Friday, February 5, 2016

A Defence of Kings of War

There is a general appreciation that Kings of War is more suited to being a tournament game than Warhammer Fantasy was. There are a number of factors that allow you to make that assertion:

  • Single person focus turns
  • A building block basis to army construction e.g. Set size units, limited special rules/abilities
  • Generally tighter ruleset with proactive Rules Committee
  • Limited magic system
  • Restricted customisation of individuals and units
  • Greater apparent external balance between races
  • Introduction of time factor
Certainly I have found the game more balanced and I find it rewarding from a focus on tactics. That's not to say there was anything wrong with Warhammer Fantasy. Eighth Ed was the most enjoyable game I have played but it suffered from balance issues - both external and especially internal. The size of the player base and the growth of the Internet meant that any balance issues were quickly identified and this resulted in most efficient net lists being arrived at. The goalposts could be moved by comp but really that was all comp did.

However a couple of complaints that I've seen emerge are:

1. Fluff - people are missing their Warhammer fluff. I understand that as I loved the fluff, bought the sourcebooks, read the novels etc. However a lot of the people that are missing the fluff either have forgotten the criticisms they had of particularly GW Fantasy fluff (rose coloured glasses definitely deployed) or haven't read the Mantic fluff. Conceptually I find the Mantic fluff no less engaging than the GW fluff. However it has 25 years of less development. To most of us the characters are underdeveloped but that's a time thing. Mantic are trying to bridge the gap through the release of the new sourcebooks on a regular basis.

2. Lack of Army Customisation - one thing a lot of people liked with Warhammer was the access to magic items that allowed them to build their "special" character. In reality this meant they liked taking a 1+ Rerollable AS Lord who also had a 3+ Ward Save rerolling ones. Or putting Banner of the World Dragon on a unit of White Lions. The only real customisation was whether you had 27 or 28. In KoW the customisation is less due to the building block approach -set numbers - the limited number of Artifacts all of which are common and the limit of one item per character or unit. It's funny how magic items aren't fun when every one can use them. I would say also that the lack of customisation is a bit of a misnomer. I have been playing a Ratkin army and the most common item choices in a lot of armies - Caterpillar, Honeymaze, Ensorcelled Armour, +1 to hit, +12" range or +1 Piercing aren't things that I would ever use.

3. Sameiness - one charge are that because of the building block approach games are very samey i.e. My Horde of CS(1) 4+ De fights your unit of the same stats. I've found that very rare myself and believe that there are a minuscule number of times equally matched units fight each other. Even in this situation the player who has been able to concentrate force into a vital area of the battlefield will win. The use of scenarios is also a winner for me. The scenarios are sufficiently different that they require different tactics to be employed to do well. Contrast this with "competitive" Warhammer e.g. ETC up to 2014 where a lot of TOs went out of their way to remove scenarios and play only Pitched Battle.

Yes if you have a small group of players in your area you will likely have a number of repeat games. However I'm not sure how that is any worse than the same number of players playing Warhammer. There are a whole swathe of armies I've never seen on table and I look forward to try out my skills against these new challenges - I mean WTF do Night Stalkers do?

4. Timed Games Are Anti-Social - the charge being that the introduction of time pressures means that there is less opportunity for social interaction. I can see the argument but I also believe that 50-60 minutes for each player allows you to have a well paced game with the usual banter. Personally I'm not missing the 3.5-4.0 hour games that occurred in Warhammer. I think the time pressure is a great addition as it forces you to make some decisions and ultimately has a benefit for those who make quick, correct decisions.

There's no right or wrong answer over what you should play or not. People have preferences and my view is that they should go with their gut. If you like Star Wars play X-Wing, like skirmish then AoS, if Imperial Knights are your thing play 40k etc. But the most important thing is just play!


  1. All the criticism I read of KoW seems to be from people wanting it just to be 8th Ed.again. Well if they like 8th Ed.that much they should just play it. Otherwise leave KoW for those that appreciate it for what it is, a different game for different times.

    1. See I haven't seen any of that here in NZ. Guys aren't saying "change KoW to WHFB" rather they are saying rhat it's different and they miss Warhammer.

      I know one of the international forums are different - every day seems there is some new rule proposed on the Mantic Forum.

      What I'm seeing here more is that guys say KoW doesn't fill the hole WHFB left. My contention is that I think there are some rose tinted recollections.

      Nobody misses the lack of FAQs, the holes immediately found in the some rules upon release, the lack of internal balance and the horror of the the ET force org changes

  2. I really enjoyed Warhammer 8th Ed (7th, not so much), but it had some serious limitations for me, some of which have been highlighted by KOW.

    I played Dwarves in Warhammer because I love the character and background, but the playstyle was severly limited. The moaning from non-Dwarf players was constant and wearying. Combat Dwarf armies just didnt' work, and it was becoming a chore to play them when gunlines and gyro spam were the strongest option.

    Dwarves in KOW, at this early stage, seem to work without gunlines. My troops can fight and win, and they can even maneouvre effectively. Gotta say, this is a big plus for me.

    The Warhammer fluff was great, but silly and inconsistent at times. Every army was super-awesome in its background even when it wasn't on the table. The permanent 'one-minute-to-midnight' setting got a bit boring after a while. The Mantic fluff isn't bad so far, and it has a lot of space and time to get better.

    Army building wasn't really all that much of an art for me; the huge array of choice was less than it seemed; who ever saw a Dark Elf Fleetmaster, Empire spearmen or the Sword of Strife?

    I do not miss the extent to which Warhammer was unbalanced. It's not perfect in KOW, but my few games so far have normally been close run affairs right to the end. Apart from deployment mistakes on my part, I've hardly ever had that Warhammer feeling of being in a game I'm probably not going to win before we even start.

    I do miss some elements of Warhammer; random charges gave an element of uncertainty that is quite realistic in practice. But so far at least, KOW is filling the 'mass fantasy combat' niche for me very well.

  3. I would agree from what I've seen that the large part of criticism towards KoW is coming from ex WFB players and can be summarised as "but it's not Warhammer". A lot of the proposed additional rules or rule changes on forums seem to be based around a desire to 'warhammerize' KoW. These people sure do seem oblivious to all that was wrong with WFB.

    I miss the fluff too. I'd still rather play Mordheim than Frostgrave, despite the latter being in all probability a better game. It's just not the same, because well.. it's not Mordheim.

    I think that we're still firmly in the middle of the Fantasy-fragmentation epoch with some playing 8th, some 9th ed, some KoW etc. So if KoW hasn't taken a dominant place yet, or players are trying it and drifting off to give 9th a go or whatever, I don't think it's a problem at all.
    In due time 8th adherents will wane as miniatures disappear from the range (happening already, check out the 'Last chance to buy category on GW' which is the End Times version for old world miniatures), and no new players take up an old dead system. Likewise for 9th, I don't think it has the long term viability that KoW does.

    I don't see Kings as a poor replacement for WFB. It's just a different game. What has changed for me in comparative opinion of the two is that while I do miss the old world of Warhammer, I don't miss the game of Warhammer any more. Aside from the horrible imbalance and silly OTT magic and magic item reliance, as an O&G player I was truly sick and tired of having the 'joke' army of fantasy - hamstrung by the only negative army-wide rule while all others had a bonus one, and suffering from 1st army book in the edition syndrome meaning the inevitable successive power creep nerfed the army into 3rd tier status in very short order.

    With KoW, I can meet opponents on an equal footing that I never could in WFB which alone is enough to make it my game of choice for large-scale fantasy battles.

  4. After having watch both Kings of War and 9th age, I think the KOW battles look more like battles between armies and Warhammer based games look more like battles between retinues.

    I think the last point you make it the most pertinent, find the game you like and get playing. Enjoying your hobby is the important thing.