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Knee Jerk | Preview

October 8, 2014
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Designer: Andrew Federspiel | Artist: Mark Major | Publisher: Knapsack Games, 2014 |
Players: 4-8 | Playing time: 10 mins

This is a preview of a non-final prototype. Components, art, and rules described in this preview may change between now and the final, published game.

I feel panicked . . . at the bank . . . because I saw . . . HOW MUCH I SPEND ON KICKSTARTER GAMES! Knee Jerk is a fast paced party game for 4 to 8 players from Andrew Federspiel and Knapsack Games. In Knee Jerk, you and a group of friends will attempt to shout out an appropriate knee jerk reaction to a given scenario. The fastest player to shout out a valid answer gains a point. If more than one person came up with an answer, it is up to the host to determine which answer wins. Really, it’s as simple as that!

Design

The game is comprised of 55 cards and….that’s it. Part of the appeal of Knee Jerk is how portable it is. On each card, there are three colored blocks; the green references an emotion, the blue a location, and the orange leads into the reason why you feel the way you do. By matching the colors with those on the left-hand side of the next card, you get a completely randomized scenario that the other players will respond to. With only 55 cards you are able to generate over 155,000 different scenarios. Good luck trying to play them all!

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Gameplay

The rulebook states that the player wearing the brightest clothing hosts the first game. This poses a problem with our group as we are all fond of vibrant colored V-neck t-shirts. However you decide the host, it is important to understand that this player hosts the whole game.

To begin, shuffle the deck and place it face down in front of the host player, then follow these rules:

  1. The host draws two cards and places them face-up in front of themselves with the green and blue arrows lined up appropriately, then draws an additional three cards from the deck as their hand.
  2. The host chooses one card from their hand and places it to the right of the face-up cards, again matching the green and blue arrows.
  3. The host reads across the three connected cards aloud. Simultaneously, all other players call out made up endings to the scene.
  4. The host awards one point to the player who answered first. If multiple players answer within a few seconds, the host chooses their favorite response. If an answer doesn’t make sense, the host may deny it with reason.
  5. The host gives the left-most card from the current situation to the winner to mark their point and draws a new card from the deck into their hand. The remaining two cards on the table will form the basis of the next situation. The host then repeats steps 2 to 5 again until one player wins:
  • 4 to 5 players = Four points to win
  • 6 to 8 players = Three points to win

The winner of the game becomes the host of the next game. Simple. And, to be honest, keeping score isn’t even necessary.

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Overall Experience

First and foremost, the design of the Knee Jerk cards is exceptional. The mechanic by which 3 cards are chained together to create a completely random scenario is both effortless and innovative. This allows for a huge amount of replayability in only one tuck box of 55 cards. The game also plays in 5-10 minutes, not overstaying its welcome.

The in-game pressure of having to shout out the first thing that comes to your mind will lead to some big laughs and possibly some very embarrassing follow-up conversations. The versatility of the scenarios in Knee Jerk can be tailored as you see fit based on any group on any given night; mandating that answers be “G” rated if kids are present or that your answers can be a bit raunchier if playing with a more “mature” group of friends.

As with most social games (except Battle of the Sexes), scoring matters very little in Knee Jerk. We found most games it was more tedious to keep score, instead just passing the deck around for a good laugh. It’s completely up to you how you utilize Knee Jerk and that’s the best part; it’s a toolkit for creating a quick and memorable social experience no matter what the situation. And it fits in your pocket!

 

LEAGUE RULING

Dan

At first glance, you will immediately be drawn in by the vibrant cards and how elegantly they fit together to form the scenario. The simplicity of it often had me wondering, “Why wasn’t this thought of already?” Gone are the days of lugging around a crate of Cards Against Humanity.  Knee Jerk offers you a compact social experience providing players with a wide array of customization and creativity. For as little as $10, I would highly recommend it to the social gamers out there!

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With Knee Jerk, customizability is the name of the game (…figuratively…). My favorite thing about this portable deck of cards is that you can leave the rulebook at home. Keep score for your gaming group, use a few cards as ice breakers at work, or bring it to the bar and make it Rated-R responses only. Knee Jerk can be whatever you want it to be. For $10, there’s not much reason to pass on it. Inside this vibrant little tuck box is a mechanically sound game with clean graphic design, uber-portability, and a million ways to play.

 

 

The League of Nonsensical Gamers would like to thank Knapsack Games for kindly providing us with a prototype of Knee Jerk for this preview.

Knee Jerk is currently funding over on Kickstarter. If this game piques your interests, head on over to the campaign page by October 15, 2014 to claim your own copy. For $10, you receive a copy of the game along with all reached stretch goals.

Dan H. (Nad)

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF/PODCAST CO-HOST : Allow myself, to introduce myself. Boardgaming since the womb, I have an unsound infatuation with buying, playing, discussing, photographing, and writing about boardgames. As a boardgame aesthetics enthusiast (say that 5 times fast) you'll typically find that I spend a large majority of the game examining the design, art, and components. I prefer strategic eurogames but will play just about anything these days (except Arkham Horror). And I love Pearl Jam.