Author: Reiner Knizia

Publisher: Ravensburger 2003

Awards: none



Because of the strong presence of this game in various media and a quite resourceful commercial campaign by RAVENSBURGER I had become really interested in playing this game, and thus I was quite happy to finally get a chance to do so. Apart from this initial curiosity, I also wanted to find out whether the game actually would hold the promise of the publisher that it would be the first boardgame with electronic intelligence. I still remember the old MB game Atlantis (Dark Tower) which was released about 20 years ago and which also made use of electronic parts, and thus I wanted to see whether King Arthur really would be much better.

The aim of the game is clearly set right at the beginning: to become worthy to pull the sword Excalibur from the Stone and thus become King of England. To become worthy, a player needs to collect a total of 40 points of fame and a Knight's equipment: A Lance, a Horse and a Shield.

Basic components of the game are the gameboard with the electronic device and the 4 Knight figures which are the playing pieces, a deck of 45 resource cards (15 each of Sword, Shield and Rations), and about 20 special adventure cards which show characters which might join the players or special items which might be found.

At the beginning, each player starts with 10 points of fame and furthermore one Sword, one Shield and one Rations card. Setting out from the place of the Sacred Stone, the players in turn may move from place to place on the gameboard, and whenever they have come to a new place they may position their playing piece over the electric circuits in the gameboard so that they may "explore" the new site by putting one of their fingers on an interaction button.

In many cases, the player now will meet one of the different characters who can be met in the game, and he will hear the character's voice speaking from the electronic device while at the same time a number is displayed by the device. This number can be cross-referenced with the frame around the gameboard which shows images of all the characters which can be met by the players, thus giving the players some knowledge on how the character looks like.

In the following interaction phase many things might happen: an attack by a Knight, a meeting with a Prophetess or a Druid, an ambush by a Dragon etc. During these phases the player at some instances will be asked how he will react to the situation, and by pushing the corresponding button he may chose to react friendly, to attack, to flee, to ignore the stranger or to agree to a trade which is offered. Depending on how the player has reacted, he now will either loose or gain resource cards or points of fame.

If a player has collected enough resource cards, he may visit a Castle and buy one of the three pieces of Knightly Equipment which he needs to win the game, and furthermore resource cards may also be exchanged for "Pendragon Banners" which - in turn - can be changed into points of fame as well.

Sometimes an interaction on the gameboard will cause a special result, and this will mean that the player will be asked to add one of the special adventure cards to his hand. Thus, a player may be joined by Sir Lancelot or a beautiful Princess, or he may find a Golden Sword or a Dragon's Treasure Trove. These cards then can be used like normal resource cards, with the exception that the usually are worth more than just one resource. Thus, these cards are useful for hoarding a few resources, since a player only is allowed to hold a maximum of 8 cards on his hand.

As for interaction between the players, it might also happen that a player may find a special Potion. If he then gets onto the same space as another character, he may drink the potion and this usually will allow him to take some resource cards from the other player.

As indicated above, the players need 40 points of fame and all 3 pieces of a Knight's Equipment. The first player who has fulfilled these conditions and returns to the Stone will have won the game.

As a matter of fact, King Arthur was a game which was quite difficult to evaluate. Because of all the announcements which had been made about the game in the last months I had quite high hopes as to the quality of the new game, especially considering that Reiner Knizia actually did the design of the playing mechanism. When playing the game however I soon had to discover that the game certainly has its limits.

While the basic playing mechanism as outlined above works fine and smoothly, the game somehow lacks real depth concerning the gameplay. Encounters with characters usually are held rather short, and apart from a few interactive elements (which are quite easy to guess at) the game does not offer too many choices for the players and even less interaction between the players. The game is rather straightforward and for the players it is simply a mater of time (not really strategy) until they will have collected all the items needed to become King.

Furthermore, the handling of the game itself may be a bit tricky. The games works perfect in about 90 percent of all cases, but a friend of mine who has rather dry skin on his hands couldn't use the interaction elements of the gameboard although he did try many times. In the end, it was me who did make all moves for him since my hands seemed to be perfect to operate the gaming functions. Apart from this, one major disturbance was caused by the programming of the electronic device itself: Merlin, the loyal advisor of the players, always will direct the players to certain places where they can collect free resource cards or free points of fame, and because the gameboard is comparatively short players usually could travel to these places within a maximum of two turns. When the places were reached, Merlin already gave another hint for just another of these rewards, and this resulted in the players often running around and simply collecting Merlin's rewards. This turn of events certainly was quite dissatisfactory.

To sum it up, I would say that King Arthur is a game which is best suitable for children at ages between 8 and 15 years. The children will have great fun with the interactive elements and the voices and sounds comming from the electronic device, and for them the game will have a very high entertainment factor, thus making it a perfect family game. The game certainly can make a stand for itself if compared with MB's old Atlantis, but if you keep in mind that Atlantis is 20 years older (!!!) you cannot refuse the conclusion that the new game does not mean a great jump forwards for the gaming industry. As a matter of fact, I was rather irritated by the fact that the over 30 different characters which can be met in the game all are represented by about 4 different speakers. Since the electronic device has enough storage capacity for the voice recordings, I cannot understand why RAVENSBURGER did not use a few more different voices in the game. Also, despite the fact that Reiner Knizia himself has worked out the playing mechanisms, the game still remains somewhat superficial and will not have too much appeal to any grown-up gamers.

Kulkmann's home brewed King Arthur Rules:

  • Get out a dice and assign certain "difficulty numbers" for moving between two spaces. If the player rolls less than the difficulty number, then he may not make the move and is held up (i.e. he misses a turn).
  • Whenever Merlin hints at freely available points of fame or equipment, roll a dice and place it it the location he indicated. Reduce the number on the dice by 1 each turn and remove the dice when reaching zero. Only after the dice has been removed the place my be entered. However, the place may not be entered by the player who had been awarded something at the last place Merlin indicated.
These rules-suggestions should remove at least two flaws of the game: the short distances on the gameboard and Merlin's attitude to give away too many things for free.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

[Gamebox Index]


Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany