Die Glücksritter (The Lucky Knight) is a quick, simple game for 3-6 players about a competition to build a castle the quickest. The game is played in rounds where each player secretly and simultaneously selects which 2 of the 6 possible actions he or she wishes to perform. These actions can be either building a wall or tower, gaining money, receiving a special card or sending your Knight on a raid. The trick is that its usually better if you are the only player to select a particular action. For example if you're the only one to hire Builder Johann he will sell you a section of wall for four Ducats. However if there are others seeking his help it'll cost you six Ducats instead. Therefore the game revolves around trying to outguess your opponents as to where they're going. Do you visit the Master Craftsmen in order to drive the price up or do you send the Black Knight on a raid knowing (hoping) that no-one else wants to hire him? The game continues until someone is able to build a complete castle: four walls and four towers.
The components are the usual good quality German fare, the walls and towers are sturdy wooden pieces with a nice feel to them. The cards are full-sized and functional. (They're all text and in German so a cheat sheet or stickers will need to be fashioned. I'd really recommend affixing stickers to the cards themselves. The game is light enough that it deserves to be played fairly quickly and I've always found that referring to a translation sheet to be a pain.) The board itself is workmanlike though uninspired. There are areas for each of the six actions as well as courtyards for you to construct your castle. I think that it could have been much better designed, as it is it works fine but doesn't really add anything to the experience.
At first glance the decisions are usually pretty easy, if you've got money then buy a wall or tower, if you don't then head to either of the money piles. If someone is in the lead or has a lot of money then hire the Knight or get a card from the Monk. The trick is that because these are the "obvious" moves they're not necessarily the "best" moves. Knowing what your opponents will do is a very distinct advantage in this game and so doing something unpredictable can be a good move. All in all the game moves along fairly quickly with all players involved throughout. Timing and outguessing become the important factors in the game. We often found that a player would somehow manage a couple of back to back moves that virtually guaranteed him the win. It wasn't always that obvious when this was happening though and so its wise to keep your eye on your opponents situation.
We played the game several times both as a three-player and a four-player game. The most surprising thing was how much faster a three-player game was. With four players the game took about 45 minutes, with three it was down to about 15 and sometimes as low as 10! The reasons are fairly obvious: there is just as much money in a three-player game and the prices are usually cheaper. One problem however, is that it is much more susceptible to wild swings of luck. If two of the players duplicate their choices a couple of times the third player will more than likely run off with the game. While this would kill a game that took an hour or more it's virtually a non-problem in a game that takes 15 minutes.
One of the problems I face when playing a game for review is the question of how many times you play it before forming an opinion. Even the very best games can be the victim of "strange luck" where it just doesn't work properly. With this in mind I always want to play as many times as possible so that the effects of such a freak occurrence are minimized. The biggest problem this presents is what to do when you've played a game several times and you've hated it each time. Building up the enthusiasm gets quite difficult. Fortunately, this wasn't the case with Die Glücksritter but a slight variation DID arise. The game is listed as being from 3-6 players. Prior to playing it I had heard that the game was good with four, alright (at best) with five and terrible with six. As I've already stated I played the game with both three and four players and I enjoyed both varieties. My suspicion is that the game indeed wouldn't work very well with either five or six but I wouldn’t want to say it outright until I’ve actually played it with that many. The problem seems to be that with ten or twelve actions a turn being chosen it's almost guaranteed that every one will be chosen and so a lot of the tension and interest of the game is lost. The most obvious solution (if indeed this is a problem) would be to only select a single action per player when playing with this number. I'll leave it to someone else to test this variant.
Overall, I like this game. It's nothing spectacular but it is a quite enjoyable diversion. The decisions to be made are not too difficult but it's not entirely mindless either. While I enjoyed the game with four, at 45 minutes its close to being too long for what it is. The three-player version just whips along and will probably be how I'll be playing this game from now on.
- Greg Aleknevicus