Friday, March 4, 2016

Kings of War - Six Months In

I looked at the calendar the other day and realised that I had been playing KoW v2 for six months. Happy Half Birthday to me! That gives me sufficient distance to have looked at the game and decide whether it is or is not for me.

Unsurprisingly the answer is "Yes, I Like It". And I thought I'd go through some of the reasons why. None will be new to those who are regular visitors to the blog as they have all appeared in other posts and the Hidden Easter Egg series I've run through the past six months as I got to know the game. In the first instance I like it because it plays a lot like historical Ancient/Medieval Wargames I've played in the past....and especially enjoyed.

So here are a list of things I like about the game (and followed by a smaller list of things I'd prefer were different):

  • Massed Ranked Unit Game - critical for me. Skirmish games are ok but I much prefer playing big battle games. Currently KoW and the upcoming 9th Age are the only real options
  • Company-Supported - this is critical for me as I like to get excited by new releases and new directions. I also like the idea of a "central entity" rather than a committee of gamers deciding these things. I subscribe to the 'benevolent dictator' model rather than the socialist collective model where everyone has a say (and all voices are valid). My experience is that it is very hard to develop fan-driven games though I accept it can be done. Personally I'd rather buy into a commercial product where they have "skin in the game".
  • Rules (Presentation) - I like the KoW rules. They are presented well and have the right level of complexity. I am a great believer that complexity =/= depth and Alessio has managed to present a set of rules to act as a framework for games in 40 pages where the core concepts are well explained and their is little ambiguity.
  • Rules (Concepts) - The core concepts of the rules are very intuitive and easy to grasp. That means an experienced gamer new to KoW can pick up the rules, read them and pretty much have an understanding of how a game will play. This is a testament to the presentation but also to the design. "You" do everything in your turn, moving through a set series of stages and there is limited use of exceptions.
  • Rules (Accessability) - In almost all games you need to have a good grasp of the rules to be successful. However in a number of games currently en vogue you need to have a knowledge of ALL the rules to be really successful. This then rewards the person who builds up a knowledge base by knowing all the army books, all the races and all the combos. It doesn't necessarily reward better tactical thinkers or strategists (unless they have put the time in). KoW is different. Streamlined Core Rules, Building Block Units, Set Series of Special Rules and Universal Set of Magic Item. The Accessability Curve is therefore much flatter - and given a few months - everyone should be similar in "the knowledge".
  • Building Block Army Creation - as above less combo-hammer. But also arguably a harder list building exercise because there is no granularity in points value. No dropping two models here, a musician there etc to squeeze items in.
  • Game Time - I can pretty much play a 2000 point game in two hours. That makes it great for week nights and also...dare I say a world of Gen-Y and Gen-Me opponents who have far busier lives than me. The days of dedicating 3-4 hours to a single game are gone.
  • Emphasis on Tactics - the game seems from my limited understanding of real life military doctrine, to reward the general principle of concentration of force. Therefore there is a reward for manoeuvre.
  • Scenario Play - variety is the spice of life and in the case of Wargames acts as its own form of comp....rewards combined arms lists.
  • Challenge of the Clock - timed games, while less social, introduce a new challenge into the game.
  • Cost - apart from the rules and trays, for a Warhammer refugee the game is virtually free. Mantic have welcomed GW's detritus with open arms not only giving us similar lists in the main Rulebook but also creating "Uncharted Empires" for our other armies.
  • Terrain - KoW requires new and in some cases different terrain. I love terrain and I like the conceptual nature of KoW's terrain system.
  • Modelling Opportunities - the unit basing creates opportunities for diorama basing and anything that encourages hobby is good in my book.
  • Playability for Tournaments - no need for Comp, no need for 100 pages of FAQ, no need to second guess answers because the Company doesn't support its rules - need I say more.

So what don't I like? Well at the moment the only two things that I hope very different are the inclusion of Allies and the lack or randomness.


I always think Allies provide opportunity to fill holes with units rather than tactics. My preference would be that armies have weaknesses that you must adjust play style to overcome. The ability to just plug in a unit from elsewhere is not something that sits easily - though I can appreciate the rules mechanisms that Mantic have included so there are disadvantages.


With randomness, I wish there were more situations than just the "Double 1" roll that you couldn't cater for. That's just the risk manager in me appreciating that even in what is a fantasy simulation I hoped for more scope where you might have to deal with unexpected outcomes. As it stands in KoW, if you throw enough force at something there is only 1/36 chance of unexpected outcome. It feels too certain.


So that's my current thought process on the game - I'm enjoying it and it providing life to collections that have been lovingly built up over years.

1 comment: