[Note: I received a free copy of this game in exchange for a fair, unbiased review. Due diligence, full disclosure, and all that.]
You can easily lose yourself in a Celtic knot design if you stare long enough. Elaborate unbroken paths, formed within circles, crosses, and other shapes, weave together in compelling patterns.
There are many dice games on the market today, but none of them capture the same intricate flow and beauty found in Celtic knots. Except for one, that is, which just so happens to be the subject of today’s review: Knot Dice.
[The six faces of a Knot die. Top row: end-cap, chain, branch;
Bottom row: sharp corner, rounded corner, crossing.]
In the puzzle game Knot Dice, you have eighteen identical six-sided dice featuring a different pattern on each face of the die. In order to form a completed design — in either one dimension or three dimensions — a solver uses the patterns on each face to form unbroken paths.
You can create designs both simple and complex as you play around with these gorgeous dice. I’ve seen players just freeform different patterns as they explore the potential of the dice in front of them, their imagination coming to life as they tinker with all six sides.
There are two rulebooks included, one for single-player puzzles, and the other for single-player and multi-player games that utilize both the dice and a small selection of tokens.
The puzzles center around completing designs by moving dice, sliding them, or rotating them, depending on the puzzle, and many of the puzzles begin with starting patterns provided by the game designer. These puzzles are simple and quite elegant, making wonderful use of the various patterns on each die.
The games are a bit more inventive, many of them centered around Celtic history and mythology. Whether you’re collaborating with other players to build elaborate knotworks, racing to complete different knots, or capturing your opponent’s token, there are numerous clever and creative ways to employ the patterned dice to their fullest potential. (There’s even a game board and a score sheet included in the rulebook.)
And those possibilities only expand when you incorporate Knot Dice Squared, a second set of dice that offer new puzzle opportunities and game options for solo solving and multi-player engagement.
Designed to work in conjunction with the original Knot Dice, Knot Dice Squared offers 26 dice with fresh patterns to create more elaborate designs and more involved gameplay styles.
Unlike the dice in the base game with their standard six-sides, the dice in the expansion consist of four types of knot dice: crossed, squared, rounded, and bridge. Not all of these dice line up perfectly with the originals, meaning you have to be more creative to complete the various designs as presented. This adds a delightful new wrinkle to each of the games already familiar to Knot Dice solvers.
It cannot be overstated how beautiful these dice are. They’re arguably the best part about this game. Whether you’re using the classic green shading or the alternate blue dice (pictured below), the richness of color makes the intricate patterns pop, drawing the eye immediately.
The original game took almost a year to deliver to Kickstarter backers, and much of that time was spent making sure that the mass-produced dice for the game met the high standards of Matthew O’Malley’s early designs. He wanted the dice to be vivid, polished, and usable for the numerous puzzles and games that had been devised for the set. That rigorous attention to detail and demand for perfection has clearly paid off; it’s obvious in the dice, the packaging, the rulebooks, and the overall presentation of the entire product.
The end result is a truly eye-catching game as fun to look at as it is to play.
Knot Dice and Knot Dice Squared take a step back from traditional dice games, injecting a patient, methodical, aesthetic style of puzzly engagement to the usual luck-of-the-draw rolling. By doing so, it puts a new twist on the genre, allowing for fluid gameplay and design that appeals to both puzzlers and game fans alike.
[Knot Dice and Knot Dice Squared are available from Black Oak Games and will be part of this year’s upcoming Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide, launching in a few weeks!]
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