Knights of the Rainbow
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Knights have assembled from all over to challenge each other using force, magic, and honor. You prosper by your own decision, your own hand. Either you will force your opponents to submit or they will force you to submit to them.
Chivalry is not dead. It's alive and well right here. So color yourself lucky to have found this game. The King awaits his champion.
This card game, co-designed by Alan Moon, is highly enjoyable. You are constantly presented with a lot of very fun choices to make. Sure, the hard core card players will call this light fare, but give it 4 stars for the fun factor! Much better than Bohnanza, if you ask me.
Basically with this game you have 'abilities' according to how many cards you have in your holding of each colour/type. For example if you have the most red/force cards (you can also tie with another player) you get to use that ability which is in this case; to eliminate 2 of your opponents strength chips. Green/strength cards enable you to gain a strength chip, yellow give you gold. Magic/blue cards enable one to swap a card for another of choice in the deck or throw out a card of your opponents (at the expense of one of your own). There is also 'Misfortune' and 'King's Favour' which come up I think at least 6 times in the deck which cause you to make a choice in eliminating 2 strength chips/2 gold, or lose a card. It's the opposite with king's favour. These affect you depending on if you have honour/purple cards, and 'rainbows'.... There is also an opportunity to buy cards etc etc... Confused now? well there was a desparate need for reference cards which would have saved us the continual re-reading of the rules in order to figure which cards did what!
This game had potential as the concepts, the theme and the game mechanics were quite good... but there are two what I believe to be serious failings:
One is that a person can be knocked out of the game very quickly and left to 'twiddle their thumbs' whilst others continue play.
Two; it is almost totally luck-based contrary to the description on the back of the box. A player who is unfortunate enough to not be able to pick up force cards nor strength is often dead within minutes of starting--depending on how competitive the opponents are.
Oh and another thing; the production of the cards wasn't brilliant; the printing out of line and blurred etc... but as someone pointed out; what do you expect for $10?
Oh and this game doesn't work for two players.
Despite the above I actually don't dislike this game; I just think that you have to choose your opponents carefully and expect a light quick game with limited strategy; I was almost going to say that it would be a good game for kids because of this limited stratgey element but I doubt that their tendency for competitiveness would make it work. (Do boys ever grow up? -oompf- sorry).
What use is a Knight without his strength, a little Gold, and his favorite ploys? Get your seven Strength Chips and Gold Coins, and pray you will not find out. The deck has cards in five colors, each representing a special power that you can use at the start of a turn if you hold the most cards in that color. Powers allow you to strengthen or enrich yourself, or weaken others. You declare on your turn if you will reveal one, two, or three cards from the facedown deck, taking one into your collection and discarding any extra. Gold can also be spent at the end of your turn to draw extra cards or to inflict damage on an opponent. Can you cling grimly to at least one Strength Chip while adopting a strategy flexible enough to knock out others by depriving them of all theirs? The last remaining Knight, or the strongest at the end, wins. This is a dazzling, fast-paced joust.
Several years ago, Alan Moon was in the neighbourhood and I was invited to join the Clifford gathering. Out popped an early version of Knights of the Rainbow and we played several 5-player games of it. As far as I could tell (or can remember) it was 'ready for sale' and was one of those games that demanded an instant parting with some cash.
Along comes 1999, the game is published by FX Schmid USA and as a result of a recent visit to America I was able to acquire a copy. The early references on the net were more negative than I expected would be the case, but I thought that they must either be playing a different game or maybe that it had evolved for a non-adult market.
When I scanned the rules I saw a similar game to the one in my memory. Each player gets a choice on their turn to reveal one, two or three cards from a face-down deck. The cards are in several suits, this time in different colours. Yellow is gold, green is your strength, purple is your honour, red is your Force (attacking prowess) and blue is magic.
You choose which of these (up to) three cards to take and add it/them to your collection. Your collected cards are displayed face up, and in suits, in front of you. It is important to stack each suit with the most recently acquired card on the top, for some of the cards have a rainbow symbol and these are important when a misfortune card turns up. When this happens, all visible cards are examined for rainbows when the player with the most is safe and all others get penalised.
If you are the person (either solely or, in many cases, jointly with another) who has the most of a suit when you begin your turn you get the benefit of that colour. Some of these benefits are straightforward--yellow earns you gold, green adds more strength (defence) and red enables you to reduce the strength of others. Purple cards only give benefit when someone draws a King's Favour card but then the benefit is substantial. The player the with the most blue cards gets either to trade a card or to destroy a card of an opponent.
At this stage you might be thinking that this sounds pretty good. Each colour has something special and during play you have to decide on which colour and against which opponent to focus your efforts. But there is a weak point, which is "why you would draw anything but three cards?". Clearly, there is a pacing aspect--the game uses the familiar Wertung device in the form of a Long live the King card--but otherwise why limit your choice to less than 3 cards? You have been given a choice, but the choice you make always seems to be both obvious and the same.
Maybe there's something I've missed in the games we played, but the games so far do not recreate the enjoyment I got from the play test session years before. In an attempt to 'correct' this, I devised a variant to try to get back to the game I had played. When a player decides how many cards to take, they turn them one at a time. As each card is revealed, any player--not just the player whose turn it is--gains the benefit of that colour. This means that you need to consider how many you reveal as this could impact several other players. However, only turning up one card limits your choice of card. With this rule the game feels closer to the original version that I remember, but I have checked with Alan and he confirms that the game in the rule book is was what was intended. So much for my memory.
As it stands, I would not recommend Knights of the Rainbow, but somewhere in there is a game that is good and well worth parting with your money for.