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Subject: Soldier King - Good but Almost Great rss

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Sean Conroy
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Soldier King
©1982 Game Designers’ Workshop (GDW)
2-4 Players
3+ Hours

Soldier King is a game designed by Frank Chadwick. The same Frank Chadwick that brought us “A House Divided.” There seems to be a good trend with Mr. Chadwick’s games in my experience and that is, simplicity. Soldier Kings rulebook is only for pages for the basic rules, and two additional pages for advanced rules.

SK takes place in the golden age of 18th century warfare on the Fictional continent of Estavia (which by some strange coincidence looks a lot like Austria). Four rival factions, Argozia (green), Arcadia (gold), Hrvatska (red) and Bravance (blue) wage war against each other so that one of them may be crowned king. The map board is divided into provinces and uses the point-to-point movement style where units move between white squares representing cities that are connected by roads and highways. Some cities have numbers printed on them; these are recruiting cities.

Each turn consists of 3 actions, movement, combat, and recovery. Move your pieces, if they encounter enemy units you fight and damaged units replace there loses, and a unit is promoted. Movement is determined by rolling a d6 and the resulting number rolled is the number of “marches” you can use that turn. It takes one march to move a single or stack of units. You can also spend marches to entrench your armies

The playing pieces are essentially, infantry, light cavalry, and heavy cavalry. Each has a number printed on it which is the number or less that needs to be rolled on a d6 to score a hit in combat. All units start out as levies that hit on a 2 or less, basically your raw recruit, good for dying and not much else. At the end of a turn or after a battle victory units will be promoted to veterans that hit on a 3 or less, and then guard units. Guard units hit on a
3 or less but guard infantry units also have a –1 modifier against enemy attacks.

The game is easy to play but there are some things I take issue with. First the combat system while simple gives a heavy advantage to the defender. This may be accurate for the time frame the game is set in but it can be frustrating. In combat each unit takes two hits and is then destroyed. The defender always fires first so some attacking units may be knocked out or weakened before they even get a chance to fire a shot. This means the attacker always needs to have the advantage in numbers especially if the defending army is entrenched and/or has guard units. Even then, as with most games, if you roll poorly you’re toast and it may cost you your army and make you easy prey for the other players.

What may have evened out the playing field is if GDW had put in maybe a morale rule like in “A House Divided” where a unit may flee the field if hit. Then there is the victory condition. To win you must capture four of the seven cities marked by a crown or “electoral cities.” While this seems fair a look at the map says otherwise. The green faction (Argozia) has access very easy access to three of the cities while everyone else is close to only two. Additionally to grab the fourth city green really only has to grapple with yellow. In my opinion GDW should have centralized the victory cities more or made the map smaller so that all of the factions could be contenders for any of these cities.
SK really is a good attempt at a fictional 18th century combat game where the rules of history really don’t apply but it falls short. If players tinker with the combat system and balance it or play it so one faction has to capture five or all of the “electoral cities” to win it could be the great game it was meant to be.
 
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Barry Kendall
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As you know, this game was derived from "A House Divided"--the system is nearly identical. In AHD, defenders were given "first fire" to reflect the significant advantage usually held by the side defending in the ACW. This design feature was carried over to SK.

A simple way to address your concern would simply be to make combat simultaneous, perhaps with the exception of attacking entrenched armies or fortified cities where the defender would still receive "first fire."

This would make choosing your battlefield more significant and also address the balance issue you raise. I own the game, but haven't played it in years . . . you've prompted me to take another look at it!
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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Trivia: The map for Soldier King is based on Switzerland.

Please note: Truthiness of Silent Dibs Trivia is not subject to guarantee and may be modified without notice.
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Robert Wesley
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Believe it or don't, but, I was more capable to getting folks into THIS "game" than any others using their 'system'! That even includes a "Battle of the Bulge" version as well here: Attack in the Ardennes: The Battle of the Bulge Sure, there was an advantage towards "GREEN" 'Argozia', and we all realized that, so usually they had their "goings" with the most difficult of possibilities from the others.

I would suggest making UP some 'markers' of the "Crowns" and randomly placing these, OR, you could allocate those to where you'd LIKE them to 'be'! As another means of implementing the 'markers', then you could create enough real AND "dummy" ones to place face-down on every "City", with revealing of those ONLY after a "Combat" had taken place there. That means even though you may occupy any particular 'one', then you don't KNOW if it is a "real" kind until it is shown as such afterwards. You and your opponent would be quite *surprised* to find out that the both of YOU had been 'fighting' over something for nothing, and it then brings into "Play" the far-flung places that usually aren't being involved.
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Sean Conroy
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Thanks for the ideas, I really did enjoy playing this game dispite its issues and would play anytime someone asks. Maybe I should create a Vassal Mod for it.
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frank rozum
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Indiana
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I think Nexus magazine (from the late 80's to early 90's) had an optional rule or two from ol' Frank Chadwick. One rule was the ability to 'save' marches from turn to turn: No more than two (2) marches may be saved, and come winter, they are automtically forfeit.

Rule#2: All '1's' rolled for marches are treated as two's (2's). This is to help the luck-impaired.

Rule#3: To change victory from being so open-eneded, the first player to attain an army size of 45 (IIRC) and keep it for one turn was the winner--saved from having to take theose darn Elctoral Cities!!
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frank rozum
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I think another rule was that you had to be within two(2) marches of a magazine in order to launch an attack. Still another rule was that inorder to repair units, a damaged unit of lesser quality had to be used up. Example: I fight a battle and come out of it with a damaged Veteran and Levy Infantry, each. In order to bring the Veteran unit to full strength, the damaged Levy unit is removed.

I'm coming up with house rules for Leaders, coverting captured magazines to your own color and more specail events...Low Morale, Siege Train, Defection, and Massed Guns!
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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Frank,
You should collect all this stuff and put it in a new post under Variants, or even upload a file.
 
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frank rozum
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Uploading a file seems to be beyond my capabilities at this point--do I go to Home page to do so?

In any event, here they are--IIRC.

Reserve marches: A march is placed in reserve to use later. Simply placed an unused counter in off to the side to symbolize a reserve march. The following apply:
a)No more than two marches may be placed in reserve.
b)Reserve marches may not be used if it wouild let a player execute more than six marches in a turn.
c) At the start of a Winter turn, all reserve marches are automatically forfeit.
d) No reserve marches may be accumulated in Winter.

Example: I roll a "4" for my marches, but for my own reasons, choose not to use them all. I use two marches right now and place the other two "in reserve" for a future turn (if that next turn isn't a Winter turn).

2) Supply Rule: Armies muyst be within two (2) marches of a magazine in order to attack; any number of units in any number of boxes may draw supply from the same magazine. Magazines can now move by roads.

3) Supply Conversion: Many armies simply took over an enemy's supplies when they captured them. If a battle is fought in an area where a magazine is present, the defender MUST announce before his first fire rouind whether or not he is going to destroy his own magazine. If the attacker wins the battle, the magazine is destroyed on a single d6 roll of 1-4, while a 5 or 6 results in the magazine being captured and converted to the attacker's color.
If the DEFENDER when the battle, then he must immediately roll a d6 with a result of 1-3 destroying the magazine, while a 4-6 recalls the orders and saves it.

Russians after the Battle of Austerlitz commented bitterly on being bombarded by French artillery projectiles given them courtesy of the Austrian government--apparently when Napoleon took Vienna, he also took many cannons and ammunition and appropiated them for his own use.

Optional rule (not yet playtested!!):
Gain a march by elminating one of your own magazines. Takes place immeidately, but cannot be used to drill/promote a unit in Winter.

Victory Condition rule (VERY important!): The first player to achieve an army limit of forty-two (42) and keep it there for a turn is the winner. Note that since there are 68 points of provinces on the map, exclusive of home teritories, there can be two or more such players trying to achive this! No more electoral cities to take!! For three or fewer players, increase it.

Other Optional Victory condition: Play for Twelve turns with players receiving Victory Points equal to their respective Army Limits; the player with themost VP's at the end is declared the winner.
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frank rozum
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Indiana
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Coming up next are my home-brewed rules for Leaders and Siege Trains (new counters you can make with Paint application).
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John Teixeira
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Frank, I would love to see those rules/variant. Please post them if you get a chance.
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