A recent acquisition was this small format game of boxing from Victory Point Games. KNOCKOUT is a two player game where two players enter the square circle and resolve bouts by playing a limited series of cards that have some degree of interaction with each other.
The game is absurdly simple in concept and easy to learn. Two players enter into the ring which is a simple square grid regulating movement.
There are four boxer figures in the game, provided for variety’s sake, I assume, since the game can’t really be played with four (unless you are using the “Boxing Frenzy” variant (optional), which I haven’t done so far for lack of 2 more players). These are printed in the new style from VPG, rather thick and chunky so they are quite sturdy.
The players start with their two figures with a square distance between them and their health markers on the strongest setting. Their actions are executed (as you might have guessed already) by playing any one of three types of cards– Attack, Defense and Neutral. Neutral is Movement without attack. Defense is playing a Counter, Parry or Move (away from the attack). Attack is more complex with Punch, Cross, Jab, Move & Punch, Move & Cross, and Haymaker.
Move & Attack cards are pretty much what you think– move 1 square and perform a slightly weaker attack. Each attack and defense move is rated for strength, which is how the cards interact with each other– measuring the strength of the Defense against Attack. If you can’t avoid a hit you take one damage, if you can’t avoid a haymaker you take two points. The Round ends when the deck runs out and is reshuffled, and the player down by the most hit points gets a special pep card that balances his position somewhat.
Game play was hesitant at first as we tried to figure out what the interactions were. Once you get the hang of it you can finish a round in 15 minutes or less. KNOCKOUT isn’t the most complex game ever made but it plays very quickly and is very engaging. My son and I played it for six games back to back on the first attempt. His response was “I have nothing but praise for this game, that was entertaining”. Not bad praise for a 15 year old addicted to Halo.
There’s some additional extended “campaign” style rules which amount to “play a lot of matches and count the wins”, plus the four man variant mentioned above. I didn’t bother with that, I just played a lot of 2 man matches.
The artwork, as I have alluded to above, is pretty good. I think the graphics are a little dark and over-stylized, but I can see what the artists intent was– to evoke a turn of the 20th century bare-knuckle bout. The other components are splendid– big, chunky, puzzle-piecey, VPG has really come a long way in recent years.
In summary, Knockout is a good time, not expense, and plays very quickly. It’s easy to teach as well. The number of decisions are limited to the cards in your hand, and that seems fitting– I’ve not played that many boxing simulations (or any, come to think of it), but the two wrestling games that I know of Wrasslin! and Main Event Wrestling play with cards and do a fair job of portraying the give and take of a bout. I imagine Knockout compares favorably to Jab! but I haven’t played the latter yet. Play it as an entry level or filler game, or just a little testosterone-laden entertainment. You’ll be glad you did.