We always get excited when we get our hands on any new sports related board game, and those that deal with pugilism are among are favorites. As most board game players know, the first thing necessary before attempting to play a new game is to give a quick read of the rules. Well, after reading the rules for “Knockout,” we immediately knew that we had a winner, and we could not play soon enough. In fact, our first game was played between 1:30 am and 2:00 am on a Wednesday evening. I easily won over another sports fan on the Toys Bulletin staff, and we were hooked.
That next day, we played 5 more times, and each time we got smarter about the game and loved it even more. “Knockout” is basically a two player game (2 boxers in the ring), but Victory Point Games (VPG) has also added some optional rules for playing with 3 or 4 players. The game is suggested for ages 13 years old and up, and a typical game lasts around 30 minutes or so.
The game contents include a game board, measuring 11″ x 17″, which is, of course, mainly a boxing ring. There are 4 boxer standees, 4 boxer markers, 8 championship belt tokens, a ring bell card, 55 game cards (48 regular cards, 6 pep cards and 1 player aid card) and a rule book. In a typical 2 player game, each player places their boxer standee on the “hit tracker” number 8 on opposite sides of the game board, just outside the ring. The “hit tracker” is used to record each boxers relatively strength as the fight progresses. As a fighter is hit during the contest, his boxer standee moves to the next lower number, until the boxer eventually gets hit enough to be knocked out.
To begin play, the regular game cards are shuffled and 8 cards are dealt to each player (boxer). The remaining cards form a draw pile. The number of cards that can be held by a player always corresponds to the “hit tracker” number for that particular boxer. Once the cards are dealt, players alternate turns in the ring. During each turn, a boxer can do one of the following…(1) he can attack or move, (2) he can defend himself or (3) he can draw one or two cards from the draw pile, but only up to his limit as determined by the “hit tracker” number.
There are three types of cards that can be played. There are defense cards (parry, move or counter), attack cards (punch, cross, jab, move & punch, move & cross and haymaker) plus one type of neutral card (move only). Many of the playing cards also list the strength of a certain punch, number of hits it might deliver and any type of defense that cannot be used against this type of card.
The ring is the battleground and it contains a 5 x 5 grid of 25 squares. Boxers start in the middle of the ring and based on card play, a boxer moves, attacks or defends in response to cards played by their opponent. Boxers must be in a square adjacent to their opponent before they can attack, and as cards are played and the number of cards in hand begins to drop, it may be time to draw some replacement cards by first moving away from an opponent (taking a breather). On the other hand, by playing a continuous series of strong attack cards, an opponent may run out of defense cards and be forced to take a solid hit. When a hit is registered, that boxer moves down to the next lower number on the “hit tracker”, their hand is reduced by one card and they are one step closer to a knockout.
Here is an example of a typical exchange that leads to a hit. Boxer A has 8 cards in his hand, while Boxer B is down to 5. It is Boxer A’s turn, and he is standing directly in a square adjacent to Boxer B. Boxer A has a great selection of cards, including 4 attack cards (Jab strength 1, Punch strength 2, Move & Punch strength 1 and Haymaker strength 4), along with 4 defensive move cards which require no strength rating. Boxer B has 2 Jab cards, each with a strength of 1, 2 parry (blocking) cards with ratings of 1 and 1 move card which as mentioned requires no strength rating. In order to defend an attack of any kind, the opponent’s defense cards must equal or exceed the strength rating of the punches thrown, or a move card can be played to simply escape from the action.
Here is my punch by punch description……Boxer A throws his Punch strength 2, but Boxer B defends by using his 2 parry cards (each with a rating of 1). Now, Boxer A sees that Boxer B is down to just 3 cards, and decides to throw the Haymaker strength 4 and make him pay. Boxer B surprises Boxer A by playing a move card , moving backward one space, and not only avoids the haymaker, but puts himself out of range for just a moment. But Boxer A now senses some weakness as Boxer B is down to just 2 cards. Despite the fact that Boxer B is one space out of range, Boxer A plays his Move & Punch strength 1 card, which allows Boxer A to move one space and punch on the same turn. He correctly figures that Boxer B is out of defensive cards and he is right. He first moves into position and then lands the punch squarely on the jaw of Boxer B and registers a hit.
Because Boxer A played a relentless series of attack cards, Boxer B had no chance to retreat and draw new cards from the draw pile. Had Boxer B been able to move another time or two, he might have been able to regroup and get himself back in the match. As this match progressed, Boxer B, with a “hit tracker” number of only 4, was knocked out fairly quickly. A knockout is registered when the “hit tracker” goes down to 3 cards.
Whenever the draw pile is exhausted during a match, that signals the end of a round, and the used cards are reshuffled along with any cards remaining in the boxers’ hands. Cards are redealt, based on the current “hit tracker” number and the fight continues. However, the boxer with the lower “hit tracker” number gets to draw and use one of the six pep cards (powerful cards for attacking and defending) anytime during the next round. It is kind of a reward for surviving the previous round. Basically, after the mandatory 60 second rest between rounds, the weaker fighter comes out rejuvenated. The championship belt tokens are used for tournament play to reward the winners, the ring bell card can be used to keep track of whose turn it is and the player aid card has all of the potential actions and card types explained on one simple card.
We obviously loved this game. We will be playing “Knockout” often and we see boxing tournaments in our future. “Knockout” can be purchased for $25.99 directly from the Victory Point Games website.