In addition to information and ideas on tournaments, campaigns, leagues etc, there is also advice on writing your own rules and scenarios. However the most "anticipated" content are the ten pages at the end of the book which contain the "rules" for the 2017 Clash of Kings.
So what do you get? Well the focus is on:
- Rules & Unit Changes - stricter Army Composition, changes to how Breath Attacks and Spells interact with cover, 2016's "Fly" amendment, modification to the Bane Chant spell and a mix of boosts and nerfs to various armies/units.
- Magic Artefacts - the addition of ten new artefacts to join the existing list of Magic Items. Three of that original list are also removed reflecting their almost "no-brainer" presence in some builds.
- Spells - Three new spells are added and are available to all Magic Users (except Living Legends)
- Scenarios - Kill and Kill & Pillage are removed, the two 2016 CoK scenarios "Control" and "Push" are added as are six new scenarios. There is also a new scoring mechanism for some scenarios that focuses on Unit Strength values rather than Points values.
From a directional and strategic point of view I think this is a positive release. Kings of War v2 has been out for just under two years (20 months to be precise). Unlike Games Workshop who alter their meta continually through regular releases of army books and supplements, Mantic have chosen the full release at launch tract. Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages (e.g. GW's method generally results in power creep whereby you need the "new shiney" to remain competitive while a lack of new releases can result in static meta where game is "solved" and becomes stale).
IMO this book is an attempt by Mantic (and particularly the KoW Rules Committee) to alleviate the dangers of a static meta inherent in a complete launch model. Based on feedback, their own experiences and that of selected TOs and players, they have attempted to "freshen" the game by addressing identified "flaws" and "no-brainers".
Is the process scientific? Again IMO, no because it can't be. There is insufficient data - games of KoW played - that you could get a statistically-based objective balance into the games. This is further hampered by the inconsistency of input variables - player skill, terrain setup, scoring systems - that makes a mathematical "solving" of KoW pretty much impossible.
However, my observation is that the Rules Committee recognise this and have taken a subjective solution to commonly identified "problems". For example, the removal of Ensorcelled Armour addresses the issue that every Hero (Monster) takes the increase in De if it can, a Horde of Ranged Attack Troops that roll to hit will take +1 to Hit far more often than not etc. EoD's Cursed Pharoah is a solid Individual but inclusion in all lists shows he is viewed as extremely efficient for his points when you add the Wings of Honeymaze. Can a scientific basis for changes to these items/individuals be provided? No - the consistent database doesn't exist in anything like a statistically meaningful size - but that is the beauty of the human condition, the ability to extrapolate based on insufficient data. Sometimes it's right, sometimes it's wrong. Based on my observations with rules changes, the Rules Committee have fallen heavily on the positive side.
We can all quibble about how broken somebody else's army is - again the human condition - but personally I am happy with 90% of the rules changes, and certainly can see the case for the other 10%. Have they missed things? Almost certainly, but the efficient market hypothesis says everytime you change the goalposts you'll likely create a new set of undercosted items/units. Thegoal is that these are less pronounced.
For me the other main benefit of this book is increased variety. As a person trying to grow the KoW community in an environment where it competes with other games - both in and out of genre - one of the biggest criticisms/complaints from non-participants has been a lack of variety. Personally I don't believe it is the problem they are portraying it as but "the customer is always right". By introducing new Magic Artefacts and Spells the Rules Committee have provided some ammunition to help fight that complaint.
None of the spells appear at first glance to be overpowered, my opinion is that they are likely very situational (for instance, I can see Bloodboil being used in an army that lacks ranged ability or other damage spells). Among the Magic Items, one stands out as far more likely to be used than any others - and possibly all others combined - we'll see if the RC have created a new rod for their backs.
The new scenarios are really variations of the same. Generally there are only a limited number of things you can do:
- Kill something
- Collect something
- Hold something
- Go somewhere
It's a little bit like the theory that there are "only seven storylines", one you've got them covered it is variations on a theme. The changes to Victory Conditions are a well considered change. I always felt that a Horde with a 5 point Magic Artefact shouldn't outscore a Horde in a number of the existing scenarios.
So overall I am happy with the changes and the book. I like it addresses some deficiencies in the rules, removes "no-brainer" choices, introduces great variety and thereby refreshes the game to a certain extent. I like the process of yearly updates to address glaring issues.
Just as importantly, I hope that it provides a path whereby when we see an updated version of Kings of War (hopefully 2+ years away) that change is evolutionary rather than revolutionary.