The Robin of Locksley game is a strategic two-player set collection game which takes around 45 minutes to play. It’s from top designer Uwe Rosenberg, but doesn’t use the ‘Tetris’ mechanic he has been obsessing over of late.
Players each move a single ‘knight’ (think: chess moves) around a 5×5 grid, collecting treasures to meet requirements to move their other piece around the board. But while competitive, this is more a race than a battle. The box suggests ages 10+, but gamer savvy kids of eight should be fine.
In the ridiculously oversized box you’ll find 60 cardboard loot tiles, 24 cardboard fame tiles and four wooden player pieces. The components are nice, although the English text translations on the tiles leave a lot to be desired (see ‘key observations’ below). The cheapest I’ve seen it in the UK is £25, but when you add shipping it’s about £30. As Carcassonne sells at the same price, and is in the same size box with similar components, I’d suggest it represents reasonable value for money.
Teaching the Robin of Locksley game
The Robin of Locksley game is a simple one to teach. Players start with their knights on opposite corners of a random 5×5 tile grid. Each tile shows a piece of loot in one of six colours and has a coin on the back. To start, each player takes the ‘loot’ tile they’re standing on and flips it, putting it in front of them (so you each start with one coin).
Around the grid you build a 5×5 frame (read: racetrack) of ‘fame’ tiles, placing your second player piece on the starting tile. The start/end tiles are always the same, but the rest of the frame is built randomly (you use around two-thirds of the tiles each game). Every fame tile is different, but they essentially boil down to: have a loot tiles of X colour/colours; sell something; have your knight adjacent to your opponent; have more/less of something than your opponent etc.
The race is on…
On your turn, you move your knight (as you would in chess) and take the tile you land on, adding it to your loot. You can have a ‘collection’ in each colour, with one or more loot tiles of a colour equalling a collection. After moving, you add a loot tile from the stack to the empty space you moved from. Optionally, any time on your turn, you can discard a loot collection of three or more tiles for coin. A collection is worth n-2 coins, so three gets you a coin, four loot is two coins etc.
Also optionally on your turn, at any time, you can move forward along the fame tile race track. If you either meet the criteria, or can spend what you need to spend, you do so and move on. You can do this as many times as you like on a turn, as long as you can meet the criteria. Alternatively, if the criteria is a pain in the ass, you can pay a coin to bribe your way past (skip it). The first player to get around the board twice wins. Or, if your opponent is having a bad day, you win if you lap them.
The four sides
These are me, plus three fictitious players drawn from observing my friends and their respective quirks and play styles.
- The writer: Robin of Locksley initially feels like a light two-player game, but extra depth soon reveals itself. Planning ahead is key, as is knowing when to resort to gold to get past the tiles you don’t like the look of. And it does feel like a race, with a player able to sprint ahead before being reeled back in by the opponent. While the theme does little to add to the game, it kind of works – while the bold loot tile artwork makes the game look good on the table.
- The thinker: I enjoyed this as a filler. In theory, you can strategize ahead the whole track in terms of efficiency. But of course the randomness of the loot tiles is always going to throw the proverbial spanner in the works. This makes it a game with a strong mix of tactics and strategy, with the luck element feeling about right for a game of this length. Add in the variety of tiles and you have a solid filler for those times when you only have two players.
- The trasher: The chess knight works nicely to restrict your choices. But those same movement restrictions make it hard to block or otherwise hinder your opponent. So while the theme suggests excitement, it rarely rises above a set collection solo experience. Worse still, the last space (where you must pay four coins) is often anti-climactic as by then you probably know the winner – and can very rarely do nothing to affect the outcome. Not for me.
- The dabbler: Well I really enjoyed this one! And it’s super accessible to. Firstly, you can make the game longer/shorter by adding/removing four fame tiles from the frame – so you can have a longer game with your partner, or a shorter one with the kids. And if the kids are younger, you can give them some extra coins to balance it out a bit. Add in the colourful look and short play time, it makes Robin of Locksley a real winner for me.
As mentioned, Robin of Locksley is packaged in a Carcassonne-sized box size. Once punched and bagged, it takes up just under half of that real estate. This is a 30-minute-ish filler, for two players, which also screams ‘small box’. Considering it also has no insert, you have to ask – what were they thinking? A real waste of space.
I also need to mention the poor English translation of the fame tiles in the rulebook. When playing the first couple of times, we kept checking the (sometimes pretty ripe) iconography on the fame tiles versus the rulebook. But the answers often didn’t make sense. Instead, I copy/pasted the German from the online pdf and pasted it into Google Translate. And would you believe – I kid you not – that made more sense! This may be a world first: a translation done worse than Google Translate can manage… I now have a separate printed off sheet for these tiles I made myself.
As this is a new publisher, though, I’m willing to overlook a few production errors if the game works well. And it does. Of course it won’t be for everyone, but if you’re looking for a set collection race game with low interaction but fast turns, I don’t think you’re going to be disappointed.
Conclusion: The Robin of Locksley game
I’ve really enjoyed my plays of Robin of Locksley, especially with my better half. It’s right up her street: simple rules, but with emergent game play and a good mix of tactics and strategy. So, I won’t be keeping it. Instead, it is going to move and live at her place. The main reason is the stupidly big box. I have limited space, and this is not fit to take the place of a bigger game on my shelves. I really can’t understand this box size choice. But I do think it’s a thoroughly enjoyable two player race game.