The main character of Cult of the Lamb about to play Knucklebones with Ratau

How to Play Cult of the Lamb Knucklebones in Real Life

August 30, 2022

By: Andrew Stretch

 
 

Cult of the Lamb released last week and has become a popular game across social media. In it you take up the lead to run a cult as the last Sacrificial Lamb. You get to name a cult, defeat demonic entities, and build up your following to grow in power. If you're someone like me you'll have ignored a lot of that and find yourself playing way too many games of Knucklebones, a dice mini-game that you can bet coins on. Having so much fun playing it in-game immediately got me thinking though... how easy would it be to play Cult of the Lamb Knucklebones in real life?

What do you need to play Cult of the Lamb Knucklebones in real life?

The game of Knucklebones is a race not only to see who can rack up the most points on their side of the game but also to be the first one to fill up all 9 slots on your side of the table with dice. Because 9 dice is the win condition it means what's needed to play is relatively simple.

 

A picture of two rolling trays with 9 six-sided dice in each
Yup, that's pretty much it...

The complete list of requirements to play Knucklebones in real life is:

  • 18x 6-sided Dice also known as a D6 (9 per player)
  • Pen and Paper (if you don't want to handle any mental mathematics or scorekeeping)

How do you play Cult of the Lamb Knucklebones in real life?

Knucklebones is a tug of war between two players trying to earn the highest amount of points by the end of a round. Players will take turns rolling dice and adding them to the 3x3 grid in front of them giving them opportunities to gain points for themselves, or take points away from their opponents.

 
 

What takes place in a turn of Knucklebones?

At the start of the game decide who is going first by revealing who most recently ritualistically sacrificed something, scooped up poop, or just be boring and flip a coin.

  1. Roll your die
  2. Place it on the highest spot of a column on your 3x3 board
  3. Remove dice of the same face value from your opponent's matching column
  4. Repeat until one player has placed their last die on the game grid.

Once one player has placed their last die on their grid the game will immediately be over. At this point players can tally up their scores and whoever has the most is declared the winner.

 
 
A completed game of Knucklebones
In this game the Red side has earned 52 points, while Green has only earned 45

How do I earn points in Knucklebones?

  • The points that you earn in Knucklebones are directly related to the face value of the die that you roll.
    i.e If you start with a blank board and place a die with a face value of 3 in the left column then you'll have earned 3 points.
     
  • You can generate more points by placing multiple dice with the same face value in the same column. When you match two dice of the same face value you earn their face value multiplied by 4, and when you match two dice of the same face value you earn the face value multiplied by 9.
    i.e a column that includes two dice with the face value of 3 would equate to 12 (3x4), whereas a column with three dice with the face value of 5 would equate to 45 (5x9)

    NOTE: This multiplication only is valid for COLUMNS, any matching die across the rows does not grant any additional benefit

Here's a multiplication cheat sheet to make games even easier to tally up

Dice Face Value Two in a Column Three in a Column
1 4 9
2 8 18
3 12 27
4 16 36
5 20 45
6 24 54

How do I take points away from my opponent?

  • Any time you place a die in your column that matches the face value of a die in your opponent's column your opponent must remove those dice. If your opponent has multiple dice of the same face value then all must be removed
    i.e if you place a die with a face value of 3 in your left column, and your opponent's matching column has two dice with a face value of 3 both should be removed from the board and returned to the player's Dice Bank

    Note: When a die is removed from your board it cannot leave a gap, any dice below the die removed should be shifted up so that all columns still fill in from the top
An example of the different kinds of combos possible in Knucklebones
The center column has two 5s which will count for 20 points, the right column has three 2s for a total of 18, but the left column has no matches

Cult of the Lamb Knucklebones Strategies

While a lot of this game is in the luck of what number die you roll there are still a number of strategies you can employ to your benefit.

Leave your opponents with low-numbered dice

It's important to keep an eye on your opponent's dice and knock away as many high-level stacks as possible, if they have three dice with a face value of 6 it's important to try to clear them from the board, but any low-numbered dice like 1 or 2 you want to keep on their board for as long as possible. Even a triple 1 is only worth a measly 9 points so it's better to leave them with that combo to waste their space rather than taking the satisfaction of removing some of their dice.

Spread out high-value dice, or combine them together?

This strategy will come down to your play style but there are pros and cons to keeping your dice together or splitting them apart. If you keep high face value dice together, especially doubles, then you can earn a lot of points faster but leaving you in a situation where your opponent rolling the same face die could be destructive. Putting dice with a face value of 6 in multiple columns won't allow you to trigger the bonus multiplier, but will mean you will take less of a hit if one of them is removed. Will you play dangerously for a higher point score, or not quite as high score but safer?

 
 

 

Cult of the Lamb Knucklebones Alternate Ways to Play

One of the best parts of getting to the back of a Tabletop Game's rulebook is the different alternate ways that you can play a game. While there are no alternate rules in-game we figured it would be fun to come up with some alternate ways of play

Best of Three Columns

When playing Knucklebones in Cult of the Lamb at any point in time you'll see the score of each Column on top, with your total score to the left. In the "Best of Three Columns" variant you'll each play until your board is completely filled (the player whose board is completed first is "locked in" and can't have any dice removed from it) and then each Column's score is tallied individually. Whoever has two columns come out on top is the victor.

In the case that there's a tie with one of the columns then you can use the total score as a tie-breaker to see who truly wins

 
 

 

This Way or That?

Columns are an important part of Knucklebones but what if instead, we were using the top, middle, and bottom rows for the purpose of multipliers? In "This Way or That" players will still file all of their dice in from the top down as they would normally but the combos made need to line up across the board. Getting a combo in the first row may be easier, but it will be much harder to make a combo in the second or third row.

As players place dice they will have the opportunity to remove die from the top of a column and shift everything else up, this has the potential to create new combos for a player or ruin the ones that they have in play.

 

Swap out the die or the grid

While traditional Knucklebones is played with a 3x3 grid of six-sided die that doesn't mean you can't expand the space (though this will require a lot more dice). If you want to create a larger playing field you could try playing with a 4x4 space. For any column that you manage to get 4 of the same face value dice in you should multiply their score by 16. With so many chances to wipe dice off the board getting to this amount will be extremely tricky to pull off so it's definitely worth the higher point score.

If you're happy with the size of the grid but want to make getting combos easier or harder you could change up what die you're using. A four-sided die will make combos easier, but it will also make knocking out an opponent's die an easier process too.

The most balanced way to scale Knucklebones for a larger board would be to combine both ideas and increase the size of the board while also increasing the possible face value of the die. Playing on a 4x4 grid with an eight or ten-sided die will allow for more gameplay while keeping the chance of rolling the same number and knocking out your opponents around the same frequency.

If you grow the board too large be warned that chances are the game could last forever with no one being able to completely fill their side of the board.

More Info About This Game

In This Article

Developer
Massive Monster
Publisher
Devolver Digital
Platforms
Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Release Date
August 11,2022
Genre
Roguelike, Action Adventure, Simulation, Strategy
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