our boys jump right into the theme everytime we play it and we've all continued to have a great time rolling lots and lots of dice.
I agree completely with the review, and I added the same house rule since the first time I played the game because of Greg's review. I have since played this game many times with youths and it is always a success. Dicefest is always fun for all.