Last weekend I visited North Bay games while my wife was at a show (she has her own hobbies which are just as expensive and craft oriented as mine…) and watched the end of a game of Kings of War. That got me thinking about my fairly large GW collection of toys – some painted, some not. I talked to the store owner (Terry) who was one of the people playing the game and they seemed to a decent local scene of players in that area. That got me thinking about trying them. As background I have these rules in PDF but had never really got around to trying or even reading them. So I did. The rules are an easy read and are not that long or complex compared to many. It was a quiet week with the group I game with so one of the guys and I decided to try out Kings of War out. He was in the same boat as me, having got the rules and loads of GW figs from playing Warhammer fantasy in the past but never tried them. So here is a quick report of the game and some thoughts and a quick review of the rules.
First the game rules are not that complex and if you have played GW’s Warhammer Fantasy game, pretty much any version, then you will feel at home with Kings of War (KoW from now on). The rules are easy to read and seem to map well with actually what I want out of a gaming experience. They are not ‘fussy’ with massive numbers of detailed special rules which require looking up/verification and which can easily unbalance games. At the same time have enough flavor to make units different and are 20 or so special abilities in the game.
We played a 1500 point game, with me using undead vs. a wood elf army. My army shown below after deployment. Some of which the Skeletons are now going on for 30 years old at this point! I like that there are no set models for the units in the game and thus you can use all kinds of stand in models for different units. For example, I used a mixture of knights and wolves for my cavalry Soul Reaver vampire cavalry units.
My opponents forces were from the GW Wood elf range and some really nice figs they were too. It’s nice to see two fully painted forces on the table as well. It so pains me to see so many half painted forces being gamed with. The hobby looks SO much better with fully painted models. The elves had three foot bow units, 2 mounted bow units and a couple of hard hitting big units of melee troops with a monster to back them up.
We did a simple kill everything scenario in 6 turns (with a possible 7th which did not happen in our game). There are 6 basic scenario’s in the game. These range from the kill everything to collecting loot with a ‘king of the hill’ type game as well. So it does have more options than the old style GW Warhammer fantasy games I played many years ago. The setup is very reminiscent of Warhammer with alternative units being placed which does work for this type of game. There is a whole set of tactics around the deployment stage in such games.
The lists for forces published cover all the basic GW/Fantasy ranges of troops – plus some new ones as well. These lists are a little more limited than the whole range of GW and other producers creations over the years. That said they are fairly extensive and I’m sure that you will be able to find uses for all the troops in their collection, and may even find a couple of extra units to buy… I know after looking at the undead list I saw Undead Trolls and Werewolves as troop types, hmmm they could be interesting units. <sigh>
The force building rules are fairly simple but mean that your force is based around big blocks of units with support units of smaller units/heroes/monsters. To me this actually works as well as this is a big unit/battle game not a skirmish type game.
So quickly we were into the first turn. One interesting aspect with KoW is that in your turn you do everything. The opponent does nothing. I thought that might be an issue but the way the game works it’s not bad. They also suggest using chess clock timers for really competitive games or I guess if people take too long – with the auto loose if you run out of time. It’s an interesting idea and definitely would keep people on their toes.
In the game I moved the undead slowly out (they can not move at the double like most units) and then used the Necromancers to surge the undead a random amount forward. Magic is very simple with a number of D6’s to cast a spell and a 4+ on each die rolled is a success. Of course this is me rolling so I had consistently poor results with that and thus the troops ended with a pretty level battle line after my first random move.
The elves responded with a round of bow fire from the wood elf bow units while his close combat units moved forward at pace. In KoS shooting seems reasonably powerful but it does more disruptive damage than straight killing units in one go. Well that’s from what I can tell of one game. The elves in their turn of shooting caused a couple of wounds on my skeleton units. Shooting like melee is only done by the acting player. You roll vs. your units target to hit – which seems to typically range from 3+ (really good) to 5+ (zombies and poor troops) on a D6. There are a couple of modifiers to that. Then each successful hit is rolled vs their targets defense – which again seems to range from3+ (bad) to 6+ (good). There are some modifiers for this roll such as really strong units etc. If you cause hit then these are incremented on the target unit. If a unit takes damage then at the end of the turn (or combat) you take the hit total and adds that to 2D6 for a nerve rolls. You compare the nerve result vs. targets values. The unit can be unaffected, wavering (which means they can’t do much but try to recover next turn) or is routed. It’s about that simple for combat.
So after the wood elves moved up and shot at my battle line, it was my turn to continue the movement of the battle lines together. This turn I was using the Necromancers to heal wounds off my Skeletons vs. making them move faster. I had come up the the difficult going in the center of the table which turned out to be a mistake but not my last. The terrain did not effect negatively the wood elf units coming through it due to their special rules but would impact my troops. <sigh> Should have thought of that really.
On my left flank I had a unit of cavalry and a small heavy foot unit – Grave Guards. The Grave Guards foot unit slowly marched up towards some bowmen while using the hill as cover as much as possible. More on those later. Meanwhile my undead cavalry (a mounted vampire and his wolves – which were a Soul Reaver unit in the game) was trying to chase down a flighty group of mounted elven bowmen. That turned out harder to do that I thought. They are ‘nimble’ and get an extra 90 degree turn in their moves, so for a couple of turns they managed to keep out of the charge zone of my knight and wolves.
Eventually, I got them in a position with the use of terrain and the table edge where they could not avoid the Soul Reaver cavalry and so melee happened. That combat in the end was one sided and in the next Undead turn the wood elf unit was trampled under foot. But that one unit of elven cavalry kept that unit of Soul Reaver cavalry busy for the whole game – keeping them from doing anything else. Likely this was a waste of one of my faster units.
On the other flank (shown below) I had a similar unit of a vampire and wolves (Soul Reaver cavalry) and kept that back behind the skeletons. I had initially had the idea to refuse both flanks, keeping these units back to counter the flanks and follow up gains. That did not work well on the left as I mentioned above as I tried to hunt down a unit of bow armed elves. On the right I kept to the plan more.
Anyway back to the main action. In the next Wood Elf turn things came to blows. On the right my refused cav got charged in the flank by elven cavalry. Up front one unit of Skele’s got hit by a regiment of moving trees or some such and the horde of zombies got attacked by a monster and a large regiment of dryads from the woods. Lots of combat.
I had a standard bearer and that saved the Skeleton unit from routing after a high nerve roll. That was because after causing a decent amount of damage on them from the ‘tree things’ the nerve roll was enough to route them. But I had an undead standard bearer that was close enough to the unit to allow me to force a re-roll of the nerve check (if I wanted it – which I did). On the re-roll it was much lower and thus they stayed in the combat, with 8 hits on them though…
The Soul Reaver cavalry hit in the flank faired much better though and only took 1 hit, which I think was very lucky for them. The Zombie horde had a lot of hits put on it but not enough for them to be routed. They were only saved because of their large size and stupidity though as they had something like 15 hits on them.
In my turn the Soul Reaver cavalry who had been flanked turned to face their opponents and counter charged, to limited effect. Really I needed them to clear the eleven cavalry from the table. Although they did damage to the elves it was not enough to destroy the unit. I had hoped to get a superiority of numbers on the tree things by being able to bring those Soul Reavers around to help the Skeleton’s but that was not to happen after this turn.
I charged 2 units of Skeleton’s into the moving tree’s and the zombies tried to take on the big Ent monster in the woods. This turn I learn the hard way that Skeleton’s and Zombies may be able to take a decent amount of hits BUT their are not that great at giving them. Lets say they were less effective than I had hoped and we’ll leave it at that.
The Wood Elves continued their turn killing the already heavily damaged skeleton unit as well as clearing the Zombie horde from the table. This meant that on my turn on the right I still had the Soul Reavers facing and fighting the elven cavalry and now some angry tree things facing a single skeleton unit. The standard bearer was close to help with nerve rolls but that was all he could really do.
In the center my remaining Skeletons were fighting an eleven bow unit next to the Dryads. The other side of the difficult ground the Grave Guard foot unit were finally ready to charge into another unit of elven bowmen on the other side of the big wood monster. Unfortunately, after killing the zombies the Ent had turned around. After destroying an opponent you can do a free spin in place, or move forward or reverse. This allows for some repositioning after victory. But you can’t charge into another unit to fight it – unless your first opponent was a single character such as a hero on his own. So it was critical that the Grave Guard wiped out those bowmen so they too could turn to face this new threat and not get hit in the back by the Ent. Flanking doubles your hits and hitting in the rear triples the No. of hits rolled. So being hit in the flank/rear is really bad in the game.
I decided to take a risk and have both my remaining Skeleton regiments charge into the bows. This was because one would count as having flanked the bowmen. Doing this the flanking unit ignored the big tree things which they could also have charged instead. I was sure the elven bowmen were going to die under the attack of these 2 units and that at least would allow me to hold the center after that. I could spin the units around and command the center with this move. I knew the skeletons’s would be pretty ineffective vs the tree things anyway. Of course this is where my dice failed me and although I damaged the bowmen the nerve roll was not enough and the elven bowmen stayed on he field. They were wavering – which meant they would not attack but that did not help me. It left the tree things open to do what they want and had not even killed the target unit.
The saving grace was the Grave Guard did their job well and completely destroyed the elven bowmen in front of them allowing them to turn to face the Ent. The Soul Reavers on the right also finally killed the Eleven cavalry and spun to face the tree things.In the Wood elves turn the tree things charged my just victorious Soul Reaver cavalry on the right and both Skeleton units got hit in the flank… The unit which had flanked the bows by the last elven foot bowman unit and the Dryads hit the other unit. Things did not look great for either of them. The Ent did also charge the Grave Guard. The Grave Guard armor saved them although they now had quite a few hits on them. The Dryads killed one skeleton unit but the other survived. Unfortunately for my plans the tree things rolled really well – above average and thus destroyed the Soul Reaver cavalry. I had hoped they could last the initial onslaught and kill that unit in their counter attack. So now all but one of my units on the right were destroyed.
In the last turn my Vampire Lord attacked the wood elf leader – although got him wavering did not kill him. I had hoped to run him through and then move on to help the Grave Guards in their fight. In their turn the Grave Guard did a lot of hits on the Ent but again did not kill it. The remaining Skeleton unit finally did kill an elven bowmen unit though. They did fall to the Dryads in the elven turn. And that as they say was game over.
In the end, a fairly close game but the wood elves got the victory in the end. Tactically, I made quite a few mistakes but still as a first play of this type of game in years I’m not that upset about it. It was a fun game with lots of movement and I had my chances so having fun and losing highlights one of the good points in the game. We both made comments that it was reminiscent in many ways of Warhammer but ‘less fussy’. It was nice to get some of the old warhammer toys on the table and rolling buckets of dice in combat.
So for a summary of War of Kings. If you want a modern game which can support a load of toys on the table in regiments or a system to use your old GW Warhammer figs an outing then I think Kings of War seems to fit the bill very well. In fact I can see why players used this vs. Warhammer when Warhammer was still being pushed by GW. The game has a very GW feel to it but that’s not bad just the way it is. It’s quick and clean with plenty of decision points and buckets of dice. Lots of people like that and although I would not always want to play this it’s definitely one which will get played again.To sum up a few thoughts on Kings of War I have the following bullets:
- The rules generated an old school style fun game. This seems to be a great successor to Warhammer and overall I think more fun than that from the memories I have of playing that system. I’m not into the fine details and power gaming and Warhammer always had those undertones. I’m sure that can be done in this game but at least on first play it did not seem as bad.
- The rules are clean and clear with decent decision points. It give s a great old style buckets of dice game with regiments of troops.
- There are plenty of deployment and in game tactics – flanks are really important and the line of sight rules are clear for how things work. So that’s nice.
- The production quality and army lists etc for KoS are good and as it uses unit bases and wound/hit markers not figure replacement it will work for all scales and different figs as well.
- The all die rolls/moves by one player in their turn actually works for this game so that’s a great advantage for time of play. Turns do not seem to be so long as for this to be a big issue, at least after the first game we have played.
- From what I see and from the game we played it seems that heroes & monsters are powerful but can be squishy if played wrong. From a game balance side of thing and just from first game that feels about right. A hero taking on a regiment alone likely won’t win but as a helper likely may tip the balance. If they don’t win though the hero could be in trouble.
- The very limited magic actually seemed ok. There are only a few spells but actually in the one game we had this did not seem a major issue. The spells give some flavor but do not overpower the overall game like some version of Warhammer magic did.
- I can see a good amount of depth in list building and game tactics without this becoming like a Warmahordes deep meta that needs huge amount of knowledge and time. There are no super killer abilities which are instant death for opponents it seems. I must admit I like that vs. say Warmahordes which has a lot of that. I hear comments on the web that there is some cheese armies with loads of breath weapons/magic which might be an issue, but not sure what that’s about. Most games with lists like this have a few cheese options so it’s not unexpected.
- The biggest negative for me is the lack of command and control of moves in the game. That’s not as much of an issue for a ‘warhammer replacement’ style game but is for more general games – especially more historical ones it may be.
So overall, I have to say I liked Kings of War and will be playing this again. It’s fun and very much a modern Warhammer.