I Am Not Just a Knit Wit
You might recognize Matt Leacock’s name from such games as Forbidden Island, Pandemic, and Lunatix Loop. Not content with his games of survival and danger, Signor Leacock has now created what might be considered the most delightful game of all time. “We need more whimsy, fewer outbreaks. More pastels and soft lines, fewer deserts and other forbidding destinations,” Mr. Leacock very well might have said in a private moment.
The result is Knit Wit, a product so ineffably lovely that I’m going to — hiccup — do something I’ve never done before: a series of photographs about the opening of the box.
Urp. Man, I can already taste the contents of my stomach. Here we go!
As you can see, Knit Wit arrives in a rather pleasant cardboard box. Closer inspection, however, might have you braying “Nay!” at the top of your lungs, for this is not one box but two. Yes, it’s a box within another box, a cardboard sleeve around a box, boxes out the ears, and what’s more the outer box can be a little tight and only slide off the inner box with team effort, what will they think of next.
Upon separating boxes outer from boxes inner, we are presented with — my goodness — the inside of the box. Right away, the components have that special pop reminiscent of that time you and your high school sweetheart kissed with a mouthful of Pop Rocks and the sudden release of carbon dioxide caused one of your orthodontic elastics to snap and lash your counterpart’s tongue. Ah, the vigors of youth; truly Knit Wit will call them to mind.
Here the pencils are no mere pencils; they are white pencils. The notepad is no mere notepad; it is an artisanal black-paper notepad. The spools are crafted of the finest walnut (reminder: fact-check that one), the thread is woven of unicorn mane, the clothespins shall not hurt anybody’s earlobes with their gentle closure, and the buttons are, well, they’re buttons, what did you expect?
Everything about Knit Wit is a calm spring whisper, a distant and friendly voice carried on the breeze. “Forget your apprehensions,” it says, tickling the small hairs of your ears playfully. “Forget your worries. Leave your anxieties at the door, there on the coat-rack. You have no power bills here, no internet sales tax to pay, no student loans or finals or overbearing bosses to fret over.” The voice leans in closer, you can feel its warmth on your neck. “Welcome home,” it says.
Then you set up the game and holy shit this is very stressful stuff.
Okay, so. Okay. Here’s the thing. I’m convinced Knit Wit is dressed up in such a gorgeous package for two reasons.
First of all, because it looks nice, and yeah, that matters in games. We might say we value substance over looks, but that’s the sort of thing someone might put on their internet dating profile. Some people are being level with you, but most people? Most people are lying through their teeth. Down here on planet Earth, we like things that look nice. And Knit Wit knows that.
Secondly, Knit Wit got all dressed up in its prettiest summer dress so that when it latches onto your throat with venom-injecting fangs, you’ll be all the more surprised. This is a beast of the evening that feeds on your panic and terror. And neither of those things are quite so delicious as when they’re sudden.
Here’s what’s happening. Everyone takes turns draping cheerful little loops of thread across the table, clipping some sort of adjective onto the loop’s clothespin, and then putting their numbered spool into one of the “compartments” made by all those intersecting threads. “How pleasant!” someone says, clapping their hands with the delight of a character from a costume drama.
Oh how wrong they are.
You might see what’s coming, but that doesn’t prepare you. It doesn’t even come close. Everyone picks up their lovely colored pencils between index-finger and thumb, holds their oh-so-precious page torn from the oh-so-artisanal notepad. And then someone says go. They might as well have tossed a bucket of chum into shark-infested waters. Now everyone is scribbling, jotting, slashing at their scrap of paper. The tips of pencils snap, paper tears, people grunt in animal frustration. Some jerk reaches across the table and claims the first button. “Done!” they screech, like a whining child, like nails on a chalkboard, like a whip goading you forward.
Jeez, this game is so stressful.
The idea is that everyone wants to write down an answer for each spool. What makes this tricky is that most spools will be ensconced within multiple loops, forcing you to come up with increasingly difficult answers. You’d think it would be enough to invent something purple, since most of us go entire days without having to think about purple things, but how about something purple, found outside, stinky, and secret? Sure, you could go after the spool located only within the intersection of stinky and weak (correct answer for maximum happiness: whomever is seated on your right), but each spool bestows points equal to the number of loops surrounding it, so that isn’t nearly as profitable as coming up with an answer like, “The concealed corpse of the mailman after four weeks of rot have set in.”
To clarify: you’re spitting up answers as fast as you can in order to claim buttons worth a few extra points, everyone is going to judge your answer — and I guarantee they’ll be stingy snobs about it, so no answering “toaster” for something that’s blue, electric, and moving, since not all toasters are blue — and the best answers are the ones that are as nitpicky as possible. Like “ball lightning” for the previous set of descriptors.
The thing about Knit Wit is that it may be deceptively cute, all cheery colors and soothing aesthetics on the outside while concealing the agonized and hyperactive heart of a know-it-all fourteen-year-old, but it’s also a darn solid party game. Coming up with a clever answer, especially one that nobody else managed to invent, is the sort of thing that can make you feel like Faulkner risen from the grave. Doing it in ten seconds is even better.
If I had to identify a single problem, it’s that in Knit Wit, as with many of these sorts of games where your so-called friends are allowed to judge your answers, it’s entirely possible that each round will devolve into a mass down-voting of the poor sap who got ahead for a bit. Then again, that’s most likely a problem with my group rather than with the game.
All in all, this is fun stuff. It isn’t the sort of thing I’m likely to play often, but it’s the sort of game that can appeal to pretty much anyone with the ability to read and write. Use Knit Wit’s charm to lure them in, then keep them around with its surprising deviousness.