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Phlebas Sosostris
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Here is a review by my son followed by my comments.

Kingmaker Review. Avalon Hill 1976 featuring 2nd Edition Rules and Mapboard

Introduction:

Kingmaker is a game about the English civil war in the 1400s between the houses of York and Lancaster. These wars are called the War of the Roses since the two houses had roses as their symbols. Instead of playing as either York or Lancaster, players control a faction of nobles trying to control the royal heirs. To win you have to control and crown the last surviving heir.

Most of the game is about acquiring a sufficient force to capture the royal heirs who mainly start in highly defended fortified towns or royal castles.

Time: The amount of time it takes to player a game of Kingmaker varies greatly. While most games can be finished in about two and a half hours, it is possible for them to take one and a quarter hours or at the other extreme four hours.

Recommended Number of Players: While Kingmaker can be played with two to six players, three or four would be the ideal number. With two players there is not much player interaction and it can become quite boring, and with five or six it is quite easy to get bored as you watch other players do their turns.

Complexity:

Once you get the hang of Kingmaker the basic game is actually very simple. A set of additional optional rules and a set of advanced rules are included to increase the complexity of the game.

The Cards:

There are two types of cards in Kingmaker. Crown cards are the nobles and rewards which can be assigned to them. Event cards which have two sections: one section has an event for example 'plague in London' and the other is a combat result.

The types of Crown Cards are:

Nobles: Nobles are the most important cards in the game. They have varying number of troops depending on the amount of power they had. Some might have inbuilt titles such as Mowbray is the Duke of Norfolk, Pole is the Duke of Suffolk and Neville is the Earl of Warwick.

Titles: Titles like the Earl of Essex, Duke of Exeter and Earl of Richmond may be assigned to nobles without a title. They provide a small number of troops and possibly a couple of fortified towns.

Offices: Offices may be assigned to nobles with a title. They provide a large number of troops and possible ships and fortified towns or royal castle. Powerful offices grant additional troops in a specific area. Some offices are the chancellor, the warden of the northern marches and the admiral.

Towns: Towns give control of a fortified town to the owner's faction.

Mercenaries: Mercenaries provide a small number of bonus troops to a noble.

Archbishops/ Bishops: To crown a king, the crowning player must have at least one archbishop or two bishops. They also might give an additional small number of troops in an small area and give control of a fortified town.

Ships: Provide sea transport for nobles. In general, travelling by sea is faster than travelling by land and it is the only way to reach the Isle of Wight, the Isle of Man, Calais, the rest of the European continent and Ireland.


Event Cards

Plague:

All nobles and royal heirs 'inside' a specific town are killed (removed from play).

These cards add an interesting effect on the game to stop nobles hiding inside fortified towns and they can speed up the game by removing royal heirs.

Revolt, Uprising, Raid etc

These cards send specific nobles to a square on the board to sort out a revolt or raid. These cards have a huge effect on the game given that it allows opponents to attack nobles away from the rest of their faction. These cards are extremely important because they stop nobles hiding away in the areas they are strongest.

Storms at Sea

All ships must move to the nearest port with any nobles aboard, these cards stop nobles hiding at sea where no combat is allowed.


Play: Play is quite simple. At the start of the game each player is given a number of crown cards and assigns the different rewards he received to the nobles he received; unfortunately what cards a player is given has a strong effect on the outcome of the game. He/she then places
each noble the player controls in their home castle and control markers on the towns he/she owns.

On each player turn the he/she draws an event card and resolves the effects in the event section.

The player moves each of his or her nobles five squares on the mapboard. He/she may then attempt to attack an enemy noble or a town or castle to capture a royal heir or take the settlement so they can hide in it with a one, two or three hundred bonus troops inside the castle or town depending on the specific settlement.

Combat is very simple; the attacking player draws an event card and looks at the combat section. It will name the ratio needed to win the battle and if any nobles are killed.

A player then finishes his turn by drawing a crown card.


Rating:

Good Luck Factor: 2/10:

Game is largely determined by the cards each players draws, although, it is possible to play badly unlike snakes and ladders.

Quality:7/10

The mounted board is nicely done, and the map is reasonably clear.

The cards could be better: they are not very durable.

Clear Rules: 6/10

Rules are ok: they are not the clearest.

Enjoyability: Averaging 6.5/10

Can be enjoyable if every-player begins with a similar strength, otherwise can be quite boring and tedious.


Replayability: 9/10

Completely different game each time; it is very replayable.


Overall: 6



Additional comments by Father


Some features are innovative even today. The map is unusual is that it is divided into unevenly sized small areas reflecting difficulty of travel with no stacking limits. Road movement is unlimited by distance but is limited by enemy-held towns and strongholds. Turns are not supposed to reflect a fixed amount of time and so it can be odd with a noble summoned to the opposite end of England instantaneously and then it takes several turns to return him to where he came from.

The game can be frustrating in that without certain cards little can be done: without an archbishop and or two bishops, it's impossible to crown a royal heir; without a ship, Calais is out of reach and one of the royal heirs is there and must be dealt with in order to win.



Offices are of very different strength in different areas. For example, 200 extra troops in Wales only or in London only. The effect of this is that a noble who stays where he is strong is unassailable until he is summoned to the opposite end of the board by an event card. Thus an awful lot of game play is determined by nobles being randomly summoned across the board.

If you have the sole king or the chancellor, you can summon parliament. This allows the allocation of titles and offices. It can often win you the game since you give as many as possible to your own people. There are more advanced parliament rules with voting but even then it is not too hard to have a dominating number of votes since the king and senior heirs have many votes.

In order to assist with finding locations, the cards list their coordinates. However, these are for the old map and this can be frustrating. A key is included on the back of the rules but this is still annoying. Another quirk of English geography is that nobles' seats are often far from the modern placenames. For example, Leeds castle is nowhere the modern town of Leeds.

The set-up time is small so games can be started quickly and there are ultimately never that many counters in play at a time so each turn usually does not take long unless there is a parliament with a lot of haggling over votes.

Ultimately, the game has some good features but the randomness of cards drawn and nobles' summons destroys coherent strategies and limits long-term interest.



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Crazy Fella
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Love the father and son review, I have many fond memories of playing this with my own dad when I was growing up. It was one of the first board games we played together, and I dare credit it with my love for board gaming all these years!
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Dave Dawn
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Long Live Kingmaker and Father/Son playing matches)!
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James DeRosa
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I remember playing this many years ago. As the game neared the end stage, I had the last surviving heir protected by lots of troops in London, waiting as I worked to get an Archbishop there in order to crown the heir and win the game. On the turn before I was going to get the Archbishop to London, we draw the "Plague in London" card. After 3 hours, the game was a draw. Sigh.
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Dave Dawn
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bar10jim wrote:
I remember playing this many years ago. As the game neared the end stage, I had the last surviving heir protected by lots of troops in London, waiting as I worked to get an Archbishop there in order to crown the heir and win the game. On the turn before I was going to get the Archbishop to London, we draw the "Plague in London" card. After 3 hours, the game was a draw. Sigh.


If Beaufort was in play he could have been crowned and if not in play the game could have been extended until he was in play!

And yeah, plague in London can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory!
 
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Greg Sarnecki
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My last game of Kingmaker ended with parliament being called at Carlisle, with everyone attending, and a 'Plague of Carlisle' as the next card. We called it a draw!
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Dave Dawn
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shturmovik14 wrote:
My last game of Kingmaker ended with parliament being called at Carlisle, with everyone attending, and a 'Plague of Carlisle' as the next card. We called it a draw!


I would have kept playing as long as the other players were willing ... but I understand!
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Rich
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I just pulled a used copy of this out of storage to take a look at it. Your review is spot on.

Doubt you've been losing sleep over this for the past two years but there is indeed still a castle at the Leeds Castle location on the map and as you point out it is nowhere near the town of Leeds.
 
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Greg Sarnecki
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Leeds castle was a royal castle in Kent. It pre-dates the city of Leeds. AFAIK, it was never owned by the Dukes of Buckingham, although they did own nearby Tonbridge castle.
https://www.leeds-castle.com/History
Just another one of KM's many geographical/historical errors - but then, they didn't really have the Internet back in the early 70's when KM was developed, so it's too easy to be overly harsh on game designers from that era.
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