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Subject: The King's Abbey - Priests v Vikings.... rss

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Ken Savage
Austria
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This is a game I had looked forward to for a while. We ordered it from KS some time ago, but never got round to playing it. After a first play, we eagerly introduced it to our friends who love a good complex strategy game!

To start, the box is a good normal size so will fit with others on the shelf. It is a little heavy as it has a lot of components within. Being a Kickstarter backer, I believe that the only difference we have from normal is the Defense Shields, the Darkness Tracker, the starting player meeple and the Clergy Training Token. The components within are all fantastic quality. The KS price was an unbelieveable $39, which is amazing considering the amount of components and the quality of everything within. The sideboards are thin, but have a nice linen feel covering which makes them feel quite sturdy. The main cards are great quality and of normal size, so normal sleeves were fine. The building cards are nice and sturdy, but are quite small. They can have a bit of writing on them, which can make it tricky for people around the table to be able to read them when it comes time to buy buildings. From playing the game, I know that these need to be placed on the player sideboard. So I know why they need to be the size they are (or we'd need hugely bigger sideboards), they just feel a bit small.

The rulebook is nice quality and is quite detailed. The player aid cards show all the difference phases in the game and the rulebook does explain them in good detail. I still have to admit that I found it a bit intimidating getting started in the game. Trying to explain the game to others, it can be very easy to try and explain everything to them - which is a mistake, as it will take forever to do so.

Getting setup is no picnic, it will take a while to get all the little pieces in place unless you are like we are and separate player starting bundles into bags beforehand and keep everything logically separated in their own bags. There are a lot of difference pieces here and it will need someone to be able to be on top of things to explain every part easily to other players.

The game itself follows a great theme. You're building up an Abbey in the Middle Ages, working with the problems of Viking attacks and general problems of living in the time. While you are men of God, you also want to be able to defend yourself and your flock! There's also the spread of your religion to be considered, at the point of a sword through the Crusades - very important that you take the time to send your monks and villagers to do their part there! All the time, you're trying to build up your Abbey's defenses and internal buildings while improving the level of your church leader - it's a busy life in the Abbey alright!
In game terms, this means that there's a lot of things to focus on and so decisions to be made. You need resources to build things, so you need people to gather resources - who will need to be fed, so that's more resources needed. It's like a typical resource gathering, worker placement game and we likened it to the game "Stone Age" - except that it is more complex and has more going on within.

It has a good balancing act with dice. You start off rolling 9 normally. But high rolls are not necessarily better than low ones. Certain abilities can only be triggered with 1,2,3. Others with 4,5,6. Resource gathering can only use 2 dice maximum (so you normally want high here), but for Viking attacks - you need to be able to match the Viking dice that corresponds to your player position, so you don't know ahead of time what number you need here. So a balance of all 6 numbers can be ideal. I found the use of dice to be a good mechanic, though you can get a bit unlucky as in all dice games.

On your first games, the initial turns will take a bit of time. After that, players can go through the 12 parts of a turn quite quickly - especially since some parts of the turn, the players can do at the same time (it would take forever playing consecutively at some points). The player aid keeps the game moving and everyone knowing what's happening at the current phase. As the turns go on, Abbeys get built up further with more buildings and people. But I still feel it doesn't get into the position of "analysis paralysis". As villagers are moved to working in buildings, they generally stay there and work there forever - so the amount of decisions doesn't get out of hand later in the game, which is great.

Still - I think time to play can be a bit long, though. 2 players was fine, though it did take us a few hours on our first play. The sweet spot is 3-4, which gives a great gaming experience and more player interaction (more opportunities to get people to support your Crusades, doesn't happen so much with 2 players). I'm not sure if I'd commit to playing with 5 players, especially if a few were new players. I'd say it could easily push well over 3 hours with 5 players, which is a bit long for a single game for most people.

Overall, I think that Kings Abbey is an excellent game. As I mentioned, it feels very like an advanced version of "Stone Age" - with many more options and things going on. The amount of pieces have a good balance between introducing a lot of strategy/diversity, against the negative of "token fever" everywhere. Component quality is superb and artwork is just great. Despite a couple of little negatives, this is a game that I really enjoy!

On the BGG rating scale - this gets a solid 8/10. "Very good - enjoy playing and would suggest it." - really sums up my opinions of this one.
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Christopher Corrigan
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Portland
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Thank you for your fine review. I too kicked this game and have yet to get it to the table. Your review has inspired me to raised it's priority in my all too sisyphean list of games "to be played".
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Colin
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I kickstarted it as well and have played it solo, 2 and 3 player. 3 players was a bit long although could be quicker if everyone knows the rules. The look and feel of the game is luxurious. We have also played 2 player co-op which works really well, looking forward to the expansion (whenever that appears!)
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Ken Savage
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Krsnaji wrote:
Your review has inspired me to raised it's priority in my all too sisyphean list of games "to be played".

lol - I understand having a big "to be played" list. We back a lot of things on Kickstarter. While we've received a few "duds", I think that getting a game like this are the payoff.


therdfamily wrote:
I kickstarted it as well and have played it solo, 2 and 3 player. 3 players was a bit long although could be quicker if everyone knows the rules. The look and feel of the game is luxurious. We have also played 2 player co-op which works really well, looking forward to the expansion (whenever that appears!)

Knowing the rules, like in many game, is what can slow this game down. I wouldn't play this with more "casual" gamers, as it could really slow down.

I didn't know about the co-op mode, thanks for pointing out that the rules exist! It's something I'll certainly look to try out, as it looks like something that would be good for 2 player.

There's a lot already in this game, so I will be interested to see the expansion too!
 
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