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Reviews - Knock Down, Drag Out
 
by Demian Katz


Knock Down, Drag OutKnock Down, Drag Out: The Wild West Saloon Fighting Game (2010)
Published by Interaction Point Games
Designed by Nate Christen and Brent Evanger
Illustrated by Alejandro Gutierrez Franco
Layout by Brent Evanger
Contents: 54 cards, 1 six-sided die, instructions
3-10 players
$14.99

As the title says, Knock Down, Drag Out is a simple simulation of a saloon fight. Armed only with a character and an initial hand of three cards, everyone tries to knock out the other players, then toss them from the bar! Each turn, players have several options, but they can choose only one per turn: they can draw three more cards into their hand; attack as many players as they want (though only one attack per target per turn); bring a new object into play (and use it at the same time); or pick up an object (or unconscious player) from the floor (represented by the middle of the table). They can also try to recover consciousness or health, if injured. Most importantly, they can toss another player from the bar (assuming they're holding the unconscious player and have the appropriate card).

The heart of the game is, of course, attacking, and most of the cards in the deck support this goal. There are many basic kicks and punches, plus a variety of more exciting moves like "swing from chandelier". There are also a handful of objects that can be used as weapons, from broken table legs to pool cues and bottles. Attacking is simple. First, you play an attack card (or activate an attack object) which has a target number. Next, you roll the die, and if you beat the target number, your victim takes damage. The first point of damage turns over the character's card from the healthy side to the wounded side – these depict each brawler in a comical, freshly roughed-up pose. The next point of damage sends the player into unconsciousness on the "floor" at the center of the table. Of course, a handful of defensive cards may protect your intended target – playing possum, for example, can completely neutralize an attack, or a well-timed duck can redirect the damage to another hapless player.

The game's die is useful for more than just attacking – it is also crucial to recovery. When taking a "recover" action, a wounded or unconscious player recovers by one level on a roll of 5 or 6. If an unconscious player is being held by another player, regaining consciousness allows them to escape automatically and avoid the dreaded tossing. Although a two-out-of-six chance of recovery seems pretty brutal, you'd be surprised how often the game keeps going after repeated knock-downs. It doesn't hurt that at least one item (of an alcoholic nature, of course) exists to aid recovery. One game even ended in a draw because two surviving brawlers felt they were stuck in an infinite loop of falling and recovering!

Stalemates aside, the game normally continues until only one player remains standing. Scoring is simple: the last player standing gets three points. Anyone who tossed out other players gets one point per player tossed. High score wins.

Conclusions
At a glance, this doesn't seem like it should be a successful game. For one thing, there isn't a lot of variety. Other than illustrations and names, the characters are all the same, and interesting special cards are significantly outnumbered by basic attacks and "toss out" cards. Artwork is sometimes recycled between cards by using different snippets of the same large paintings. The mechanics are somewhat unsophisticated, with a heavy random element and the aforementioned chance of tedious repetition. In action, though, all of these flaws hardly matter. Sure, there are a lot of ways the game could be improved, but it's a perfect case of theme overwhelming what might otherwise be bland mechanics. You just can't help enjoying swinging from chandeliers and bashing people repeatedly with table legs. It goes by quickly in a blur of amusing chaos, and it supports up to ten players – always a good thing to have around in case of emergency! You won't do a lot of deep thinking, but you'll probably have a laugh or two. If you're looking for a new filler game to kill odd bits of time here and there, Knock Down, Drag Out is well worth a try.

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