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Wargame: Kings of War
Current edition: Kings of War Ed2 (2015-2016-)
Rules: Kings of War Ed2
Previous editions: Kings of War Ed1 (2010-2015)
Company: Mantic Games
Designer: Alessio Cavatore
Players: 2 (2+ with modifications), Powers: Various, Possibly different, Units: Fixed footprint
Turn structure: Taking turns, moving whole armies, Movement: Set distances,
Playing time: 30-90 min, depending on the size of the battle, Play style: Abstract, Competitive, Theme: Combat, Language dependency: Rulebook, army lists
Features: Competitive, Miniatures, Random effects (dice)
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- Mantic Games: Kings of War Ed1 (2010) rules (PDF)
- Mantic Games: Kings of War Ed1 (2012) rules (PDF)
- Mantic Games: Kings of War Ed1 (2012) rules in German (PDF)
- Mantic Games: Free rules from Mantic Games: The rules and the basic army lists are offered as free downloads. Here you can also find the erratas for the published products.
- Mantic Games: Free rules in French
- Mantic Games: Kings of War Ed2 rules (PDF)
- Mantic Games: Kings of War Ed2 rules in Spanish (PDF): It has illustration and setting info in the Force lists.
- Mantic Games: Kings of War Ed2 FAQ & Errata (2016.03)(PDF)
- Mantic Games: Kings of War Ed2 rules in French (PDF): It is the Rules section from the rulebook, including scenarios.
- Mantic Games: Kings of War Ed2 FAQ & Errata in French (PDF)
- Kings of War Ed2 rules in Hungarian (PDF): Fan-made translation.
- Mantic Games: Campaign rules (PDF): Rules for ongoing campaigns. Not the same rules that were published in Destiny of Kings.
- Uncharted Empires - Rules in French (PDF)
- Uncharted Empires Army lists in French (PDF): Just the rules, no setting info.
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Kings of War - Analysis
Abstract player: The rules do not make it clear who does the player represent, he just gets to control one side of a battle. I consider the player to be in God mode, having the ability to manipulate the units to do his wishes.
Player skills required:
- Dexterity: Especially if you are not using multi-basing (you should). There are no rules that punish player with bad dexterity, unless you are playing with a time limit, as it could take more time to move an army for someone with low desterity.
- Planning: You should plan your actions and try to predict the actions of your opponent.
Number of players: 2. The rules are for 2 players. You can modify the game to include more than 2 players, but there are no official rules for this.
Powers: Various. The players can choose from several armies, each with different abilities.
Unit abilities: Various. Each unit have their own set of statistics.
Choosing units: Variable. It's army slot based, with army points to spend. See Army building below.
Abstract rules: Kings of War is an abstract wargame with a strict set of rules that can be used to simulate combat in the limited areas of the game. They are not intended to simulate reality, they are there to provide a gaming system, similar to chess. The outcome of this is that the rules are far from realistic. You need to learn these rules, and use them to achieve victory. Don't try to play by using your wargaming habits or knowledge of realistic combat, because you will most likely lose your games. If you are a historical wargamer and looking for realistic simulations, or an immersive player who'd like to put themselves in the head of their characters, this game is not for you.
Kings of War is tailor-made for tournament games, so if you'd like to run a fantasy tournament and have to choose a game system, this game is a very good choice.
Many complaints against the rules come from the fact that players don't realise this is an abstract game, and build their expectations on reality and historical sources.
Low variety in setup: As the rules stand now there is not much variation in the game setup. There are no rules for terrain, and only one scenario in the free rules, although there are some more published in the Rulebook and the supplements. Variety is provided by the army choices of the players. If you play in a small community that use the same armies over and over, this could get repetitive.
Playing area: Variable. It is up to the players to put terrain pieces on the playing area.
Playing area features: Realistic. The terrain and scenery in the game represents real-life terrain.
Terrain: Terrain in Kings of War causes several problems. One of them is they are chosen by the players and they don't have pre-defined shapes the rules could cover. It would be easily covered by creating rules for some distinct features with fixed size (say, small feature: 20 cm diameter, large feature: 40 cm diameter etc). The other problem is that if you use 3D terrain, you multi-based units won't be able to lay flat, and most of the time you either have to put your unit on top of scenery, or they will need additional help to stay in place. For fixing this I'd recommend 2D terrain.
The writers are aware of this, so the game tries to steer you away from using scenery, and as the rules stand now I completely agree with it. Use as low amount of terrain and scenery pieces as you can.
Terrain scale: Abstract. While it's not clearly stated, I consider terrain scale abstract in Kings of War. There are rules that wouldn't make sense in realistic scales (25mm distance between units, retreating after charging).
Heights: Abstract. Everything in the game has a fixed abstract height, so the size of the miniature and scenery doesn't matter.
Measuring distances - any time: You can get your ruler and measure any distances any time during the game. In some game systems you need to decide about actions before you are allowed to measure distances, so you need very good guessing abilities in those. Pre-measuring takes away from the reality of a game if you play army commanders who don't know the exact distances. For abstract games (like Kings of War) it's a fitting rule and also speeds up play.
The game uses 1:56 scale (often called 28mm or 32mm scale) miniatures.
The movement is somewhat complicated as there are requirements that need to be checked before you can move.
Positioning is important, as the rules are set up so players try to attack the flanks of their opponents units. That's why moving is mostly based on finding ways to attack the flanks, while trying to prevent (or prohibit) the enemy units from doing the same to ours.
No flying units: Units that have the Fly rule are actually just jumping good. They start their jump at the start of their Flying movement, and end it somewhere on the ground. They can't stay in the air.
The game is quick. It could be even quicker with some streamlining, but that would take away dice rolling, gamers like to do, so I think it's good enough for the target audience.
In your own turn, you are doing everything - you move the models, you roll the dice. This enables the use of a chess timer to limit the time you spent on thinking, as your opponent cannot slow you down with their interventions.
Your opponent doesn't get saving throws like in Warhammer. It makes the game faster, but it takes away the ability from your opponent that they could do something, and it can be frustrating if you got used to that.
As there are less rules (partly because of less variety), and the game is fast, Kings of War is well suited for tournaments. Less rules mean the players will understand them better, and as they are all concentrated in one place, players don't have to own and memorize several supplements, like in the case of Warhammer.
Random elements (dice, many dice, d6 only): The game uses six-sided dice for random tests. Some tests involve dozens of dice thrown at once, much to the joy of dice-loving gamers.
Effect templates: There are no effect templates in the game - other games use them to cover models to decide what models are affected. In Kings of War, you just roll for an attack indicated in the rules. It also allows for faster play.
Taking turns: The players take turns in actions. Once a player finishes, he gives the turn to the next player.
Duration of a turn: Abstract. There is no indication.
Acting with the full army: The active player first moves any unit, than shoots with their units, and finally resolves close combats. After the player finished, his opponent takes a turn in moving, shooting and melee.
Retreat after charge: An interesting aspect of Kings of War (I haven't seen anywhere else) is that after a unit charges, and deals damage, they retreat to consolidate.
- Ed2: Addition of countercharge - after a unit has been charged, if it survives, it can face one of its attackers and charge it.
- Ed2: Addition of Thunderous Charge - gives more punch to cavalry units, making them closer to their real life counterparts.
Testing for attack: When you attack with missile weapons or in melee, you have to roll a test to see if you succeed.
Testing for survival: When a unit takes wounds, you have to test if they survive or get removed. There are no fixed wound points that cause the unit to be lost when they run out.
- Ed1 (2012): Upgrading the rules, instead of the previous mathematic methods, added two values, Wavering and Routing, to make it easier to use.
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They add a special ability to a unit that doesn't normally have that. The cost of the item is the same, no matter if you add it to a character, or a legion of troops.
- Ed2: Addition of many magical items.
Magic uses the same resolution system as the other parts of the game, it is very streamlined and very limited. They usually either move units, heal units or damage units. You have to test for effectiveness, but they always work as intended, there's no randomness in their effects. In some other games magic is highly unpredictable.
- Ed2: Addition of 3 more magic spells, so now there is 6.
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Every Force list has a special rule that is used for the whole army unless noted. That means that even the same unit types could have different rules if they belong to different armies. It's an interesting idea as choosing another force to use with the same miniatures could give you a whole new strategy to follow.
- Ed1: There were rules for Banner bearers and Musicians you could add to a unit to modify their statistics.
Army structure: There is a fixed structure you need to follow to create an army. Kings of War armies are based around basic Regiments. You then attach characters, war machines or monsters to them. You cannot have special units on their own. This means there will be a maximum of 1 character or war machine for every 20 soldiers in the game.
Maximum number of units: Aside from the maximum due to the army structure, the only other limitation is for unique units, usually characters.
Army points (units): Every unit has a point value. The unit type determines the size and statistics ouf your unit. You agree with your opponent on the number of points to spend on your army.
Stays until lost: Every unit remain in game until the whole unit is lost. You don't have to take casualties off the table. They also have the same combat statistics until they are lost, they don't get weaker from damage.
Separate formations: Every unit is a separate formation. They can't join together to form a larger unit and you can't make smaller units out of a large horde. This also means heroes cannot join units to lead them.
Unit template: Every unit has a fixed footprint size, depending on the type and size of the unit.
- Ed1-2: Every unit has a set number of miniatures in it.
- Ed2 errata: There is no set number of miniatures any more, you can have whatever you want. For organized tournaments there is a minimum number of miniatures. There is no maximum number though.
Miniature scale (1:56): Kings of War is intended to be used with 1:56 (28mm/32mm) miniatures. The system however doesn't require you to use any miniatures at all. Every unit has a fixed template size and a fixed in-game height. So you could use any or no miniatures at all, it won't change the game itself.
Miniature type and equipment: It should be close to the discription of the unit.
Terrain scale (abstract): The exact scale of terrain is not stated in the rules, but I don't think it's intended to be 1:1 with the miniatures. As several rules wouldn't make sense if terrain scale were realistic (25mm distance between units, retreat after charging, fixed unit formations), I think it represents an abstract area where the battle happens, instead of depicting a real terrain.
Ed1 v1 (2010-2012): The basis of the Kings of War game.
Ed1 v2 (2012-2015): Rules upgrades and clarifications. There's no point in staying with Ed1 v1.
Ed2 (2015-2016-): Rules upgrades and clarifications. There's no point in staying with Ed1 v2.
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Who is this game for?
Players who like clear rules over realistic ones. Kings of War offers an abstract ruleset, that doesn't strive for realism. If the limits of the system bother you, and your mind always wanders away trying to make up rules for events you find unrealistic, this game is not for you.
Players who prefer games without risk management. If you prefer every action to be uncertain, you might get bored with Kings of War.
Players who like games that play fast, because of time limitations or just to have the chance to play more than one battle in an afternoon.
Players who prefer to move their whole armies at once, without the interference of the others. This way you have time to think your strategy through, and time to achieve your plans. When your opponent moves, you'll have plenty of time again to rethink your strategy. If you prefer a fluid game of taking turns continously or real-time activations, this game will be boring for you.
Players who don't mind diorama basing and units with a lower number of miniatures that are required. If it bothers you that your opponent call his 11 miniatures as a "20-man regiment", you will be bothered often during games of Kings of War. Also, if seeing units carrying trees, huts, fence or even small hills on their bases offends your mind, this game is probably not for you.
Possibilities of improvement
For gamist players:
- Getting rid of miniatures: Miniatures don't really take part in the game anyway. All that matters are the unit templates that you move around the battlefield. You could use pieces of cardboard, with the statistics of the unit, and possibly the picture of a unit to make it nicer. Also, you could decrease the size of unit templates, I'd say halving the sizes would make the game easier to play, and it would let you play larger battles.
- Getting rid of single miniatures: There are often arguments about the required number, minimum number and recommended number of miniatures. The problem comes from the fact that the rulebook states there is a required number for every unit. The errata however added that you can have other numbers, and quickly gave us two different additional numbers for every unit to make things harder to follow. From a gamist perspective it's very confusing, so the company should stick to either the fixed number, or to use unit templates, with no regard to the original rules in the Rulebook. As multi-basing seems to be the most popular way, I'd say choosing multi-basing, and getting rid of single miniatures should be the way to follow.
- Getting rid of 3D scenery: One of my problems with using scenery in Kings of War, that if you have realistic scenery, it really gets into the way of moving your unit trays. Sometimes you need to balance your units carefully on pieces of terrain and it can get awkward. Using scenery templates instead of real scenery could improve gameplay.
- Adding save tests: There are many player who feel more involved in the game if they are allowed to do something to prevent losses. The current Kings of War rules let the attacker roll all the dice, while the victim can only try to affect the results with the power of their minds. Although not as interactive as the interventive save tests, to stick to the rule that only that player touches the dice whose turn it is, put a Routed marker on the destroyed unit, and let the oppenent roll their save tests before the movement phase.
- Simplifying dice rolling: At the moment there are lots of dice rolling is involved in Kings of War. While it's good for the kind of gamers who love their dice, it's boring and encumbering for those who don't. It's very easy to get the statistics of dice rolling outcomes, and you could easily build a system around that.
For simulationist players:
- Create realistic rules: As Kings of War is anything but realistic, I think if you try to tweak it until it becomes a simulation of reality, the outcome wouldn't be Kings of War anymore.
The Mantic website recommend Kings of War for fans of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, Hordes / Warmachine, Bolt Action and Frostgrave. I don't know about Hordes / Warmachine, but the other games are totally different. Kings of War is probably closer to chit-based strategy games than to these tactical miniature games.
Hordes of the Things: The structure of Kings of War is very similar to Hordes of the Things. The use of units, the composition of armies, the handling of magic is almost the same. I think Hordes of the Things is better in communicating their intent and it has an easier ruleset for creating armies. The Hordes of the Things combat rules are more realistic than the ones in Kings of War, but it's no surprise as HotT evolved from historical wargames. If I had to choose between the two, at the moment I'd choose Hordes of the Things, but I can see possibilities that Kings of War will evolve in ways that would make this choice harder.
Warhammer Fantasy Battles (Games Workshop): Kings of War is often compared to Warhammer, described something like "like Warhammer, but easier and faster". I can't see much common in the two rulesets beside the turn structure and the eerily similar fantasy setting. However, as the rules for Kings of War are really easier and faster, unless you are a dedicated simulationist, or a gamist who requires complex rules for every possible occasion, I'd recommend Kings of War over Warhammer any time.
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Games Nexus reviews
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Mantic Games: Kings of War: Official website.
Reviews - Ed1
greywulf: The Kings of War Hardback Rulebook, a review: Review article. (2020.04.16: The website is offline.)
Jonathan Hicks (for RPG.Net): Review of Kings of War: Review article.
jontheman (for UK Roleplayers): Review - KINGS OF WAR: Review article mirrored on UK Roleplayers. (2020.04.16: The article is offline.)
Kieron (from Cheaphammer): Kings of War: Report & Review: Review article with playthrough.
Reviews - Changes between editions - Ed1 to Ed2
TheBeastsOfWar: Conquering Kings of War - How 2nd Edition Rules Effect The Game: Rules change review video.
Reviews - Ed2
Ashley Hughes (for Lychgate Gaming): Kings of War, Second Edition: Review article.
haren (from The Hogs of War): Kings of War First Impressions: Review article. (2020.04.16: The article is offline.)
Reviews - Ed2 - Hungarian
HammerTime Cafe: D21-es Bázis Jelenti: Wargame Podcast 14. rész - A Kings of War bemutatása: Review podcast in Hungarian.
Nagy Máté Farkas (MasterDwalin): Fire reasons to try Kings of War Ed2 (in Hungarian): Promotional article in Hungarian.
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Have you played the Kings of War miniatures wargame from Mantic Games? How do you like it? Would you recommend them to others? Tell your opinion in the comments!