Monday, September 11, 2023

Is Wurfel Bingo with more stuff worth it?


I’m surprised that I’d only first heard of Knaster a few weeks ago. It seems to be an intentional sequel to Wurfel Bingo/High Score/Knister. Finding Wurfel Bingo was a watershed moment for me as a gamer. 

Like Wurfel Bingo, Knaster is a Roll and Write that follows the Take It Easy paradigm. Everyone has their own play sheet and uses the same die rolls. Which has become a pretty common design, to be fair.

Take a five-by-five grid. Roll two dice each turn. You can either write their sum in a blank square or, if you already have that number on your grid, you can circle it. The game ends when the grid is full. You get points for each circle and for having complete rows, columns and diagonals of circles.

And if that was all there was, Knaster would be boring, even tedious. However, if you complete a line with numbers and form a poker had like a straight or five of a kind, you get bonus circles you can use anywhere on the grid.

And the poker hands are what make Knaster work as a game. That mechanic gives players a little bit of control and makes number placement actually have some meaning. That mechanic is what actually creates choices.

I went into Knaster with very, very low expectations. I was expecting a Wurfel Bingo with more randomness and twice as many turns. Instead, I found a decent little game. That poker mechanic I keep harping on makes the play entertaining.

In fact, I like Knaster more than Wurfel Bingo. Which isn’t as big a component as it might sound. Wurfel Bingo was pretty cool when I first played it (Take It Easy in two dice!?) but it hasn’t aged well. Mostly because there’s so many games that have explored and expanded that design space in the last several years.

Which brings me to the real question: is Knaster actually any good?

This gives me an excuse to pull out an analogy. I’ve been wanting to use. It is a fast food hamburger of a game. You know what you’re getting, it delivers that, you enjoy it, but it’s not special. There are a lot of Roll and Writes out there. Knaster does its thing pretty well but there’s plenty of better games out there.

I am happy I’ve learned Knaster. It is going to go into rotation for me. And if you play it, it will be a pleasant little diversion. But, yeah, there’s better Roll and Writes out there, even if you just want a coffee break.

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