September 16, 2010 by beerogre
Our man Andy was at Yellowcon a couple of weeks ago and he had the chance to sit down with Alessio to play Kings of War, here’s what he thought of it. Note this was before the rules (click here to download them) where released and so there will have been changes since like centimetres to inches for example.
So what can I tell you about Kings of War? Well first it was a very fluid game, as Alessio was literally rewriting the rules as we played, with many of the ideas from previous games being jettisoned and new ideas being added… but let’s get down to the nitty-gritty… how does the game play?
We played an objective game, one many will be familiar with. Four points were indicated on the battlefield, within a set distance from the centre line. The army that holds the majority after a set time, wins, or if you hold 3 points at the end of a turn, with no enemy units within 5″ of any of them, you win.
A points system has not yet been decided, so we used the full armies that Mantic had sent over. In keeping with the design brief that Mantic have insisted on, each army is constructed using unit sizes that correspond to the number of miniatures in the various boxes they sell. Therefore, all the units were 5, 10 or 20 miniatures, with the mighty “Horde” coming in at an imposing 40 miniatures!
Each army had a mixture of the currently available Dwarf and Undead miniatures, with the Undead having a horde sized Skeleton regiment at the centre of their ranks. While the Dwarves had a 20 man Ironclad regiment, bolstered by some smaller units of Ironguard and (very pretty… is that the right word?) Berserkers. Also scattered among the battle lines were some of the Lord and Hero models from both factions, each of which acts independently and grants benefits to nearby units… or in the case of the Berserker Lord… just fights!
As the game began, Alessio rattled through the rules… and I have to be frank… after a few minutes my brain started to bubble. Although that was more due to the effects of the beer from the night before, rather than the complexity of the rules. The rules are not complex!
The game currently runs using phases, that most will recognise…
Movement – Each unit has a front facing, which dictates the direction your unit will move. You can also pivot your unit (i.e. rotate the unit around its centre point), but the further you move, the fewer times you can rotate. It’s a simple system to get a handle on, but those who are used to wheel-like turns might find it a bit awkward to begin with.
Ranged Combat – Where any unit with a ranged weapon gets to fire. With targets over half the range of the weapon away being a bit harder to hit. Plus all the usual cover and concealment rules most players will be familiar with.
Melee Combat – One unit hits the other with their big pointy sticks.
It’s at this point, I need to come clean… I’m not a big, mass-battle wargamer… I like my tabletop games small and skirmishy, so I was glad when it came to combat, that the rules were reassuringly simple.
Each unit has a score score that represents their skill with melee or ranged weapons and a simple D6 roll determines a hit, while a target has a defensive target number and again a D6 roll will see if you damage your target. This allows elite units to be more accurate, heavily armoured units to be harder to hurt and rubbish units to… well you get the idea…
The most interesting part of combat, and for me one of the best parts, was the way in which each unit acts like a complete entity. Damage is cumulative and spread across the entire unit. We represented the damage by placing a D10 behind the unit, which meant there was no need to remove models from movement trays (which as a painter, I hate! If I’ve painted something, I want it to stay on the table as long as possible) and a unit either stands and fights, despite its injuries, is shaken (i.e. loses a turn) or flees and is removed from the table, with bigger and more elite units, more likely to shrug off the effects of damage.
The game itself started out slowly, helped in no small part by my being overly cautious. Combat isn’t mutual, so I planned to steal the first charge against the (slightly slower) Undead, while holding the two objectives closest to me. However, the Undead ploughed down the table, while the Dwarves peppered them with crossbows, handguns and warmachines, but in the end there were just too many!
When the time ran out, we both held two objectives, but one more turn of play saw my regiment of 20 Ironclad Dwarves knocked off their objective and defeat at the bony hands of the living dead… pretty much a theme for Yellow Con…
So what are the unique selling points of the Kings of War game?
Well… it’s simple… movement, turning and combat are all easy to pick up and Magic works in a similar way to combat, although we didn’t get to play with many snazzy spells, just generic heal and damage effects.
I liked the unit damage rules, while they are more abstract than many other systems, they fit with the overall simplicity of the game and after you have tried it a few times, there is no need to consult the damage effect chart… which only has three effects anyway!
If you’re looking for an alternative to existing mass-battle fantasy games, Kings of War might be just what you are looking for. For me the game worked perfectly as a convention game, with its easy learning curve, but for more visceral tournament play, I just get the feeling that Kings of War is a bit more forgiving than most tournament players are used to.
However, the jury is still out. Playtesting continues and I will reserve judgement until the game is released.
My thanks go out to Alessio Cavatore for taking the time to run the playtest for us, even if he had to suffer my interminable and beery rantings about stuff I know nothing about… however, as I reminded him… “it’s Ireland! Everyone has an opinion after three pints of the black stuff!”.
For more on Kings of War visit the Kings of War section here on Beasts of War.