We've been kindly asked by Zatu Games to take a look at a lightweight game called Knights of NorthRND. It's coming to Kickstarter in the very near future and is a competitive, last man standing game for 2-6 players. It hosts a lightweight feel along with fast paced play and great ease of access, making it perfect for filling a gap or playing game after game.
What Do You Do?
In Knights of NorthRnd, players need to simultaneously play cards against each other . The game's battle system works on a similar one to that of Village Pillage or Yomi, though toned down to reflect its lightness. Swords beat shields, shields beat arrows, arrows beat swords. However! There is limited scope for a tie in this game. All attack cards are tiered from one to seven, and higher numbers trump smaller ones in the event of matching cards being played. Because all cards are played simultaneously, you take damage from all players who beat you. You also damage all players you beat.
To set up, players are dealt gems as life points, and five cards. All players choose a card to play and lay it down at the same time. They then follow the combat rule and identify how much cumulative damage they each take. Players do have more option though, as they may also play a scroll card with their attack card. Only one can be played by each player, but these take effect when played and do a whole host of things. Rounds are over in seconds, and players always restock to six cards. Once a player loses all their life gems, they are out. The game lasts around 15 minutes, and life points rarely decrease at different speeds, so a new game is ready to play within moments! Then when all but one player has been eliminated, they are the winner!
Taking on the Hordes!
Knights of NorthRnd is a game that shocked us with its engagement. The ease of access and speed of understanding are deceptive. It's easy to say "easy to learn, hard to master", but in this case, it's impossible. You're playing against human players, beings with free will and choices. They're chaotic, unpredictable, and untrustworthy. And that's just the company we keep at home! The game has a host of tactical plays available to it, and how you choose to use which cards, and when, will enable you to make big plays! Pulling out an epic sword, with a critical hit scroll is a great feeling... until everyone else pulls out a common arrow. Despite my massive score of 12, their 1 trumps it and I take damage but deal none.
The execution of the game's mechanic is really well done. At no point are you "helpless" or "out of the game". If you've got gems, you have got every chance of winning! Normally, we're not fans of player elimination - having someone sat watching isn't great for them if they were launched out the game during the heat of it all. However, Knights of NorthRnd is forgiving through its pace. We managed two player games in 10 minutes, and four player games in just under 15. Once you've got the basics of scoring, you'll fly through it, match after match.
Outnumbered or Overconfident?
Games that host simultaneous play sometimes have "iffy" bits. Those blurry areas where extra cards are thrown in left, right and centre. There are also the times where someone is targeted a little more than everyone else. And with such a light game, it can be daunting to think those plays will repeat. Knight of NorthRnd doesn't host those moments. It can't! Cards attack everyone, and everyone is a target. We get really competitive during the more lightweight games, more so than in longer ones! It's probably down to the speed you can cause damage - or maybe we're just vicious! Anyway, because everyone's a target, the only way you could be singled out would be through sheer coincidence. A poorly chosen sword play in a round of arrows!
The scrolls also help here too. Should you be on a run of poor luck with plays, there are a vast number of scroll cards to enable you to claw back a victory! Thievery, reflection spells, strength potions... all these things can not only save you, but also claim you that win. And these cards produce those fantastic moments you'll talk about next time! I lost a game against my partner, despite her only having one gem left against my 11. I played a legendary shield with a critical hit scroll. 14 damage! Enough to take out a castle I'd argue. I talked it up and made it sound like it was going to be the play of the century. Children would sing songs about my triumph! But, alas, it was no match for her rare shield... and reflection spell scroll. I had fallen upon my own shield.
We genuinely enjoyed Knights of NorthRnd. It's a really lovely game, with art and stylings reflective of its medieval feel. The game is entirely combat-centric, and it holds superb pace. It's not revolutionary, but it's a great little filler that we somehow manage to play for over an hour when it hits the table. If you're looking for a super lightweight game that's easy to access, or if you need a new travel game, this may just be for you! Keep an eye out for it on Kickstarter!