Monday, February 15, 2016

40K Friday on Monday: Kings of War Postgame

I've been watching this game for a while, and once word of a second edition came out I decided to hold off until it was out. That happened last summer. Since then I have watched some battle reports, read some reviews, and tried to get a feel for how the game works. I've liked everything I have seen, so I downloaded the free rules and lists on the Mantic site and figured we would give them a whirl.


I'm a longtime Warhammer player, and by longtime I mean since 2nd edition circa 1984. It was the new hot thing in fantasy miniatures rules back then (and somewhat controversial with it's 1:1 figure ratio) but by the 90's it was The Standard. I'd say I played the most with it during 4th, 5th, and 6th editions, trailing off over the last ten years with 7th and 8th.

I didn't have enough minis back when we started to play very big games but luckily within a year or so TSR released Battlesystem, the mass combat rules for AD&D, and provided a load of  counters perfectly sized for use with Warhammer, so my first year or so of games with it were fairly two-dimensional. It was never our main game as Battletech and later 40K and then Epic all took over that spot in turns, but it was always around.

The last few years it appears that sales were really down, possibly somewhat due to some of the changes in the 8th edition of the game which turned off a lot of longtime players. Games Workshop spent 2014 selling "The End Times" which was literally the Ragnorok of the Warhammer setting and it ended with literally the end of the world. I liked the background that had grown up around the game over the last 30 years so I was sad to see it go.

What replaced Warhammer midway through 2015 was Age of Sigmar, a totally new rules set. Apprentice Red and I played it for the first time over the summer and while I like some elements it is a very different game from Warhammer and just didn't feel like there was much to it. A lack of formations and facing pretty much removes the maneuver aspect of the game,  Sure, we could go back and player older warhammer but it would be nice to have something current that was closer to the old game. 

Enter the challenger: Kings of War.

We played two games over the weekend. I had written up a pair of 1000 point army lists for Elves and orcs, stuck figures on some improvised cardboard formation trays, and had it ready to go when Apprentice Blaster arrived.

I'm not going to do a turn-by-turn battle report here. Game 1 was a dead-even tie, Game 2 was a decisive win by the old 4th edition High Elves under Marshal Blaster against my equally-vintage Orcs.

Rolls like this should explain my lack of a win
(it's a "roll high" kind of game)
We talked about the first game and we both agreed that we liked it a lot. We then played again with the same lists and a better understanding of the rules the next day and it was even more fun. Some thoughts after playing:

  • Even not knowing the rules the first game played pretty fast
  • The second game we knocked out in just over an hour even with all the laughing at my horrible rolls
  • The free lists are plenty to get started and are mainly beneficial if you already have an army or six gathering dust around the house. The book lists are very nice and there are quite a few of them. 
  • Magic is way less important in this game, regarding both items and the impact of wizards on the fight.  
  • Point values feel pretty balanced, nothing screamed "broken" to us.
  • It's IGO-UGO but it plays so much faster that this is not the downside I was afraid that it would be. It's nowhere near the old Warhammer turn cycle time or even 40K.
  • While you cannot customize units and characters the way we did in most editions of Warhammer, it still feels like you're building an army - it just lacks the nitpicking over dropping that last grunt or two to fit in one more magic item for your overpowered character. 
  • While the customization element is less, the maneuver element is heightened to at least the best of Warhammer. Movement and positioning is crucial to winning. Units have a certain number of dice they roll in attack, mainly based on the skill and size of the unit. In a flank charge this  is doubled and in a rear attack it is tripled. that's huge.
In our games this maneuver element was critical as in game two for example, elven archers and bolt throwers destroyed one of my two big infantry units as I was ready to charge his infantry. This left my flank exposed and sure enough my orc boys got smashed by elf cavalry who took advantage of it. 

Steady ... steady, looks pretty good

From our experience and what I have seen online the game is built so that it's fairly difficult to just flatten a unit with a single charge. Most of the time units will smash back and forth until one finally breaks. Shooting can soften up a tough unit in advance and of course a flank or rear charge can do all kinds of damage. Setting up that charge, avoiding or minimizing missile fire, the tension as damage piles up on your units, and keeping leaders close to prevent routs by those severely damaged units - it puts the focus of the game on playing it, not preparing for it and that's something I am becoming a bigger and bigger fan of these days. There's plenty of prep already in a miniatures game - I don't need army-building to be the best part of the game. I'd like playing it to be the best part and I think it is.

Stupid elf archery!

 It is a little bit of an adjustment from Warhammer  - it's not "orcs come with light armor and a hand weapon and are 6 points." You can take a unit of 10 orcs, or 20 orcs, or 40 orcs, and there's a statline for each size - that's Troop, Regiment, and Horde. No more min-maxing the numbers with 23 orc boys.

Characters don't join units. Your leader or wizard or army standard bearer are out there all by their lonesome and in general they are not beatsticks who are capable of destroying units on their own. They are mainly there to be inspiring and re-roll bad nerve tests, and throw some spells or some extra dice to push a combat your way. They are not hammers to be feared just because they showed up.

We really liked the game and I have ... several ... old armies laying around so it's a very economical game for us to play. I've already ordered and received the main book and the Uncharted Empires book (which is army lists for the rest of the old Warhammer armies not covered in the main book) and I am trying to figure out the best way to make some progress in getting them painted without losing too much focus on 40K.
Should you try it? Well ...
  • If you have armies for Warhammer and have the itch, go download the free rules and the lists and give it a try!
  • Lord of the Rings armies will work here too with some base adjustments.
  • If you do not have multiple armies but the massed fantasy battle thing intrigues you, again, the rules and lists are free. Mantic makes some nicely priced starter armies and with the current state of warhammer, well, there's always eBay.
  • I suspect that with a few adjustments for scale you could play the game with Warmaster, DBA. and Hordes of the Things armies as well.
So yes, I'm a fan, Blaster is a fan, and Red was around for our second game and is now a fan too, eagerly looking forward to blooding his Wood Elf army in our next go. Expect more posts on it in the future as it moves in right behind 40K at a comfortable #2 in our preferred miniature games. 


Kelvin Green said...

I haven't had a chance to play KoW yet but I have long been intrigued by it, and it's good to see the positive opinions of veterans like yourself.

Blacksteel said...

Thanks Kelvin - it's a different direction than Sigmar and also from the Oldhammer/9th Age efforts but it feels like a good fit for me and the crew here.