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ROBBER KNIGHTS

Reviewed by Chris Kovac

(Queen, 2-4 players, ages 8 and up, 30 minutes; $24.95 )

 

Robber Knights is one of the small box games released after Nuremburg earlier this year and is a tile laying strategy game for 2-4 players designed by Rudiger Dorn, probably best known for Goa (Summer 2004 GA REPORT) and Louis XIV (Summer 2005 GA REPORT). The object of the game is to have the highest score by controlling the most valuable building tiles on the board. The game is reminiscent of Carcassonne (Summer 2001 GA REPORT) in that placing tiles is a major component of the play but Robber Knights plays faster and adds a new strategic element: being able to take over other peoples tiles.

Each person has a set of 24 landscape tiles (some with buildings and some without) and 30 knight tokens in his/her color. Each tile has a letter (from A through E) on the back of them and tiles are played in alphabetical order. There are five tiles per letter except for A which has four. Each tile depicts a certain type of landscape and may contain various buildings which count for points at the end of the game.RobberKnights

Each letter stack is shuffled individually and then stacked in order (B’s on top down to E’s on the bottom) except for the A tiles from which you remove the castle tile and select one other as your starting hand (two tiles being your maximum hand size). The other two tiles are put together with the other players discarded tiles to form the starting “landscape” which you will build up over the course of the game.

On a turn you can play a tile to the existing landscape and then draw a tile. You can do this action for up to three tiles. All tiles except the castle are played straight to the landscape with no special effect. There are two castles for each letter set except for A & B which have one each. If you put down a castle you can select up to five knights to put in the castle. These knights then attack other tiles in a straight line from the castle. Once moved they cannot move again. A certain number of knights must remain behind on the tiles as you move through them including your starting tiles. The number of men left behind on the tile depends on that tile’s terrain. The costs are for clear terrain one, forest terrain two and mountain terrain three. The lake (one per player) is impassible.RobberKnightsCom

If you are the top knight on a tile at the end of a game you can score it. Cities are worth three points, villages two and castles one. A stack can only be four high so once a tile has four knights on it, regardless of color, whoever is on top is safe from being taken over by another player. The game ends when all players have played all their tiles. One final factor in the game is that the landscape can only be expanded to a certain number of tiles horizontally or vertically depending on the number of players. Ties are broken by the person with the most knights NOT played.

During the course of the game, you are trying to find or create rows of building tiles (including those owned by your opponent) which you can conquer with your knights from your castles. At the same time you have to ration out your knights since, if you play the maximum number for each castle, you will have to place your last couple of castles without any knights. This generally means that sometimes you have to gamble that your opponent will not take over too many of your “weakly” held tiles before the game ends. You can try and protect these weak positions by surrounding them with terrain which is expensive to move through but you might have to put down towns and cities which benefits an opponent’s moves by offering him scoring opportunities.

Robber Knights is easy to learn, fairly inexpensive and, as we have come to expect from Queen Games, has well illustrated rules with nice examples. The only flaws seem to be the bags that come with the game (they tear at the seal fairly easily as well as being a bit small) and playing time. Though the box says 30 minutes, it seems to take an hour on average as latter turns can slow down as people think about their moves.

Every game of Robber Knights that I have played so far is fairly tense. Overall the game is a nice mix of planning and resource management. It seem to plays best with four though it scales well down to two or three people and is one of the best games I have played so far this year. – – – – – – – – – – – – Chris Kovac


 

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