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Subject: Maker of Kings rss

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Peter Lewis
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I have for a long time wanted to do a review of this game but I have not ever really sat down and done it. So now I will attempt to do it

Components
The playing pieces are made with the typical avalon hill style of care and elegance. The pieces are beautifully vibrant and full of colors and really take you back to your childhood when you imagined yourself galloping about in shining armor. The cards contain great illustrations of cathedrals, ships (not so beautiful), shields, soldiers and towns.

The map might be the issue in the components. It is full of problems. From the first glance you can't tell that there could ever be problems with it. But, when you actually sit down and play the game you suddenly realize that you're going to have to decide whether or not you can jump from this space to that one over there or if that estuary actually goes that far inland. But aside from that small defect the map board in my estimation is the best Avalon hill (and or any of the other various publishers of Kingmaker) has ever produced.

Rules
The Rules come in a rather interesting shade of pink which while one may wonder why this is the case I would say that it is because the kings and queens of England took the red rose and the white rose and put them in the same washing machine.

They are perhaps not the most easily understood rules. But, they are doable in that it is only 4 pages to tackle. After the basic rules (which are most often used) comes the intermediate rules and then the comes the advanced rules with it's indecipherable rules for advanced combat. I have never played an actual game with the advanced combat and I don't think my playing experience has suffered from it.

Errata?
Another very interesting mistake is the fact that on the back of the rules the designers put an index and location of all the towns/cities. However every single last one of these coordinates is wrong! It puts most of the towns in the middle of the Irish sea. It's not the most helpful. And so instead of putting the odds chart on the back where it would be more accessible they put this list of coordinates that is defunct.

Play
TO begin the play of the game 36 cards are dealt to the players and the players then march about England besieging castles and acquiring heirs to the throne. Which is personally not my favorite way of thinking about it. Because it makes the claimants of the throne look like mere puppets instead of political leaders. Which is why I would suggest looking at the variant of the rules which reverses the positions (I forget which General issue it’s in). Combat comes down to a simple matter of flipping a card. There is blessedly nothing else you have to do. There’s no strategy involved in combat. The only strategy in combat is prior to combat and that is a matter of figuring which cards to add to your nobles to give them more troops in hopes that you will change the odds of the battles outcome. That and choosing where to have a battle. Do I have it above it above the river Trent where I get 90 more guys? Or do I choose to move to Wales and fight this enemy on his own turf where he gets 200 guys extra?

The moral in this game is: if your enemy has the chamberlain of Chester of the county Palatine then don’t even think about going into Wales.

This game has probably only one serious flaw (everything up till now is just nit-picking) And that is its end game. Kingmaker can’t ever seem to end. It does usually at some point but only when people get fed up with how things are going on and decide to make foolish moves. But because of the locality of the different “office” cards. People who get extra troops in Wales tend to stick in Wales and people who get extra troops for being two spaces away from London tend to just tramp about in a little circle around London instead of marching off to fight. On the rare occasion that someone has a stronger army than anyone else on the board things don’t tend to end up in a stalemate instead the game just turns into a giant game of hide-and-go-seek with the smaller armies running around, jumping on boats, hiding in Calais and escaping time and time again by the skin of their teeth. Eventually the lion may trap one of these little mice and when he does that person dies a horrible death and many tears are shed. But, in a game where everyone ends up balanced more or less things turn quiet quickly into a time of peace. The war is still on but no one is moving about England. Everyone is waiting for someone else to move and no one is moving.

For this reason I would suggest that people play with a system where each town/castle counts for points at the end of the game so that people can wrap up the game a little quicker (I believe I saw some such list on one of the videos by the historygamer)

Now, all of this makes it sound like I dislike the game. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love this game. It is a permanent part of my childhood. A thing that occurs in other wargames is the occasion in which a player is eliminated from the game. In Kingmaker no such thing is possible. You can get killed 500 times if you like but you never leave the game. Sure, it’ll be a huge drawback and you likely won’t have a shot at winning. But, you never know with a game like this were there are more plagues floating around then there were in the bubonic plague anything can happen.

Another upside is that can regularly find people who are interested to play it. It’s not like playing Diplomacy or some such game where people’s eyes bug out and they look at you like you have the plague. This game definitely captures the feel of a war for the throne.

On a whole this game is extremely versatile and can be played by gamers of all ages (even 7/8 year olds) and the playing of the game never gets old
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Mike George
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Smithville
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THIS GAME NEEDS TO BE REPRINTED!

THEY SHOULD TRY KICK STARTER!
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Lance McMillan
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Lakebay
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Nice review. Agree with almost all your points, it's definitely a flawed classic. Agree with Mike that it needs to be reprinted, but I'd hope that they'd do it right by trying to fix the issue with the end game and hopefully find some way of nerfing the turtling problem.
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Rodger Samuel
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As for a reprint, check this thread:

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1984586/gibsons-event-k...
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Peter Lewis
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It really does need a second life..
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Dave Dawn
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Nice review!

Long Live Kingmaker!
 
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Bill Cook
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Great review, except the dig at Diplomacy at the end I suspect there is a lot more Diplomacy being played these days than Kingmaker.
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Peter Lewis
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EMBison wrote:
Great review, except the dig at Diplomacy at the end I suspect there is a lot more Diplomacy being played these days than Kingmaker.
\
Oh, I love Diplomacy. It's just that other people don't!
 
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Mike Smith
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Wigton
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One way to force more decisive play might be to have players earn VPs as the game proceeds for possession of heirs, offices and key locations. If one player gets far enough ahead they win instantly. This would force players who are beginning to fall behind on the VPs to act, for good or ill.
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Peter Lewis
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Mantuanwar wrote:
One way to force more decisive play might be to have players earn VPs as the game proceeds for possession of heirs, offices and key locations. If one player gets far enough ahead they win instantly. This would force players who are beginning to fall behind on the VPs to act, for good or ill.

That would work well. I think. So if say I controlled Richard of York for 10 turns or something but then lost him to someone else. Even though I'd lost him I still got a lot of points for controlling him for so long.
 
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Steve Stanton
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I would love to see a reprint/redo of KingMaker.

I have fond memories of playing KingMaker with professors while in college. We always stopped when the end game arrived, but what a blast in the build up.
 
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Allen Dickerson
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I just finished a 6-faction game of this on Vassal over about the course of a year.

Most of your points are well taken. The rules, especially, have a few niggling little loopholes, and, combined with players who have a varying grasp on them anyway, can make for quite a bit of tedium. The other problem came from using the supplementary cards (with Treachery, Vacilating Nobles [my favorite, guaranteed to start a deep, low chuckling in the throat], Catastrophe, Royal Deaths, Gales at Sea and other skullduggery); although I was sure we distributed all the rules to every player, there would always be misunderstandings or misapplications cropping up. It sure would be nice to see another printing of this game with a cleaned up map, all the cards and variants, and rules with errata and clarifications applied!!

I also, have never played with the Advanced Combat system, and don't intend to anytime soon. (and I've owned the game for over 35 years now!!) That was definitely ill-conceived, and a bridge too far. The simplicity of basic combat odds and the drawing of a card is just right.

As for the end game, the key is definitely the collecting of the votes in Lords and Commons. Naturally, having the King/Queen or the leading heir in the rival house is key, but then, so is the amassing of towns and cities to add their votes to your count. It is critical to isolate the Continent/Scotland/Ireland hidey-holes by using the Refuge cards. So, if one finds oneself being the bully boy of the island (and in this last game, I never did; bad luck in every combat relegated me to permanent also-ran status, sadly), and your opponents are a step ahead of you, just start taking towns and cities (and force any holding opponents to fork over their Town cards without confronting them directly) Another thing to do is to make use of the rule where you determine if (the scion of) a dying noble returns to his faction (minus all awards of his predecessor) or returns to the Crown deck. This can help break the late game cycle of an empty Crown deck and the repeated use of weak, untitled nobles being used in Ambush attacks to try to kill otherwise untouchable nobles in the open.

Kingmaker can be some of the most riotous fun one can have in wargaming. It's actually worth losing a friend or two over (which can undoubtedly happen with the kind of backstabbing and treachery that ensues in any well-played game)!
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alan beaumont
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Shake things up
Stiglr wrote:
I also, have never played with the Advanced Combat system, and don't intend to anytime soon. (and I've owned the game for over 35 years now!!) That was definitely ill-conceived, and a bridge too far. The simplicity of basic combat odds and the drawing of a card is just right.
If you borrow the 'dicing for death' rolls of the advanced combat, instead of using the named Nobles on the single card draw, it both rewards an aggressive battle/siege policy (inferior forces face worse odds) and prevents the immense tedium of name counting on the cards in order to safeguard your nobles. This slows decisive action to a crawl, as otherwise the cards deaths are a crap-shoot.
 
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Peter Lewis
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misteralan wrote:
Stiglr wrote:
I also, have never played with the Advanced Combat system, and don't intend to anytime soon. (and I've owned the game for over 35 years now!!) That was definitely ill-conceived, and a bridge too far. The simplicity of basic combat odds and the drawing of a card is just right.
If you borrow the 'dicing for death' rolls of the advanced combat, instead of using the named Nobles on the single card draw, it both rewards an aggressive battle/siege policy (inferior forces face worse odds) and prevents the immense tedium of name counting on the cards in order to safeguard your nobles. This slows decisive action to a crawl, as otherwise the cards deaths are a crap-shoot.

Ahh the randomness of the cards. That's probably one of my favorite part about this game is that you can't just have your favorite guy get everything and then just keep away from all danger. I like a little randomness in my wargames and this adds the right amount. If the game had instead been a game were you just roll a die and who ever gets a higher roll wins then it would have killed the game right then and there and I probably wouldn't own it right now and neither would any of you.
 
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alan beaumont
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Giving a toss about the odds
Auchinleck wrote:
misteralan wrote:
Stiglr wrote:
I also, have never played with the Advanced Combat system, and don't intend to anytime soon. (and I've owned the game for over 35 years now!!) That was definitely ill-conceived, and a bridge too far. The simplicity of basic combat odds and the drawing of a card is just right.
If you borrow the 'dicing for death' rolls of the advanced combat, instead of using the named Nobles on the single card draw, it both rewards an aggressive battle/siege policy (inferior forces face worse odds) and prevents the immense tedium of name counting on the cards in order to safeguard your nobles. This slows decisive action to a crawl, as otherwise the cards deaths are a crap-shoot.

Ahh the randomness of the cards. That's probably one of my favorite part about this game is that you can't just have your favorite guy get everything and then just keep away from all danger. I like a little randomness in my wargames and this adds the right amount.
But there always a chance the die roll can kill a noble and it is perfectly possible to wait out the cards featuring your main man then go into battle knowing he is perfectly safe. Using a die roll makes a seige policy (to dominate Parliament, or in the vanilla game simply to eliminate safe havens) a valid strategy. In field battles even low odds attacks stand a fair chance of killing defenders (including heirs) from large stacks. Without it cautious turtling is the sane thing to do.
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David Wintle
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Two solutions to turtling, both very simple. One I saw in a set of house rules but can't remember where - maybe on this site(!) - is after a battle to disperse all surviving participants to their home castles. This works well. The other is to adjust the odds table so the smaller force has an outside chance of winning (haven't tried this one).
 
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Richard Foster
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We developed a version with "Royal Favors" (RF's)...similar to VP's, but with a fluctuating nature.

Royal Favors were earned from one of the Houses for services or support provided to a member of that House. Royal Favors would then fluctuate by who was in power, whether you held an heir of that House, battles won while holding a sovereign or heir, etc. Consequently, if the House from which you held RF's were dethroned, your RF's could not count toward one of the victory conditions unless returned to power.

We also played that RF's could be turned in during parliament to acquire positions or titles up for distribution if you held RF's from the sovereign or party holding parliament.

Made it much more interesting as you didn't have to necessarily eliminate all the other heirs on the Board, just accumulate the greatest number of RF's of the House in power for a certain number of "years," or held the sovereign at the same time as having the greatest number of RF's (with a certain minimum established for victory).

But in your case, Peter, you would only maintain the RF's "attached" to the RoY card while you were holding Richard of York, but then actually lose those RF's once you lost Richard. However, RF's earned while holding RoY...such as in battle defeating an enemy of Richard...would be kept as they were earned "in the service" of an heir.

Hopefully one of these years, I can get the full set of rules developed...the group I played with have somewhat dispersed (and had families)...so not playtesting as much anymore.

-R
 
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