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Subject: First impressions from a Warhammer Fantasy Veteran rss

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Jay Shepherd
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I finally had the chance to try Kings of War over the weekend, and I feel like a first impressions review would be fun to share. This review will be a comparison between Kings of War and Warhammer Fantasy.

How I Game

Before I go into the first impressions, it is important that you know what kind of wargaming I prefer. After all, if you are into a different experience, then you won't be able to get anything from my own.

I've been playing Warhammer Fantasy Battles for over 14 years. What I like about the game is the wealth of "customization & meta" the rules allow. In Warhammer, I can select from a variety of spell lores, tons of magic items and equipment. I like wargames that give me the ability to build around my strategic preferences. Warhammer 8th edition has become a bit too solved for me, as it seems like the same competitive lists show up over and over again. The game system has also become a bit too cumbersome for our time-limited get togethers. But that's another review for another game at another time. Simply put, I like having options and I like larger battles.

My Kings of War Experience

To me, the holy grail of wargaming would be a system that is simple at its core, but with a healthy amount of options in the meta as described above. It'd also be balanced and tactical. To me, Kings of War has nailed the simplicity and the on-table tactics requirements, but I think the game lacks a lot of the deep meta that many wargamers like myself love.

As you may have gathered from other reviews, the game system is fluid, fast, and efficient. I was surprised that I was able to build a reasonable army at 600pts to play a fulfilling game with, something that I think Warhammer Fantasy is not at all suited for. (600points in WH Fantasy is as balanced as a fat dude and a kid on a teeter totter). Fresh off reading the Kings of War rulebook, my friend and I played 3 games within 3 1/2 hours. I messed up on a rule here and there, but for the most part, we had fun, and the games were intense.

But as I have already alluded to, Kings of War does not have enough "meat and taters" in the meta to keep me interested long-term, at least at the moment. I can see this being something we casually play, something we play ever so often to mix things up. I predict that the meta would be solved (the best units/combinations will be discovered, rendering any other options stupid or for fun only) quickly, or be irrelevant altogether, but I cannot be certain of this as I have not played competitively.

I have read many comments on forums about how a game cannot have a huge variety of meta options and remain balanced. I disagree. I think Kings of War has the potential to be as meta-heavy as Warhammer, but without the clunky core rules.

Summary of What I Liked

-> Games are played quick enough to play multiple in one gaming session. Nothing bothers me more than playing Warhammer Fantasy for 3 hours just to lose because I fail a re-rollable Leadership 10 test, and blow the game. It's not as big of a deal if I lose a game that I have only invested about an hour to an hour 1/2 in. "Stack them up, lets try it again."

-> Kings of War cuts out a lot of the crap that was cool about Warhammer for the first few years, then got old quick. I liked Warhammer 8th Edition's magic phase, but now it slows the game down, and literally can change the winner regardless of tactical plays. Roll a 12 for Winds of Magic & got a Dwellers in the barrel? Good Game. Even templates are a formality in Warhammer anymore, as it seems like I'm always removing a load of figures from a direct hit or slight scatter. Kings of War says "cannons hit on a 5+". Lets cut out the "place the coin and roll the artillery dice, rerolling misfires" nonsense. What about Kings of War magic? You cast Zap! on a 4+, you heal models on a 4+. No more late game spell that utterly wipes you out.

-> Kings of War feels like movement matters. Anymore I wonder why I try to grab the flank in Warhammer Fantasy. Often times they just get steadfast and eventually turn to face me. In Kings of War, I found myself thinking my movement through, with the purpose of screw-dizzling my opponent out of a charge or shooting opportunity. Don't get me wrong, I actually like Warhammer's random charge system, as it makes some armies able to actually charge (**cough** Dwarfs). But when I grab your flank in Kings of War, it's like Mike Tyson on an ear.

-> Combat in Kings of War doesn't make me want to fall asleep from exhaustion. One of the most difficult choices I bet Alessio (the writer of Kings of War) had to make was the implementation of the one sided melee system. Your opponent does not get to fight back on your turn, but they countercharge on their own. It actually work like a dream, despite how horrible the idea sounds. Recently I finished a Warhammer Fantasy game where we had 4 separate units, each lead by one or more heroes/champions, in a single combat. Certain models could only attack certain ones because of corners, and the heroes each had their own special rules and all of that. I just about conceded due to the dread of actually carrying out the combat. Kings of War combat is amazing in that I do damage, if you survive I back up, and you get your shot at me. It's like 2 hillbillies hitting each other in the arm until one gives up. I'm a hillbilly, and I like that.

Summary of What I Didn't Like

-> Is it me, or is cavalry in Kings of War freakin' auto-win in melee? If you don't shoot the snot out of Dark Knights, they will beat you. They will always get the charge on infantry (which they should), and if they flank you, you'll have to mortgage your home to buy the amount of dice needed to roll their attacks (or you could just use your fingers and re-roll the dice you've already rolled).

-> Light on meta, but you know that by now.

-> Is there enough difference in the units to consider them unique? As I was making my first list, I realized that some options are just too cheap not to take. Why not spend 15 points to give my crossbowmen piercing 2? That's a whopping +1 to wound. In Warhammer Fantasy they'd probably charge like 70 points for something like that (because their game development team has no sense of unit and option appraisal). Some stat lines look rather similar, and the abilities too. Considering that the core rules for Kings of War allows allying between armies pretty much at will, it does make me think some units will stay on the bench.

-> Heroes cannot lead units. That bothers me. I like the look of a Lord character leading an elite unit. But that may just be me.

-> Nothing accumulates wounds, or loses attacks as it takes damage. I do like the look of an army dwindling as the game progresses and casualties are dealt out. But after playing Kings of War, I can live without that. But I thought I'd include it just because other Warhammer players may feel this way.

-> No armour save system. I love the excitement of seeing if I can save against the wounds dealt to my unit. In Kings of War, you are watching your opponent roll, hoping to God they don't kill off your unit. You're helpless. BUT I understand why armour saves were not a part of the game, as it would not be chess clock friendly, something I am interested in trying. Armor saves can bog down the turn as well, so it is a trade-off I may be able to live with.


Overall, Kings of War is a game I will keep in touch with, and if it does develop a deep meta, I may jump ship after more than a decade of Warhammer Fantasy.

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don vandrei
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Nice review, I love KOW, I posted up the first review here a few years back. It's just so easy to play...
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Jay Shepherd
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Thank you! Do you still play Kings of War? And if so, do you find that players take the same stuff over and over? Does it get stale? I'm curious how the game would hold up interest in a dedicated group?
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Peter Cooper
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Thanks for the review. I agree. I used to love Warhammer, but the most recent version of the game does nothing for me. I like Kings of War and have played it since before it was released - but the problem with simple rules is that there may not be enough space to develop a range of really different armies.

I also love that they try to make the points cost of each unit reflect its worth. It doesn't work of course, one unit will always be better value for points than another, but they try.
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Hans Hansen

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@OP

Have you tried Warmaster? It is like the game you describe! No nonsense rules, slight changes in the stats yield really different armies.

C
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Jay Shepherd
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I have the Warmaster rulebook but never got around to trying it. The scale looks interesting.
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Hans Hansen

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Try the rules on http://wm-selector.appspot.com ... There is currently every army available.

C
 
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Todd Reed
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Hans, that's a great tool, thank you.
 
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Ken Whitehurst
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"It's like 2 hillbillies hitting each other in the arm until one gives up. I'm a hillbilly, and I like that."

This cracked me up. Excellent review. Eyeing the 2d edition Kickstarter now. Thanks for the comparison.
 
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Mike Z
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I have made the switch from WHF as well, and i must say.. KoW is a much better system. I realize the customization leaves some to be desired. My alternative to that is creating my own special characters. Obviously your counterparts would need to agree to this. As an example, I created Tyrion. All i did was take existing magic items in the rule book to reflect (as cloely as possible) what he would look like in the KoW world oppossed to WHF. It is fun and gives you the ability to customize where it otherwise wouldnt exist.
 
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Matt Price
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Funny review! I love this game and eagerly await 2nd ed (and the inevitable sales on obsolete GW figs when the new, radically revised WHFB comes out!)
 
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Francesco
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Thank you very much for the review.

I am looking for another fast “direct conflict” game with a fantasy setting since my partner is not enjoying anymore Summoner Wars (she thinks it is too much casual since she never get the card, in particular the champion, when she need it !! laugh) and I am looking at different alternatives.

How would you compare “Kings of War” with “Song of Blades and Heroes” and “Battlelore” ?

My Bretonnian and Skaven armies are eager to battle, but I have the feeling for a person who is not used to wargame maybe Battlelore would be easier to grasp. I would be glad to have your opinion about it.

 
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Frank Müller
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KoW is a phantastic game. The more you play it, the more you learn about the different advantages of the units. So its several degrees deeper from a tactical PoV than WFB ever was, at least for me.

IMO "Deepness" does not come from a myriard of badly balanced options which reminds more to a CCG card game which lives from winning through access to exception-based special rules like Magic the Gathering than a tactical game, but from direct gameplay and manoevering on the table.

Thus said, even this great game could be improved and its armies/heroes further balanced and individualized and thats what I think is done in the 2nd edition.
 
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Andrés F.
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Mithrandir82 wrote:
How would you compare “Kings of War” with “Song of Blades and Heroes” and “Battlelore” ?

I'm less familiar with Kings of War, but it's a miniatures wargame where two armies battle it out, very roughly in the same league as Warhammer, isn't it? If so, it's entirely different from both "Song of Blades and Heroes", which is a miniatures skirmish game where very few minis engage each other, and with emphasis on individual models, and "Battlelore", which is a board game on a hex grid which happens to use miniatures as counters.

I'd say the three games have nothing in common besides being about fantasy war.
 
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Nathan Firth
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I played my first game of this yesterday and it played very well - quick, easy to understand but with quite amount of strategy required. And it doesn't require the bookkeeping WFB does which is great. The only downside I could see in this is what the original author noted - and that is lack of troop options to some degree. I don't see that being a major issue though
 
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Francesco
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The_Android wrote:
[q="Mithrandir82"]I'd say the three games have nothing in common besides being about fantasy war.


I agree there are many differences between these fantasy wargames but I am interested to compare them on general aspects (i.e. related to accessibility for new players) such as:
- Complexity of rules
- Balance of the different army lists
- Time required, including the design of an army list and the deployment phase
- fun and replayability. laugh

In my opinion Warhammer was lacking in the first three aspects which exstinguished also the fun in my gaming group in the end . cry

From what I have seen, although Kings of War seems to be largely inspired by Warhammer, it is way more accessible for new gamers.
 
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Electro Rush
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As a long time Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Kings of War player I can agree with most of the things that original poster stated.

Kings of War is a better and faster game than Warhammer Fantasy Battle. There is a pretty good balance between units, and what is the most important thing for me, game turns are structured in a way that it is possible to use chess timers - because turns of the player are not interrupted by actions of an opponent. Thus Kings of War can potentially be a great tournament game.

Rules are clear, and game goes fast. Not even once me, or my gaming buddies had any problems with rules interpretation.

It is almost perfect system, but it has one flaw, which original poster mentioned already. It lacks some depth. As of now it looks like Kings of War lacks just a one little small element (tactic cards, some resource management or hidden information aspect) that would give it a perfect weight and rounded it up nicely.

Given the fact that Games Workshop effectively killed "Warhammer Fantasy Battle" with its new product "Age of Sigmar" one can say that Kings of War is better, faster and nicely balanced spiritual successor of Warhammer Fantasy Battle.
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Frank Müller
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Embir wrote:

As of now it looks like Kings of War lacks just a one little small element (tactic cards, some resource management or hidden information aspect) that would give it a perfect weight and rounded it up nicely.


I dont think that "depth" in a masscombat TT game means the inclusion of tactic cards or resource management. Frankly I dont even think that good tabletops need any of these fancy tactic cards which only came up a few years ago with the advent of typical FFG games.

For me as old school tabletop gamer there is only one definition of "depth" and that is how the game handles maneovering and timing between the units. And in this aspect KoW is better than 90% of other miniature games out there.
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Andrés F.
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Mithrandir82 wrote:
I am interested to compare [Kings of War, Song of Blades and Heroes and Battlelore] on general aspects (i.e. related to accessibility for new players) such as:
- Complexity of rules
- Balance of the different army lists
- Time required, including the design of an army list and the deployment phase
- fun and replayability. :laugh:

I really think you're comparing apples to oranges to... um, potatoes, but if you must insist:

- Battlelore is a board game with very simple rules. It's also hex based, so it's less free-form than the other two games. It's balanced by design (while there are add-ons, it's not truly a "collectable miniatures game"), and in my experience most scenarios are winnable by either side. You do not design army lists (since it's a board game), setup is pretty fast, and in an hour you can finish a game while playing at a reasonable pace. It's also highly replayable, even the same exact scenarios (but there are plenty in the booklet). I've only played 1st edition Battlelore, which is an extremely cool game with a huge bunch of nice-looking miniatures, and I can't recommend it enough. However, it's not truly a miniatures wargame, since the minis are little more than cool looking hitpoint counters, which is why it's odd to compare it to the other two games.

- Song of Blade and Heroes is a skirmish miniatures game, with very few minis per side (the book recommends between 8 and 15 per side) battling it out using lightweight, fun-oriented rules. It's not a game meant to be used for playing "balanced" or competitive scenarios. The rules are very easy to learn, it plays fast, and is replayable. I guess much of the fun lies in building your band of adventurers using the traits from the book. I think Song of Blade and Heroes is a very fun game, and it's awesome when you want to play some quick game using whatever random minis you have lying around. However, it's not a "mass battles" wargame, which is why I think it's odd to compare it with Kings of War.

- As for Kings of War, it's the only game of this bunch I've never played, so I'll refrain from saying too much. Judging by its rules, it does seem like it was inspired by Warhammer, but it also seems like the authors did their homework and designed a much more streamlined wargame. In my very subjective opinion, this is a good thing; I've no patience for complicated wargames that take hours to play and require lots of special rules and micromanagement of individual soldiers.
 
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Jay Shepherd
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It's been a while, but I wanted to reply. I havnt played song of blades. I own battlelore and played it once. I feel kings of war is easier to learn, but maybe it's because I'm familiar with wargaming of this type. Battlelore does have an awesome setup to learn the game, with rule cards.

With Warhammer dead I've been a bit depressed. I've been collecting and playing for 17 years, and always looked forward to the new army books. Age of Sigmar is a hot mess of crap. It's broken and literally defies what it means to play a game. No good way to build army lists, and no balance aside from a Pawn-Stars-like debate before each game. Why not just tell a story and using the figures as puppets? :(
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