Monday, January 19, 2015

Of Kings And War

I had a chance to play Kings of War last Sunday. It was the second time I've played this game, and like the first, I was pleasantly surprised.

Here's the scene: A friend of mine has a 12'x4' table, which, as a gamer, is Shangri-La. He also has enough painted undead figures to line up along the length of that 12'x4' table. He invited over myself and another friend to ally against his dread legions. We played 3000pts and it only took us three hours.

This is the major benefit of Kings of War over other regimental games—being Warhammer, as I think the two games are the only regimental games on the market right now—that it's quick. Every time I look at Kings of War I always think it's going to be boring. I will admit, it is a bare-bones system. You move, you shoot, you fight in combat, sometimes you can cast spells—which are fancy (but not that fancy) shooting attacks—but really everything does what you think it's going to do outside of the normal randomness of a dice-based system.

Some (like my friend with the table) look upon this as the highlight of the system, but I look at it as a drawback (albeit one with potential). I like a game system with variance and options. Warhammer has drawbacks, sure, but a dearth of options is not one of them. In Warhammer you have an arsenal of stuff at your disposal, hell even the terrain on the table can give you things to think about other than "I can't see through those trees."

So naturally every time I read up on Kings of War, and set up a game my eyes hurt from rolling in my skull, and my lungs are well stretched from the constant sighing. However the game is super-intuitive and quick. Like I said, a 3000pt game (which is probably 3500–4000pts in Warhammer) played in three hours is unheard of in most miniatures games. Also, I've only read the rulebook once and the gap in time between my two games is most-likely longer than a calendar year, yet it was all in my head.

The game is written by Alessio Cavatore who used to work for Games Workshop, and was the principal author of Warhammer 7th edition. 7th edition was (in my humble opinion) fun, but it was the most ho-hum of Warhammer editions. Sort of a clean up of 6th edition, and a forgettable transition between the kind of game 6th edition created (streamlined tournament-ready system with some of Warhammer's traditional wackiness), and the game Warhammer is now with 8th (which is to say, great). So when I read the rules and saw who authored them, it made sense to me. But now I've developed a whole other respect for Alessio's work (my comments about 7th still standing). I see that what he was trying to create was a fast, simple, and intuitive miniatures system.

Kings of War will not replace Warhammer for me. I won't turn down a game, and I may even tailor an army specifically to the system. I can even see myself entering a Kings of War tournament and being satisfied by the state of the rules while within that medium, but it's not replacing Warhammer. What it is is a solid, fast, big-battles, game that would provide an excellent framework for customizing.

This kind of brings me to an aside: I think all too often (especially now as opposed to in the '70s or '80s) miniatures gamers get hung up on a "tournament ruleset," which is understandable, as it gives us the framework to not only play in tournaments but to facilitate one-off games against strangers in shops, clubs, or conventions. Having a set of house rules is tons of fun and can be pretty creative, but it's also something you need to inform people of when they want to join.

But one of the benefits to tabletop games (versus electronic game, for instance) is that they're malleable. Kings of War is a great example of a game system that provides a solid framework upon which I would love to see stuff added. I would love wackier units to add to my army, and a more robust magic system. Hell, even some interesting scenarios would spice things up. As it stands, the game is a set of vegetables. Good, but it needs something done to it to really be a favorite of yours truly.

Anyway, enough from me, enjoy these, passable, pictures of our game. I thought the lighting in my friend's place was too dark, so I turned on the flash (something I never do on cameras). After I got home and sobered-up (Kings of War also works when you've polished-off seven cans of beer), I immediately regretted my flash decision, and promise that I'll never, ever, do it again...

12' of Undead.

The grand alliance of elves and dwarves (and a
can of Cariboo beer).

Some o' my dwarves.

A rollicking fight in the center of the table.

Generals and gentlemen.

A big ole scrum against some zombies.

My dwarf general vs. a necromancer that the
undead player forgot to do anything with the
whole game (much to my benefit).


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