by Jennifer Stubbs
Title: Knight Fall
Age Range: 13+
Players: 1 – 6
Playing Time: 45- 60 min
Style: Fighting; Cooperative storytelling
Publisher: Red Raven Games
If you’re a fan of Red Raven Games, Knight Fall continues the dark, rich art and engrossing world building, with an inviting change. If you struggled with the complexity and length of cleanup after a round, hark! Knight Fall is much clearer; the cards and mechanics are eloquent. The game is neither simplistic nor easy; experienced gamers and long-time fans of Red Raven shared they are interested in re-playability and enjoyed their first round. This game bundles a lot in an expressive package. There’s a little deck management, piece movement, and drafting to establish the game board. It offers solo/two-player, cooperative, or competitive modes.
I appreciate the elder standees’ life meter and marker, both as something tactile to interact with during game play and as a visual reminder to focus strategy about which square to target. The artwork is polished, the stands and figures are solid but not heavy, thus highly portable. The cards are designed in three sections, offering actions for each of the three cards in your hand.
The game can play without all the rules and game board instructions, to begin on a more inviting note. Once comfortable with the basics of play, add these additional challenges. This game is highly re-playable, as there is a choose-your-own-adventure style story in the instruction manual for one-player mode. You could play through several variations, gain inspiration to write your own, even add additional tiles to keep the game fresh. A score rubric incentivizes replay to explore alternate paths and improve your score.
Ideally, game play is most balanced with an even number of players, but odd numbers do not ruin the experience. If you enjoy fully cooperative games, each player controls a knight protecting the elders from demons. After all knights have a turn, the demons play once. In team mode, players are knights or a demons. Game play alternates between knights and demons.
Knight Fall’s mechanics include tapping a card to activate another card’s action, reset at the end of each turn. Like Pax Pamir, players need not feel loyal to the Knight or Demon card you selected from a draft at the beginning. Should that character die, you retain your deck of cards and draw a new character to join the fight in the next round. This can be an empowering mechanic to push your character’s skills to the group’s benefit, rather than hold back or economize. And then you can explore the opportunities and challenges of additional knights or demons!
The game is approachable because there are six moves (melee or ranged attack, move, heal, magic, defend). Game play maintains momentum with a hand of three cards, each with a base action (one of the six) or two options. Game play is also well paced by a short victory track on which Knights always advance one space each round, keeping any game to 12 rounds or less. Knights could gain additional spaces along the track by defeating demons. Health/attack/defense are tracked with heart motifs and markers on the character cards or standees. Minions and golems each have one health to down (indicated by laying sideways) and another to defeat and remove from the board.
The Knights’ goal is to defend elders from demon attacks for twelve rounds while the demons are racing to kill elders (which requires killing the knight first). I watched one group of demons run from a particularly frosty knight, only to overcome the knight in later rounds. Players also became more animated and active after losing a character card but remaining in the game through a new character without penalty.
Gameplay can commence with only seven minutes’ introduction. While the instruction manual runs 50 pages, half is the campaign journal for solo mode. The game can be played based on what you see on the cards, board, and pieces without detriment. Nuances of specific encounters and combinations are fleshed out in the manual, if players wish to verify.
In a library circulation setting: The card decks tolerate the loss of a few cards without the gameplay or mechanics suffering. The standees match each knight or demon card, but a meeple could replace something lost if you didn’t print something locally on paperboard.
Setup and cleanup are quick and casual.
Given the mechanics, age range, and themes, this game is for secondary and higher education or public libraries. Knight Fall is amazing in its scalability from one to six players.