Sep 192014

I’ve been hosting weekly board gaming nights at my library for about two years now and, at times, it can be difficult to provide an experience for the wide diversity of people who show up. You can get teens, boomers, millennials, hipsters, geeks, and emerging games of all types. In that sort of situation, a good appetizer game is almost pivotal to getting everyone talking and laughing and ready for the main course. With a group of people who come from a diversity of backgrounds and experiences, something to break the ice can be extraordinarily helpful. Generally I break out Cash & Guns since the game is simple but it can be off-putting for those uncomfortable with pointing guns at each other. Masquarade can be a blast! However, the game can really lag when people don’t get into the randomness of it. Skull is another fun one but if you can’t bluff…it becomes rather meaningless.


Designer: Andrew Federspiel
Players: 4-8
Game Length: 10 minutes
Ages: 9+
Category: Party Games, Freudian Slips
Mechanic: Storytelling, Reflexes

Knee Jerk by Knapsack Games and currently on Kickstarter (fully funded, btw), fills all your opening game needs perfectly well. Basically a party game, Knee Jerk accommodates 4-8 players and plays in about 10 minutes. In this game, players provide their instant (“Knee Jerk”) reaction to a series of cards set out on the table. The cards tier next to each other like a set of stairs which provide a randomized humorous situation. For example, a set of cards can read a situation “I feel panicked…at the beach…because I saw…” and the group quickly yell out something that would fit the scenario. The first player to provide the best/funniest/quickest ending to the sentence wins the point.

knee jerk

This game sorta has the feel of playing Cards Against Humanity without the vulgar (not that there is anything wrong with it) cards and with less deliberation over which cards to play. Knee Jerk consists of a set of 55 cards so, similar to Pairs by Cheapass Games, this one would probably go in my car’s glove compartment for whenever something quick, fast and easy is needed. However, due the stepping mechanic of the card set-up, it allows for a great amount of variability in such a small amount of cards.

The rules are simple. The host lays down three cards in the step like fashion so the cards interlock and then reads the resulting scenario. The host then announces the scenario and the players quickly start yelling out answers and the host awards a point for the first reply. Rather than attempting the best answer the idea is that the quickest answer will likely be the most ridiculous. But be prepared for some Freudian slips…

Personally, this is more fun when the host alternates throughout the game allowing for a new person to read aloud the scenario and perhaps allowing the players to rely more on their knowledge of the host to provide an answer they would approve of (again, I maybe using this as a replacement for CaH, which I generally appreciate but don’t enjoy playing especially in my library gaming group).

Would You Rather…

Would you rather use Knee Jerk as an opener over other, more established games? Yes. For the simple fact that it requires zero time to explain, plays fast, and breaks the ice, I would use this over other openers such as Skull. Or even as an opener for an opener.

Would you rather play Knee Jerk over CaH? Totally. CaH doesn’t allow for a clean game while Knee Jerk allows for a clean, filthy or just strange game depending on the crowd. It provides for more variety of play.

Would you rather play Knee Jerk over other storytelling games (Gloom, Once upon a Time, Fiasco)? No. But, to be fair these aren’t party games. If I wanted the feel of a storytelling game with a large group of non-gamers, then I’d take Knee Jerk…but if I had four gamers, I’d pull out Gloom. If I wanted pure storytelling, I would not go to Knee Jerk for it.

How about Dixit? HAHA! I gotcha. True. You got me. I’d take Dixit over Knee Jerk but honestly, Dixit requires more creativity to play and if I just feel like tossing out ideas rather than formulating how a card relates to an song lyric, I’d grab Knee Jerk. If I didn’t feel like thinking…like at the end of a night of drinking and gaming, I’d easily throw Knee Jerk on the table over Dixit. So take that, Imaginary Narrative Element.


Go check out Knee Jerk over on Kickstarter. It is fully funded and only costs $10 to get the game and all stretch goals. Spread some love people, you will easily get $10 worth of use out of this game.

About John Pappas

I'm John ~ a short, mustachioed Library Director of a small branch library outside of Philly. I'm a father, geek, librarian and zen practitioner. I wear glasses, play board games and tend to read pretty much anything that comes across my desk. I organize and host three gaming groups at my library ~ The Golden Gamers (65+), Tabletop Gaming at the Library, and a Game Design Guild. The name of this column "Roll for Fire" comes from my love of Flash Point: Fire Rescue [ and cooperative games in general] and the desire I have to watch it all burn down.

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