Friday, August 13, 2010

App O' The Mornin': Knights of Charlemagne

Reiner Knizia has a few core design ideas that he’s revisited (repeatedly) over the years. Some people complain that he’s just doing retreads of his own material, but close examination reveals this isn’t quite so. He often tweaks and re-themes an old design, but something fresh usually emerges. Standard card games like Rummy, 500, and Gin are all the same basic game, yet each plays differently. The same nuances emerge with many of Knizia’s design.

Also, a lot of those games go out of print. Knights of Charlemagne was only released 4 years ago, and it’s no longer available. It was really just a tweaked re-theming of a Knizia design from 1995, called Tabula Rasa. It, too, is long out of print.

But Knizia has two games that never go out of print: Lost Cities and Battleline. In keeping with our theme, Battleline itself was a new version of Schotten-Totten. Are you still following me?

All of these games have Rummy as their bedrock: you’re drawing cards in order to collect certain suits. The fun is in their special rules, themes, and nuances. Knights of Charlemagne is a close cousin of Battleline, and if you’re looking for a Battleline-type experience on your iPhone, this is the game to get.

Play is very simple. Players are dealt cards numbered 1 to 5, in 5 different colors. A row of ten tiles divides the two players: 5 numbered tiles, and 5 colored tiles. Players place cards on either the matching color or number to “claim” that tile. When the game ends, the person who has the most cards on a tile earns points for it. Although the cards are bit too small, this is still a clean, fast-playing implantation of classic style of game.

Knizia is heavily represented on the App store, with more games arriving at a steady clip. The latest are High Society and Medici. I’ll be taking a look at all of them in the upcoming weeks.


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