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(Worth 1,435 Funagain Points!)
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Knockabout is a unique board game which uses dice both as tokens and number generators in a king of the hill positional battle.
Maneuver your army of four-, six-, and eight-sided dice around the board to knock your opponent straight off the map and into the gutter. Each die can move as far as the number on its face. However, a die gets re-rolled whenever it is knocked about by friend or foe. A strategic game of position and calculation.
This game is a simple screen printed felt board and polyhedral dice, but don't be fooled. My preteen (the family strategist) has beaten me several times, and I'm hankering for a re-match. Some luck, but mostly strategy. Great for travel, it can even be setup on a restaurant table and a quick game can be played while waiting for dinner.
Pair-of-Dice games come in a screened felt board in a standard packing tube. While you may get the feeling of a low budget movie, it will win an Oscar in terms of abstract strategy and excitement. Yes abstract fans there are dice and some elements of chance, but this is a game of tactics, not overall stategy. Even pieces knocked out of the game have an influence on play.
After my very positive impressions of Pair-of-Dice games Marvin Marvel's Marvelous Marble Machine and Warp 6, I had high impressions of games made by the company. The next one from this company that I then tried was Knockabout (Pair-of-Dice Games, 2001 - Greg Lam). As with Warp 6, the game uses several different types of dice; as with MMMMM, it simulates marbles rolling around.
Recently, I reviewed Warp 6, and I talked about how all the dice in the game didn't add as much luck as I thought - that the game revolved around strategy. In Knockabout, I'm afraid to say that the opposite is true. Yes, there are tactical decisions to be made in the game, but they are overwhelmed by the rolls of the dice. In the games that I've played the games have been won by the persons who have rolled better numbers on the dice. Rolling the dice I don't have a problem with, but I'm not sure I like how much high rolls affected the game.
The board is in the shape of a giant hexagon, made up of a grid of smaller connecting hexagons. The outer ring of hexes is the "gutter", and each player sets up four four-sided dice, three six-sided dice, and two eight-sided dice on the board, as shown per a diagram in the rules. Each die is placed with a certain number face up - "1", "2", and "3" respectively, and one of the two players is chosen to go first.
On a player's turn, they move one of their dice in a straight line, moving the exact amount of spaces equal to the number showing on the die. The die will continue to move the full amount unless it bumps into another die. When hitting another die, the die that is hit is moved in the same direction as the colliding die, using the remainder of the movement points. It's possible for more than one die to be hit in a move. The last die that is moved in such a collision is re-rolled, gaining new movement capabilities.
When a die lands in the gutter, it no longer moves in a straight line but can simply only move around the outside of the gutter. Dice in the gutter can be maneuvered in such a way as to block other dice from entering the gutter but are otherwise useless. The game continues until one player has knocked five of their opponent's dice into the gutter - at which point they win!
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: As with the other Pair-of-Dice games, the components are inexpensive and of lower quality but functional enough to utilize the game. The board is on a vinyl mat, which works better than the boards in the other games - and wipes off as well - although it looks a little drab. The dice are functional, although they don't really roll as well as I'd like. Everything comes in a plastic snap container, and the entire package is rather cheap to buy online.
2.) Rules: The rules are quite simple and short - only one side of one page, and that's including several diagrams illustrating setup and movement. Teaching the game to others isn't difficult, I simply use the idea of marbles moving around, knocking each other off the board, into the gutter. The theme works fairly well as a teaching tool, although for some it's hard to imagine the dice as marbles.
3.) Tactics: Sometimes it's worth hitting your own die, simply to change the number to a higher one, giving you more maneuverability. Of course, too high of a number, and your die may be stuck, because all of the available moves might cause it to end up in the gutter. There is also a bit of tactical movement in the gutter itself, as you can use pieces to block your own dice from hitting the gutter; but it's not as much as you might think, since you're at the mercy of the number on the die.
4.) Luck: When one of your dice knocks the opponent's dice backwards, almost to the gutter, and then he rolls an "8" with it, hitting you back into your own gutter, it can be rather annoying. Yes, one should take into account the different possibilities, but it's just a little too random for me. In Warp 6, the different numbers on the die often had many good benefits, because smaller numbers could be used to "warp" down a level. In Knockabout, there's really no benefit to a "1", and it really stinks when that's what you roll.
5.) Fun Factor: I won't deny that I enjoyed certain aspects of the game; it's an interesting two player game that plays fairly quickly, and I like knocking the opponent's pieces into the gutter. But every time that I've played so far, we've really had no general strategy (not after the first couple of moves, anyway); it's more like one simply needs move their high numbered pieces to knock the opponent's into the gutter. It's a neat, fun idea, but doesn't hold much water after the novelty wears off.
There will probably be some who enjoy the game - the theme is interesting, and I've always enjoyed using dice as playing pieces. It's simply too random for me; and while this is fortunately mitigated to a degree by how short the game is, it's enough to keep me from frequently playing the game. Moving dice around is satisfied by Warp 6, and the theme is better represented in other abstract games; so this is one that I can pass. An interesting game, but too much luck.
"Real men play board games"
Happy dice are here again! Each player begins with nine dice on a board that consists of 91 hexagonal spaces. Four four-sided dice start with the number one face-up, three six-sided with the two face-up, and two eight-sided with the three face-up. Move one die per turn in a straight line exactly the number of its face-up value. A die that collides with another must stop, thereby transferring its remaining momentum to the die that it hits. The second die behaves similarly, and so on until the last die hit is re-rolled. You win by pushing five enemies into the gutter around the board's perimeter. Dice banished to the gutter never leave, but they may move within it to a spot where they protect friends from being pushed off the board. You'll discover numerous opportunities to surprise and ensnare your opponent, and you'll relish the tempting risks involved in forcing a re-roll of the fiesty dice!