Knarr Review

Knarr Review

Build your band of Vikings and set sail to explore and expand your influence. You’ll sail your “knarr”, a type of merchant Viking ship, and recruit a crew of Vikings, earning goods and building a fortune. Let’s check out why Knarr from Pandasaurus Games has been such a big hit at our game table.

Your Band of Vikings

Building your band of Vikings is the cornerstone of this engine-building, card drafting game. Each Viking card in Knarr represents a different class. You’ll start the game with two random Vikings in your tableau and three Vikings in your hand. On your turn you can “Recruit” OR “Explore”.

Knarr Viking band

When you Recruit a new Viking, you’ll add a card from your hand to the tableau. Viking cards come in five different colors and have an asset at the top of their card. When you place a Viking into your tableau, you’ll add them to vertical columns by color. As you add Vikings to these vertical columns, you’re earning victory points, reputation, common recruits, and silver bracelets.

You’ll then draft a new Viking card below the central board, based on the color of the Viking that you played. By spending a “recruit” token, you can take any Viking available below the central board. You’ll always end your turn with three cards in your hand for the next turn.

Knarr player hand

By taking the Explore action, you’ll add a Trading Lands card from above the central board. You’ll discard Viking cards from your tableau, meeting the requirement of the Trading Lands card. Most of these cards give you an immediate bonus of assets. This new card will be added above your ship board.

Set Sail for Exploration

As you add new Trading Lands cards to your display, you’ll open up trade routes that can be activated at the end of your turn. The three trade route lines above your ship can be activated using bracelets that you’ve collected during the game. Curating a nice collection of trade routes are the perfect way to spend your bracelets at the end of your turn.

Knarr trade routes

Players are ultimately trying to be the first to 40 victory points. The Trading Lands cards can offer a large boost in victory points and can be useful to put distance between you and your opponents.

On the central board of Knarr is a reputation track where players earn victory points that trigger every round. This reputation track is really lucrative for players who lean into this asset. At its highest value, you can earn 5 victory points each round at the start of your turn.

Knarr central board

A Race to Victory

I played Knarr in February and immediately connected with the game. Earning assets as you build your band of Vikings is really satisfying. There’s a balance that players have to find as they build their tableau and eventually spend their Viking cards to Explore.

The more Vikings of a single color that a player Recruits, the more assets they earn. To stay competitive, players want to watch their opponents and what Vikings they’re playing. Knarr is a race to 40 points and there are plenty of avenues to get there.

Knarr score tokens

Recruit and bracelet tokens are limited to 3 of each for each player. These limited resources are earned and spent from round-to-round. The reputation track stands to award a lot of points, but is most effective when you start climbing this track early in the game.

Knarr’s gameplay is snappy and turns move quickly around the table. The artwork from Antoine Carrion is fantastic. The Trading Lands cards have a variety of epic illustrations that are so fitting for this game. I really love the attention to detail that went into making each class of Viking feel unique. I’ve gotten sidetracked more than once just starring at these cards during a game.

Knarr exploration cards

Knarr also comes with an artifact card variant that players can introduce to the game. During setup, a random artifact card is chosen for the game. At the end of a players turn, they can earn the reward on the card by meeting the criteria on this card.

Final Thoughts

The Viking theme of Knarr is not one that I’m immediately drawn to. The beautiful artwork was the original reason I was drawn into the game, but Knarr has really impressed me with the fluid the game plays. We easily fit 2 games into an hour and players are usually asking for back-to-back games.

Whether or not you enjoy the Viking theme, Knarr is an excellent card game that looks beautiful on the table. Building a strong engine of Vikings is really satisfying. Pulling ahead of your opponents on the score track after a big exploration is even better. Knarr is easily one of our favorite card games of this year.

Knarr is available at your local game store, from the Pandasuarus webstore or online through Amazon.

This game was provided to us by the publisher for review. Read more about our review policies at One Board Family.

Highs

  • Gorgeous artwork and illustrations
  • Satisfying engine-building
  • A lot of game in a small box

Lows

  • Letting a player gain too many cards of a single color can be brutal

Complexity

2 out of 5

Time Commitment

1.5 out of 5

Replayability

3.5 out of 5

Ryan Gutowski

I'm a huge fan of strategy games and pretty much anything that involves "city building". My love of board games goes back to my childhood and passion for building relationships with others.

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