Matt Gilbert is one of our longest serving Pathfinders, as well as contributor to the Mantic Rules Committee, author of the upcoming Dungeon Saga Adventure books and is also responsible for the extra fantasy army lists (lizard-, rat-, beast- men etc) we are producing later.
For any new player looking at Kings of War for the first time, Matt has also produced this New Player Guide to getting started with Kings of War:
Part 1: The Game
So what is Kings of War?
Kings of War is a table-top war game that allows you to play epic fantasy battles in the world of Mantica. You and your opponent will pit your wits and armies against each other in a battle of tactics, a contest of skill and an explosion of magic and steel.
So how do you play it?
Both players each choose one of the armies taken from those available from the fantasy world of Mantica. They do this by spending “points” to build their force to an agreed limit. Then, once the armies are deployed on the table, the players take it in turns to move, shoot and fight with the units which they are using.
Each player turn is broken down into the following phases, conducted in order:
The Move Phase
Units are given orders to advance, turn, retreat and charge using their Speed (Sp) value. Everything can be pre-measured in advance anytime in the turn. All distances are measured in inches. Terrain may slow a unit (or limit what it can do) but friendly units are allowed to move (not charge) through each other freely making it easy to attack or defend in waves. The movement rules are simple and elegant, allowing a great deal of tactical game play. You can move (and charge) units in any order you like. You don’t have to declare anything in any order either but if you want more than one unit to charge an enemy unit, you move all your charging units together.
Charging units have a good degree of freedom, representing them running round obstacles and units to get to their target.
The game allows you to play and move armies the way you imagine they would behave in real life. The rules work with you rather than against you in this regard.
The Shoot Phase
Units that have not charged into combat and that have ranged weapons may now fire them at enemy units that are in range. Magic spells are also cast in the Shoot phase; there is no separate magic phase. Spells are simply considered ranged attacks just like firing a bow or a rifle. Units roll to hit using their Ranged (Ra) value and then to damage the target using its Defence (De) value. Damage caused is recorded against the enemy unit (adding to any previously caused).
War engines also unleash their destructive power in the Shoot phase, typically firing up to 48”.
The Melee Phase
Units which charged into combat in the Move phase now fight in the Melee phase. Units roll to hit using their Melee (Me) value and then to damage the target using its Defence (De) value. Damage caused is recorded against the enemy unit (adding to any previously caused). If the attacking unit(s) fail to Rout (destroy) the target unit, they retreat 1”. Units are not “locked” in combat in Kings of War allowing more options to the defender in their own turn. While they can of course charge back in, they are not compelled to.
Nerve is the way in which players determine whether units are still able to fight or have been destroyed (or have fled). It represents both the morale of the unit and the amount of casualties it can absorb before it is rendered ineffective. Damage caused on a unit will build up over the course of a game and each phase in which a unit takes damage, the attacking player will test against the Nerve (Ne) values of the damaged unit, adding the damaged caused so far to the roll. This will determine whether the unit is: Steady (will able to act fully), Wavered (limited options in its next turn) or Routed (destroyed and removed from the table). Units have 2 values under the Ne statistic (e.g. 14/16). The first number is what is needed to Waver the unit (roll this or above) and the second number is what is required to Rout the unit (rolling this or above).
There are a number of special rules units can have. These are things like Crushing Strength that will lower the De value of enemy units in Melee or Inspiring which means a Rout result on a unit requires a reroll if they are within 6” of an Inspiring unit. Combined with the range of values units have for how fast they move and how good they are at shooting, fighting and in defence, these Special rules mean armies can have great variety in their units, and how they behave and interact with each other and the enemy.
In your turn, you do everything: all movement and all dice rolling – while you opponent plots their cunning tactics and counter-manoeuvres for their following turn. This might be different from other systems you have played but as well as speeding the game up it also allows for an intriguing twist and a solution to tournament games running to time. Timed games work really well in KoW by setting each player a maximum time they have to play their game and so they are only using (or wasting!) their own time when it’s their turn! Casual games don’t tend to use this option of course but most tournaments will. It certainly adds another exciting dimension to the game.
One of the big selling points for many people is that fact that, because models are not removed from units to represent casualties, it means units can be modelled as single pieces, with action poses, scenery elements and dynamic dioramas. This can add a wonderful visual element to armies and players can really go to town and create great themed and detailed playing pieces.
What dice are used?
All dice in the game are normal 6-sided dice.
How long does it take to learn?
Kings of War is very quick and simple to learn. We’ve seen players running games themselves during demos after the first couple of turns! The game is hugely tactical of course and will take a long time to truly master but is immensely fun and satisfying to play from the word go.
Are there any tables to look up results or templates used in the game?
No – there are no tables or templates required to play. What a unit needs to hit or damage another unit is recorded directly in the unit’s profile. For example, a unit with a Me value of 4+ needs to roll 4 or more for each attack it has in Melee to hit the enemy unit. For things like artillery hitting a unit, special rules like Blast will determine how many hits are scored, rather than counting models under a template.
How much room do I need to play it?
Most players will use a standard 6 foot by 4 foot table for a typical game. Smaller games will work equally well on a 4 foot square table.
How big is a typical game and how long will it last?
Well this will depend on how big your armies are and how big you like to play your games! Most “normal” games are probably somewhere between 1500 and 2000 points and will take a couple of hours at most (up to 6 or 7 turns per player). Two experienced players might well get a 1500 point game played in a little over an hour – leaving more than enough time on games night to play again!
Can I play really big games?
Yes! The game scales up beautifully but the amount of time taken to play really big games doesn’t increase in step – big jumps in game size will see smaller increases in the amount of time taken to play. This make Kings of War ideal for things like Saturday afternoon gaming or all-evening multi-player gaming. We’ve seen games of 10,000 to 30,000 points per side taking no more than 4 or 5 hours of playing time to reach a conclusion (and that’s 6 turns each per side!). Of course, big games require much bigger tables (12×4 or even larger).
So what’s new in Kings of War Second Edition?
Based on our own experience, the feedback from the community and the tournaments we’ve run we are tweaking a few things but with a clear mandate not to change the core principals of the game. Kings of War must still feel like Kings of War and retain everything that makes it the great game it is while polishing bits here and there to make it even better! 2nd Edition is an evolution rather than a revolution. In summary we will be:
- Consolidating all the books into one book so all rules, magic items, spells and army lists are in one place.
- Including FAQs into the core rules.
- Moving from using True Line of Sight to a more appropriate abstract mechanic.
- Making ranged combat and units more capable (without overpowering them).
- Toning down artillery a notch.
- Tweaking the way armies are selected.
- Adding a few new spells. Magic will remain a subtle part of the game though, as it is now.
- Reviewing all the army lists to add new units, improve units that need it and repoint everything together to make all armies balanced within and against each other as much as we possibly can. The Magic items will get the same treatment (as will a number of the fanlists out there making them official!)
- Adding tons and tons of new art and background to really bring Mantica to life, sowing the seeds for a global Kings of War campaign!
- And a few more new rules changes we think you’ll like too…
Kings of War 2nd Edition is now available to pre-order and begins shipping in August.