One of the things I’ve really been missing about pre-quarantine life is a casual bar game. Shooting pool with friends. Kicking my husband’s ass at Skee-ball. Kicking my sister’s ass at air hockey. Arguing over whether it’s legal to spin the rods in foosball. (It’s not, but who cares?) I’m pining after those big, beautiful, bulky games that can be played with a drink in one hand, while carrying on a conversation that’s occasionally interrupted by cries of victory or groans of defeat. That is until I got my own Klask board, which fits on my kitchen table and has quickly become my favorite bar game.
Unless you follow a lot of tabletop gaming blogs or happen to live in Denmark, you’re probably unfamiliar with Klask. I’d never heard of it when my husband (who follows a lot of tabletop gaming blogs) excitedly opened the Amazon package containing a shiny new Klask board. Within 15 minutes, we’d set up the game and made it through our first round of Klask.
We were hooked.
How to play Klask
The best bar games are simple and dynamic. Klask certainly fits that bill. Described as “an epic magnetic battle,” Klask players use magnetic pegs to launch a plastic ball across a wooden board, with the aim of knocking the ball into your opponent’s goal. But unlike air hockey and foosball, which are furniture pieces unto themselves, Klask is built to fit on a tabletop. A 14-by-18-inch board stands on four-inch-tall wooden legs. The entire thing fits in a box about the size of a large briefcase.
Each player controls a tall plastic peg with a magnet in its base. In Klask parlance, this is called a “striker,” and it resembles an elongated Sorry! piece. Players move their strikers with a “steering magnet” that they hold underneath the board. The first player to score six points wins the game.
I was on my way to the Klask comeback of the century. What a heartbreaking ending. pic.twitter.com/rXt5SHfESm— Brian Miller (@brianisagoblin) May 22, 2020
There are four ways to score a point in Klask. The first is pretty obvious: Use your striker to knock the ball into your opponent’s goal, a hole slightly wider than a silver dollar. (It has to stay there, though. If the ball bounces out of the goal, it stays in play.) The second scoring opportunity is when your opponent’s striker gets knocked over. If they can’t regain control of their striker using only the power of magnets, you score a point.
But the final two ways to score are where the fun really starts. They’re the most ingenious rules of the game, the elements that elevate Klask from a compact, cheap alternative to air hockey into an instant classic that can easily replace it.
At the beginning of a Klask game, three tiny white magnets — each about the size of a pencil eraser — are placed on designated spots in the center of the board. If two of those magnets (inscrutably nicknamed “biscuits”) attach to your striker, your opponent scores a point. The biscuits add a fun little wrinkle to the gameplay. You can’t encroach too far into the center, otherwise you’ll attract a biscuit. You can even use the ball to knock biscuits into your opponent’s side of the board, creating a magnetic minefield that they must move through carefully. It’s a neat mechanic that means you can’t just recklessly whack the ball back and forth until one of you fortuitously scores a goal, which is almost always how I end up playing foosball and air hockey.
The final chance to score is where Klask gets its name. If you accidentally drop your striker into your own goal — making a satisfying sound that onomatopoeically becomes klask — your opponent wins a point. The agony of ending a furious volley with a klask is 10 times more frustrating than knocking the ball into your own goal, which means it’s 10 times more satisfying to gloat when your opponent falls victim to it.
With those four ways to win, Klask becomes a bit more complex than a standard “get-the-ball-into-the-goal” game but still easy enough to learn after a few beers. It’s simple enough for children, but dynamic enough that adults can have a good time all on their own.
Klask was invented by Mikkel Bertelsen, a Danish carpenter who looks like a Viking if Vikings wore V-neck sweaters. Bertelsen was bored after work one day and wanted to create a game that he could play with his wife and two kids. Cut to seven years later, and the game boasts an international community as well as several tabletop gaming awards including a recommendation from the prestigious Spiel des Jahres.
Part of Klask’s fun is in getting super competitive with something that feels so silly. I highly recommend watching YouTube videos of the Klask World championships. Announcers with straight faces discuss the strategy of knocking away biscuits. The referee wears a single white glove and silently resets play after someone scores a point. One would get the sense that they were taking this way too seriously if the players’ wide grins to the audience didn’t give it away. They know that being so committed is funny, and that’s what makes it such a delight to watch.
That commitment is also what makes Klask such a delight to play. It’s easy to get caught up in the competitive spirit when biscuits are flying across the board, while also laughing at how silly it is that you’re getting worked up over tiny magnets called biscuits.
Similar to the Canadian disc-flicking game Crokinole, once Klask enters your life it easily becomes a full-fledged hobby. But Klask feels like a more scrappy, rebellious cousin to Crokinole’s elegant overachiever. (Case in point: The company will pay for you to get a Klask tattoo.)
While social distancing has meant that I’ve only been able to play Klask with my husband, I’m already excited to convert my family and friends to the #KLASKlife. The box is so compact — with a handle! — that it’ll be easy to bring along to parties and family events once we’re able to safely gather again. Until then, my husband and I will continue challenging each other to matches whenever the mood takes us (read: almost every day.)