I can’t say the name of this game without sounding like a pirate. Those that know me, will know I am partial to talking like a pirate and wearing a pirate tee. All that is irrelevant though as Knarr is based around other seafarers, the Vikings!
I know it’s hard to believe, but that was my introduction to my review of the game Knarr…
Place the board on the table and place scoring markers and income track markers for each player. Shuffle the two decks of land cards separately and reveal three from each deck above the board.
Prepare the Viking cards according to player count and deal three to each player and reveal five more below the board in the designated spaces.
Give each player a ship board which they place in front of them, be sure that everyone starts on the same side. Also give each player three bracelet and three recruit tokens. Included in the box are little tokens to help choose a first player which are superfluous and yet nice to have! Anyway, set up is a breeze, like the wind in a billowing sail!
Knarr is an out and out race for 40 points. On your turn you can do one of two actions, the first is to explore Lands. To Gain a land card you pay the relevant cost with recruited crew cards. These usually grant one off bonuses as well as ongoing bonuses that can be unlocked. These are placed above your boat token forming columns of bonuses.
The second option is to recruit a Viking crew member to your boat. Not only will you get the bonus on this card but also any bonus from cards of a matching colour already recruited. You then take a card from the market that is below the matching colour of the card you just played. This makes sense when you see the board set up!
The bonuses on the cards do one of four things. One gives you victory points, while another moves your marker along the income track. The income track will grant ongoing victory points when you pass certain markers.
Some cards allow you to gain a recruit token. One of these can be spent to buy any card from the market, not just the one in the matching colour space. Recruit tokens can also be used to help pay for Land cards.
Finally, the bracelet bonus grants a token that can be used to activate the land cards, one bracelet activates the left most column of bonuses above your ship, two tokens activates the left and middle, and you need to pay three bracelets to activate all columns.
Optimising bonuses and buying the right cards at the right time will see you get to 40 points quite quickly!
What it’s like
I love how quickly and easily Knarr can be learnt and taught. It is also fast-paced when playing, so generally takes about half an hour from beginning to end. Although quick, it is not devoid of strategy, and I like the decisions you make during your turn.
You have choices to make as to which card to play and in which order to maximise rewards. Sometimes you find yourself weighing up whether your opponents can buy Land cards before you or whether someone will race away with points from income. However, there isn’t one strategy that guarantees a win, as the luck of which cards come out plays a big part in what options are available to you on your turn.
I really like deciding when to explore lands and when to reap the rewards of my hired crew. Deliberating what bonus I want with what card I will receive and what that will unlock gives the game the much needed depth.
A clever little mechanic in Knarr is when the draw deck runs out. At first the discard pile is shuffled and reused, but if ever you need to draw a card and both the discard and the draw deck are empty, the player with the most cards has to give up a card to replace the empty slot. This stops players squirreling away cards and encourages players to buy Land cards with them. I admired this little game design twist.
Some, may find the gameplay a bit repetitive over multiple plays in quick succession but that hasn’t been my experience with the game. Not only has it hit the table plenty since arriving through the door, but I have played countless times via the digital implementation on Board Game Arena, I’m not even close to being bored of it yet! There are some additional bonus cards to mix in when you have got the hang of the game too.
I admire the twist of stepping away from the plundering and darker side of the Vikings. It could have been any theme, but I am happy looking at the Carrion Antoine illustrations. The landscapes are serene and the portraits characterful.
The components that fit in the small box are good. Nice scoring tokens with symbols that match the income track markers and the figureheads on the individual ship player boards. These player boards do have slots on the sides for the six different tokens, but they are a bit of a squeeze to fit in. I find my fat fingers jog the board and all the Land cards above if I use them, so my tokens go beside the slots. It certainly hasn’t spoilt my enjoyment of the game.
The income track on the central board is also a bit small and fiddly and at four players stacking the cubes can feel a bit like a dexterity mini game! This being so compact makes it difficult for all players to see if they are due any income. The compactness is reflected in the small box though and I appreciate how it all fits nicely inside with little air. The card boxes are perhaps a little too snug for my liking!
The palette isn’t eye catching, but is soft and doesn’t jolt. There are also symbols that will help players with colour vision deficiency which I think is fantastic.
I have read the rulebook, which was smooth and easy to follow. However, I must confess I was taught this game, which always makes learning a game much easier.
Final thoughts on Knarr
Knarr offers some really great things. I particularly like the simple ruleset and the quick playtime, yet still having some things to think about. This mix and weight of game fits my mood quite often, especially during the week, or after lunch on a weekend before getting on with other things. The trouble is, its so good, you’ll end up playing it again! It would also be a great filler game and would transport well too for game meet ups.
I like the art and gameplay, so it’s an easy game to recommend trying. So the burning question is do I like it? To which I reply… Knarr, I love it!
Number of players: 2 to 4
Board Game Review Recommended Age: 10+
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 10+
Playing Time: 30 minutes
Setting Up and Take Down Time: 1 minute
Designers: Thomas Dupont
Publisher: Studio Bombyx
Knarr is a super sleek 30 minute game that works well at all player counts. I am partial to a race for points and this game delivers that in a succinct, yet clever way. I’m impressed!
Artwork and Components
Value for Money
- Great 30 minute filler game
- Race for points
- Nice artwork
- First player chooser
- Gameplay could become repetitive
- Luck of the cards
- The size of the income track
- Not much interaction
Need more games?
If you already own Knarr and enjoy it, or are looking for other inspiration, you might also like these similar games:
- After Us
- Space Base
- Sea, Salt and Paper
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