The following review was written over 8 years ago, and originally appeared in the April 1998 issue of Games! Games! Games!. My opinion of the game hasn't changed notably over time; I still think it's a good, but not great, game. After trading away my copy, I traded to get it back again a year ago, and did enjoy playing it again.
Lang lebe der König is a light wargame designed by Günter Burkhardt, released by F.X. Schmid early in 1997. It's a three to five player game, playable in approximately one hour, and is loosely themed around a fight for political control of England and Wales.
As expected in a release from a large German game company, the components of Lang lebe der König are of high quality. The gameboard, while small, is beautifully but still functionally illustrated, and the wooden playing pieces are octagons, rather than the more familiar cubes. The cards that drive the game are small but reasonably functional, trading difficulty in shuffling for ease in holding a hand of twenty or more cards.
Each player is assigned a starting territory, where their baron and two courtiers are placed. The first two or three turns are usually spent expanding into unoccupied territories and fortifying their territories. Each turn players get to move their baron one space, with attempts to move further through friendly territory requiring the use of cards. Then a single courtier may be placed with their baron for free; each attempt to place an extra courtier also costs a card. The common x1 cards are particularly useful for these activities.
Eventually, however, conflict is inevitable. When a baron is moved into enemy territory, a "political" struggle for control of the territory ensues. Every player is welcome to vie for control of the besieged territory; the only advantage given to the attacker and defender is a bonus of two points per piece present (courtier or baron). Each card played, up to 5, allows the player to roll one die; the type of card (1x, 2x, or 3x) shows the multiplier for the die. The high score wins the territory; the defender's courtiers are returned to him or her, unless of course the defender wins. Any baron in the territory not belonging to the winner is moved, and the winner gets to place one courtier for free and additional courtiers according to the usual restrictions. As compensation for rolling a one, players get to keep one card for each one rolled - but they must choose their smallest cards.
Eventually, one player runs out of cards. When this happens, at the end of the current turn the game is interrupted and a vote is taken. Each player adds up the value of their territories, with the player who ran out of cards penalized 1/3 of their total for using excessive influence. If any player has twenty points in territories, they win. Otherwise, bonus points are awarded. The person controlling the most points in territories scores one point for each player in the game. The next highest scores one fewer, and so on; each player, therefore, scores at least one bonus point in every election. In future elections, bonus points are added to the territory count to see if a winner can be chosen, but are not used in awarding additional bonus points.
Assuming no one has won, which is usually the case in the first two rounds at a minimum, the used cards are shuffled and distributed evenly. These cards, up to a maximum of fifteen per player, are added to any cards players have remaining from the previous round. The game then continues on until an election is won.
Lang lebe der König owes much to Condottiere; the games feel more than a little similar. Leng lebe der König offers a number of improvements upon the basic structure of Condottiere, though; the rules penalizing the excessive use of influence cards serve to keep the game in check. In general, going on an offensive spree is not rewarded. Additionally, the bonus point rules push the game to a reasonably swift conclusion, eliminating the stalemate possibility occasionally seen in Condottiere. There is far less variety in the cards, though, and not quite the same level of freedom in choosing where to do battle.
For a game involving lots of dice rolling, Lang lebe der König is not particularly dominated by luck. For those who wish to lower the luck factor, though, averaging dice could easily be incorporated at little cost to the gameplay. What does play a large factor in the game, though, is bluff - initiating a battle places no requirement of participation.
In spite of the emphasis in the rules on politics and influence, rather than battle and force, Lang lebe der König is very clearly a wargame. It is an usual one, certainly, as the cards have far more impact in battles than the "armies", but the game evokes far more feelings of warmongering and aggresion than politics. Not a war for England, though - the mapboard, as nicely illustrated at it is, could just as easily have depicted Ohio.
Lang lebe der König is best with four players; the setup with five players will always leave one at a disadvantage, if not an inescapable one. As a light multiplayer wargame, it's a success, if not a stunning one. There is something strangely appealing about rolling dice in a wargame, and it brings a certain excitement to this game. As such, I would recommend the game to anyone to whom the concept of an hour long multiplayer wargame would appeal.
- Last edited Sun Jun 4, 2006 11:26 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sun Jun 4, 2006 11:25 pm
Nice review, Joe. I've seen this game panned all too often, and as you point out, it's really not a bad game.