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Robert Gardunia
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Occasionally I'll write up reviews of games we've tried out for my friends who have encouraged me to post them publicly. So here goes!

Warrior Knights Review
Last night the wife and I were in a board game mood and, since it was early in the eve, decided to bust out something new and a little ‘heavier.’ Now of course this is almost never a good thing when no one knows how to play something. It’s always much easier (and quicker) to explain something you know than read through the rules, after which time almost everyone’s in the daze of information overload. Warrior Knights did not help this much as there were no ‘turn summary’ cards or rules summaries in the rule book. Nevertheless, we (mostly) got through the rules enough to try out a few rounds and see how it played.

Now, as a note, before I used the term ‘heavier’ to describe this game. After reading the rules, I would likely shift that description for Warrior Knights to ‘detailed.’ None of the systems were overly complex and once we got started, game play trucked right along, so I can’t say it was hard to play, just that there was a lot to keep track of and with us not knowing the relative worth and odds of things, most of the things we were doing were sort of random so see what happened.

The Objective:
In Warrior Knight each player is a Baron with four knights and a stronghold under his control. The knights and strongholds generally have armies attached to them composed of loyal troops and mercenaries. The map portrays some shore-side section of I think, Germany, dotted with cities, divided by rivers/mountains and crossed by roads. The goal is to either capture most of the cities on the board for a military victory, or obtain enough Influence to claim kingship at the end of the game (Influence is also gained at turn end by controlling cities). The map also has other additions like foreign cities to sail to and capture and trade expeditions to even further lands. There are also the titles of Head of the Church and Chairman of the Assembly, both of which move from player to player and bestow certain advantages on the holder.

The Play:
Rounds are divided into 3 phases; Planning, Actions and Upkeep. Actions are definitely the weightiest bit here.

For planning, each player has a number of action cards (12 to start….2 copies each of 6 different actions). The actions include things like raising levies, gaining votes, gaining faith, moving and fighting. Each player takes 6 of these action cards and arranges them in 3 stacks of 2…roughly corresponding with the order they want the actions to happen in (first stack happens before the second stack, etc.). All players then combine their stack 1 cards, stack 2 cards and stack 3 cards and the current Chairman mixes in two neutral actions into each stack. All stacks are shuffled. Then during the action phase, the chairman goes through each stack, one at a time, pulling up the actions and having the appropriate player(s) resolve them. This pretty much means you can arrange only approximately when you want things to happen during the turn (by placing in the different stacks), but the actual order each stack is drawn is random.

For actions, each time an action card is drawn as described above, the player whose action it is resolves the action. Some cards, like events and trade expeditions, might involve multiple players. As each action is resolved, it is placed either back in the players hand of action cards or, usually, into one of four special action areas. The special action areas are Wages (pay armies), Taxation (raise taxes from cities), Assembly (call votes on current agenda items) and Hire Mercenaries (self-explanatory). This sounds complex but really wasn’t, the resolved actions really played into the special action areas nicely. For example, if you moved an army during a turn, the card went into Wages. If you started a battle, it went into Assembly, etc. Once a certain amount of cards accumulates in one of these areas (double the number of players), it triggers the special action which is then immediately resolved. The player will then have to pay all their armies, be able to collect taxes from all their cities, hire mercenaries or vote on the current agenda items. Wages, Taxation and Hiring are fairly obvious, so a quick note on voting, movement and combat.

There are always 3 agenda items up for vote, the vote happening when an Assembly action is triggered. The Chairman picks the order the items are voted on and the players try to apply their votes (these are a type of ‘currency’ players get throughout the game) toward their favor. Voting items can consist of Laws that change the way things work, Offices which give advantages to one of a player’s knights, Concessions which provide added income to a player and other things like Bans and Repeals. Again, seems complex, but it isn’t…aside from not knowing the relative worth of things at face value. This part of the game seemed like it would benefit greatly from more people involved (more than 2 that is). The big advantage of the Chairman here is the ability to break ties.

Movement is fairly straight-forward, knights and their armies can move from area to area, up to 3 areas by road or embark on sea journeys from port to port. Moving a knight ‘exhausts’ him, making him unable to act again that round. Some action cards allow you to move into an area and attack a city or enemy knights there immediately.

Combat is interesting...card-driven. For every 100pts of strength in your army you draw a Fate card which shows either a result of ‘cause damage,’ ‘prevent damage’ or ‘gain +1 Victory.’ Having a knight involved in the battle allows you to draw more cards (due to leadership) and thus have more options. All cards are laid down at once, cause and prevent damage cards cancelling each other out and, assuming both knights survive the battle, relative victory points denoting outmaneuvering your enemy. All combats are one round only. Troops are not removed when damaged unless the knight leading them is killed (more an indication of being able to hold armies together than actually killing the soldiers). Losing a fight may cause a knight’s mercenary forces to flee. If the knight dies his heir replaces him at the end of the round (so you always have 4 knights). There are different types of combat too from open-filed warfare to assaulting or besieging cities.

For upkeep, cities are tallied and victory conditions checked. If you’ve taken over half the cities or have the majority of influence at game end, you win. In no winner any exhausted knights are refreshed and the heirs of killed knights re-enter the game.

Other notes: The Head of the Church can do lots of fun things like bless expeditions, force negative events on players, etc. You subjects aren’t very loyal really so if you don’t keep a tight reign on them they might revolt and you can lose cities, etc. Plagues and wars can whittle down your forces. All sorts of fun stuff!

In Closing:
The jury is still out on this one. We played 3 rounds and called it, my wife winning ahead with 4 influence markers to my 3. It was very interesting and the more I think about it, the more I want to try it again. With up to 6 players possibly, I can see it getting quite brutal as the board gets busier. For all the seeming complication though, there was virtually no down time and most of the delays were caused by looking up minutia in the rules we had missed the first time.
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Geoff Hall
United Kingdom
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I've played WK a few times, usually with 3 or 4 players, and I really enjoy the game. It seems to work best with more players and I'd love to try it out with 5 or 6 although haven't yet had an opportunity to do so. I find that conflict is often limited with less than 4 players and that there isn't much to drive you to it. However, add in the Crown & Glory expansion and it's a whole new ball game. I absolutely love the whole experience with the expansion added in.
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Tom Grant
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Just be aware, in advance, that adding the expansion is likely to increase the length of the game. It's not just the time to get acclimated to the new rules; the new subsystems require a little more time to complete.
 
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Sean
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Mechanicsburg
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I don't want happiness by halves, nor is half of sorrow what I want. Yet there's a pillow I would share, where gently pressed against a cheek like a helpless star, a falling star, a ring glimmers on the finger of a hand.
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I too love this game, it is vastly underrated. As you found over the 3 rounds you played there is a lot going on and a lot more to do than you have actions\time. I have played a 6 player game once and in my opinion it is too many. The board is too crowded early on and with the expansion (which is great too) the game takes too long. I know that the length of the game can be adjusted with the variable number of influence tokens at the start of the game, but you can't really get a good feel to the game unless you play with about 15 or 16 influence tokens per player. If you go with the suggested 10 influence per player you will find that you are just starting to have a couple of good size armies and plenty of attacking \defending options just as the game ends. I think 4 players is the sweetspot for this game, less than that and the first half of the game just becomes a race for the neutral cities.
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