This theme did not immediately appeal to me, but then I remembered the fun we have recently been having with Patchwork. Trust the designer, I thought. Matt Leacock, as the sticker on the front of the Knit Wit box reminds us, is the designer of Pandemic – probably a game that everyone and their grandma’s dog has played, or at least seen a large display of somewhere.
Leacock is probably best known for his mastery of the cooperative game. Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert, Pandemic and its expansions and spin-offs. His designs are thoughtful and elegant and despite the Knitting theme not appealing to me I knew Knit Wit would get some game night mileage in our house.
But the game is not about knitting. The knitters in my life looked at this and said “that’s a sewing box and those sewing spools are not for knitting, regardless of what gauge of thread you put on them.” And the clothespins are for hanging my laundry in the 1950s.
Alright, kneejerk reactions aside, how does this game work?
Players take turns placing a coloured loop on the table. The important point is that it surrounds exactly one spool (unless you are the first player in which case you just put it down because there are no spools out yet). This same player then takes a word from the word box and clips it to the clothespin attached to the freshly placed loop. Finally, they place a spool inside any loop area that doesn’t already have a spool. In other words, you might find a section of one loop or it might be an intersection of multiple loops. The main point is that you can’t have more than one spool in the same section because these loop/spool combos make the upcoming word challenges unique.
Now it’s time for the main part of the game. Look over at your brain’s word heap, stored safely beside you on the floor. If there are children present remove some of them and throw them outside. Prepare to be unique with your answers.
Essentially, everyone will look at the spools one by one. Each spool has one loop or more around it. These loops have words attached to them. An example would be if spool 1 has the words “wild” and “dark” associated with it you need to come up with one or more words that relate to this. You might write “seniors centre at night” or “my cat”. It’s very subjective and can be as silly/inappropriate as the group allows/demands. This continues until everyone is done writing answers for all of the spools/words present on the table.
Scoring is pretty straight-forward. Each spool adds one point to your answer. In the above example you would score two points because there were two spools/words used. Unless both of your grandparents wrote “seniors centre at night” in which case everyone feels uncomfortable and neither of your grandparents score for the answer because the answer isn’t unique. As well, your cousin who wrote “wild forest party” as his answer doesn’t score because he used one of the spool words in his answer. Finally, if your answer seems like a hopelessly rushed attempt that doesn’t make any sense then someone can shout “Knit Wit!” and you will be given 10 seconds to explain why you wrote “the cupboard under the sink” as your answer. If everyone gives a thumbs up you score points as usual, if they give a thumbs down then your answer doesn’t score at all. Pretty straight-forward, right?
So where’s the little twist, the little cleverness? I think it probably lies with the use of buttons. Each round a stack of buttons with between one and four holes is placed on the table (stacked from largest to smallest). When a player is done writing their answers for all of the spools, or has given up because they don’t have words in their word heap, they take a button. This gives you a bonus in the scoring round depending on how many holes your button has.
The real purpose of the buttons in Knit Wit, though, is to act as a timer. Instead of giving you a sand timer or having everyone pull out their phones the buttons add a little pressure on the players to hurry up and come up with something smart and unique. Pressure is one of the best elements of a party game because it prevents player over-analysis and allows everyone to be a bit silly with their answers because the clock forced them to.
This pressure also makes the game play really fast. The box says 15 minutes fast and that’s probably accurate. The beauty of this is that within one game everyone understands the rules and you can quickly play again with a level-playing field. As well, it means that you can rapidly play a series of grudge matches with the anxiety and animosity ratcheting up each game until finally someone throws a handful of sharp-edged vowels and verbs at the other player or someone blacks out from thinking too hard.
Comparisons have been made to Scattergories which I don’t think is entirely fair. Scattergories has categories and only gives you a letter based on a letter die roll to work from. Maybe it’s because they are both word games that involve guessing? But this is like saying Dungeons & Dragons and Yahtzee are the same because they both use dice.
Knit Wit is a party game and party games are supposed to be about interactive fun. They’re for people of varying ages and life experience and different degrees of games obsession. It’s also a word game, which is a successful breed of party game because most of us own a large heap of words of varying quality and family-friendliness. My main concern, then, is whether this is a clever, fun, family-friendly game. I think the answer is safely yes. And yes. And yes. Despite the misleading title (surely there were a few sewing related word-plays left out there), this is a satisfying and beautifully produced party game.
How does it play with kids? I think the age rating of 8+ is pretty accurate for this one. There’s some abstract thinking involved when you need to come up with your answers and that might not be immediately easy for all kids. This is also what makes it a good game to introduce to kids. The creative reasoning used to come up with these answers is fun and interesting for them. You think you have some weird stuff in your head? Play this game with an eight year old and you will have your conception of weirdness redefined.
Playing with kids may also make you change some of the rules. Maybe you don’t play with buttons or maybe no one can call “Knit Wit” on the kids. Because the rules are fairly simply it means you can adjust them as needed without breaking the game.
If you love games then having a few on your shelf that appeal to a wide variety of ages and experience levels is essential. It also accommodates between 2-8 players which means it has a lot of flexibility. Several of you can quickly play a game of this while waiting for rest of the game group to show up. Knit Wit isn’t a game that’s going to get pulled out all of the time, but it’s a beautiful, fast-paced word game / party game to have in our collection. I’m not sure this game would see much mileage in our house solely as a 2 player game, there’s other fast games that do low player counts better, but I’m looking forward to hauling this out with groups of 4-8 players for maximum silliness.