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Nine Knights

Designed by professional Go player and grandmaster Lee Sedol, and published by Korea Boardgames, Nine Knights is one of a series of abstract strategy games published under the WIZSTONE imprint. Tho' all the WIZSTONE games are said to be inspired by Go, elements of Nine Knights may be more reminiscent of Stratego (Jumbo Games/Hasbro), and certainly this is a game that will appeal to the legions of gamers who have grown up with Stratego and its predecessor L'Attaque (Gibsons Games).

Nine Knights is played on a 9 x 10 square board. Each player has, unsurprisingly, nine knight figures. These all move in the same way - one square in any direction, like a King in Chess - but you'll have three each of three different designs: archer, warrior and ranger. Players assign a number (1-9) to each of their knights, positioned so that only they can see their own knights' numbers. The only rules for this is that each group of three numbers (1-3, 4-6, 7-9) must contain one of each type of knight. Players also select a number (1-5) as their secret objective: there are only five tokens, so you know that the number you have can't also be your opponent's secret objective. Players then take turns to place out six of their knights, leaving the other three as reserves. Finally, the numbers 1-9 are randomly assigned to both end ranks.

The object of the game is to get your correspondingly numbered knight to the number on your opponent's end rank that you chose as your hidden number. Alternatively, you win by eliminating all the opposing knights. When a knight's move is into a square held by an opponent's knight, they do battle by revealing and comparing their numbers. In most cases, the higher number wins and the defeated piece is removed but, as you might guess, there are exceptions...

  • If the numbers are the same, the attacker wins.

  • If the difference between the two numbers is only 1, the defender wins and it's the attacking piece that's removed.

  • Knight #1 beats knight #9.

  • If the knight matching your secret objective number is up against knight #8, you can reveal your hidden objective and it's the #8 knight that is removed.

There's more: for each of the first three knights that are removed, you get to bring on one of the knights you had in your reserve. Finally, when you defeat a knight with another of the same type, the defeated knight 'defects' to your side, complete with its previously hidden number. It gets added to your reserve and can be brought on in the same way as your original three reserves. If the defected knight happens to have the number you chose as your secret objective, it can be used to win you the game.

Nine Knights then is a heady mix of tactical positioning, deduction, bluffing, misdirection and memory. It's attractively presented by Korea Boardgames, with chunky minis for each of the knights, and it's a two-player game that plays quickly: most of our plays at Board's Eye View have run to around 20 minutes. The exception rules may sound initially fiddly but they are very soon assimilated, and Nine Knights is a game that will have abstract strategy gamers returning for more.

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