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Knizia Game Round-up: Judge Classic Art, Stack Stocky Sticks, and Pick a Pen Again and Again

by W. Eric Martin

Time for a round-up of games from one Reiner Knizia, a game designer who is famously prolific, especially when it comes to re-purposing past designs to fit current demands. To wit:

• On April 14, 2023, CMON will release Knizia’s Classic Art, a re-working of 1996’s Members Only that was previously re-released in 2010 as Glenn’s Gallery.

Here’s an overview of the title, which unlike those previous games includes rules for play with two, albeit in a way that can be retroactively added to those games:

The International Art Gala is inviting leading galleries and their curators to contribute classic art pieces towards their event. It is time for these savvy art connoisseurs to put their money where their mouths are and predict which works of art will attract the largest crowds and inspire them.

Classic Art is a competitive game of prediction in which 2-5 players take on the role of curators striving to assemble the best art collections. Each season, players must anticipate the number of famous artworks to be featured in each of the five exhibitions. Only the most intuitive curators will be decorated with prestige by the savants of the art world.

Aside from the two-player variant, the only difference in these designs is that Members Only and Glenn’s Gallery give each player a “double bid” token that pays out twice as much for a correct bid, whereas Classic Art gives each player an additional prediction token and allows players to make a double bid once per season by placing two tokens in a single space.

• Dutch publisher 999 Games has announced a trilogy of roll-and-write titles from Knizia, with all of the Pick a Pen games using the same playing method, one that will also appear in the 2023 release Takenokolor from Antoine Bauza and Corentin Lebrat.

On a turn, the active player rolls five colored pencils, then drafts one of them and uses it to color spaces on their individual player sheet. Each other player in turn drafts a pencil and uses it. Pencils show symbols on their different sides, and the symbols on top of the chosen pencil determine what players do on their sheets.

—In Pick a Pen: Crypten, you want to fill in as many rows and columns as possible in an ancient crypt. You must progress in a row from left to right. When you fill a row, you can color in a symbol of your choice — and if you color a bold-framed symbol with the correct color, you can color another symbol as a bonus. Fill three spaces in a row or column with the same color, and you get a 3-point bonus; place every color in a row or column, and you score 5 bonus points instead.

When one player has filled all of their symbols, the game ends, and whoever has the most points wins.

Pick a Pen: Crypten includes three difficulty levels of player sheets, with different bonuses and effects on these sheets.

—Each sheet in Pick a Pen: Riffen shows colored dive locations in the reefs. You can have only one route per color, so if you don’t yet have a route of that color, you start one at an empty dive location; otherwise, you extend your existing route of that color. The symbols on the pencil indicate how many steps you can color in and whether you have to go straight or can choose freely. If you reach treasure chests or coins on your route, you can color in bonus points on your sheet. The game ends when one of the players has colored a certain number of treasures or all of their coins.

You each have a score sheet of the same level, on which you color in routes from different dive locations. The starting player first rolls all the pencils, each of which has a different color. There are different symbols on its sides. They show how many steps the route consists of that you can color on your score sheet.

Pick a Pen: Riffen includes three difficulty levels of player sheets, with sheets 2 and 3 featuring vortices and propellers that can hinder or help you in different ways when coloring routes.

—In Pick a Pen: Tuinen, each sheet shows bordered gardens, and on a turn, you fill in the indicated number of spaces in that color; all of those spaces must be adjacent to one another, in addition to being adjacent to everything colored previously. Your goal is to fill gardens with only a single color or with five different colors, scoring bonus points as you do so. The game ends when a player has completely colored all of their gardens or failed to color in five times.

Pick a Pen: Tuinen includes three difficulty levels of player sheets, with flowers and trees on sheets 2 and 3 to help you earn bonus points in different ways.

• In early 2023, Korean publisher Mandoo Games released FantaSticks!, which had debuted in 2015 from SimplyFun as Sticks & Stunts and in 2014 from Trefl as Family Bingo. (I’m not sure how similar these releases are, but they’re all of a kind.) If nothing else, the cover of the new release is bizarre genius:

Here’s an overview of this 2-6 player game:

FantaSticks! comes with 15 stunt sticks in each of six colors, a deck of cards with one of eight activities displayed on each card, 16 tokens numbered one through 16, and, for each player (or team), a 4X4 board with spaces numbered one through 16.

At the beginning of each round, a token is flipped face-up, a card is drawn, and all players (or teams) then try to complete the activity shown on the card. Successful players place a marker on the space on their boards that corresponds to the number on the token. The first player to place four in a row wins.

Activities involve the sticks in some way, usually by building structures that don’t fall or that are produced from memory or instruction or that others try to guess. A few activities use the sticks differently, e.g., to indicate answers to trivia questions or to prompt Liar’s Dice-style guessing.

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