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Subject: Chasing trolls for fun and profit rss

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Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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King’s Bounty was designed by Robert Sassone and published by Task Force Games in 1991. It is playable by one to eight older players, and goes to completion in about three hours.

What You Get

The box has quite an attractive painting of a knight leading a captured dragon to a castle. The box is a bit flimsy, familiar in size to those who played games such as Divine Right, the original Illuminati, or games of their ilk. Inside is a foldout map, nicely illustrated with catching detail and a whole mess of crazy fantasy-game sounding names like Lons’yptea, Ishin, Dy Sintel and Vinishel Triset. You get a single character sheet you need to photocopy for players to record information about their persona they will play in the game, of which there are several provided, like G’eddissonargah, Mindel Gyl, and Ealin. There are 32 small counters with the men and monsters that will be hunted during the game, and 8 elongated counters with illustrations of the pregenerated characters with small plastic stands to hold them upright on the mapboard. You get a deck of very difficult-to-separate money, and a couple ten sided dice. There is also a think rulebook that also contains character details, a rather amusing set of ‘wanted posters’ of all the bounties with their various game statistics and individual histories, and several pages of event tables. These tables, profiles and other details are repeated in a second booklet. Finally, there is a single sheet of ‘basic rules’ that, honestly, I’ve not even looked at. In all, it is a nicely-illustrated, low-paper-quality package common to the era, but generally derided these days.

What You Do

The game has a very interesting premise: players are all bounty hunters, racing and competing with each other to travel the lands and capture a wide variety of fugitives to be brought to various King’s and interested parties to collect rewards. This is the only game I am aware of with this storyline. The author has gone to some effort to give the land, characters, and prey histories to make the setting come alive.

First, players either choose a pregenerated character or roll up their own. Each character has three basic characteristics: strength, skill, and spirit. They also have other attributes such as their native terrain, fame, notoriety and other details that can come into play during the game. Once the players have declared they are ready, the board is populated by a number of bounty markers, placed on the ‘last known locations’ of the miscreants, a detail that must be discovered in the descriptions of the hunted figure. The game is ready to start.
A turn is played in two steps. First, a random event is rolled for. There are a number of tables, all keyed to terrain. By roiling two ten sided dice, one gets a number 1-100 which is cross referenced on the appropriate table, and the result applied. Most are bad, but every once in a while you get a nice surprise. Second, comes the meaty part of the game: the action rounds.

In a preview of future games, the players are given a number of action points to spend on activities. The base number is seven, and can be modified by acquisitions of horses or other events. The points may be spent in several ways. The first is for movement. Each space moved costs a single point, whether by land or sea, the latter costing 50 gold ‘thumbs’ to travel. Once a hunter enters an area with a bounty, they can attempt to search for them, which costs an action point. Finding a quarry is handled with a couple die rolls: first, there is a roll against the fame of the hunter. If the fame is high, the quarry is prepared for the hunter and is more dangerous, and a second roll to see if the prey is actually found. If not, in a nice twist you roll a die to find where they really are. If the quarry is found, then combat ensues (we’ll talk of this later).

The third way to spend actions is claiming a bounty at the required location: this is modified by the state of the bounty (alive or dead) and could also be affected by the reputation of the hunter (those with bad reps often secure less funds for captures). If in a city, town, hamlet (whatever) one can spend points to buy objects or sell items. The last way to spend points is to stash your funds in your home base (so it is not stolen by your fellow players).

Combat: very straightforward. If a denizen is not warned of your coming, you roll a d10 for each of your three skills. This roll is added to the skill and compared to the ability of the quarry: if you are higher, you have defeated him (or her, or it) in this area. If you win at least two of three categories, you have captured the quarry. If not, you have been wounded, which means you lose a number of action points and the prey can escape to a random area, awaiting the next hunter. A captured bounty can be kept alive or killed: killing can reduce the bounty as well as affects reputation in a negative way. Things get a lot tougher if the quarry is alerted, as they also get to add a d10 die roll to their own abilities- more on this later.
It is also possible to capture a renegade with trickery, but this also negatively affects reputation. You are also able to go after fellow players when their reputations drop too low, as they become bounties themselves.

Anyway, this gives a general impression of what you are doing in the game. It is also quite possible to go after your fellow players to attempt to steal quarries or items or money from the other players. In the end, only money counts, so get it however you can. The game ends when all quarries have been captured and turned in for payoffs.

What I Think

Actually, this game has a lot of concepts way ahead of its time, which have become very common since then. The action point system found use in games like Tikal and other Euros of a few years later. It’s one of the earlier uses I am aware of. Also, there is little in the way of player elimination. While possible, you have to be really doing some wild things for it to happen. The game really goes out of its way to streamline and keep players in the game. Battle wounds are manifested by loss of action points, rather than a complicated system of ‘hit points’ so common in almost all other fantasy games. Turns are pretty quick and combats are generally handled in just a few dies rolls.

Another very elegant system is the ‘fame’ stat. How can you make the game get tougher as the game goes on without having to artificially stagger the bounties to bring in weaker ones first? Well, in having players acquire fame as they make captures, and forcing them to roll against this skill to check if the prey is alerted is nothing short of brilliant. Now, when alerted, the wrongdoer gets to roll dice to add to his scores, making them a much tougher prospect. So much gained for so little additional complexity.

I find the game fun to play. It has a bit of bookkeeping but nothing like similar games such as Knights of Camelot by TSR. The lack of extreme detail to combat streamlines things quite a bit. Of course, this comes at a cost: the combats can be a little generic after a while, and in midgame there is only a small chance of altering quarry and you only need small rolls to win. This is not so bad, given the tone of the game.

This is really a route minimization and resource management game in fantasy clothing. Capturing evil critters at point A that need to be transported to B brings about decisions of whether lower payouts for shorter routes makes more sense, or whether the extra 200 thumbs gold bounty is worth keeping the bastard alive. And of course, there is always the possibility of messing with your opponents by directly attacking them.

Is it a great game? Not by a long shot. It is perhaps too simple for many, too random for others, substandard component quality, fiddly in parts, and can be repetitive, gives advantage to experienced players over newbies, and takes three hours to play. On the other hand, it’s got a novel theme, interesting mechanics, offers some choices and a reasonably fleshed –out fantasy world to explore a few times. The solo game, which I’ve not mentioned to now, has a very interesting mechanism as well, where a timer starts during the game where the dragon, the nastiest renegade, captures a King’s daughter, and you are on a clock to save her before she’s devoured. Cool.

Anyway, this one was quite a pleasant surprise to me for its innovation and audacity to present a fantasy game of this type in such an abstract way, much different than the Magic Realm, Dragon Pass or DragonLords style. So, for fans of the genre looking for something different may want to supplement their extensive fantasy selection with this interesting variant.
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Chris
United States
Huntington Station
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Nicely done review! Thanks.

Have you tried the computer game on which this is based?
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Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Nope, I haven't- not much of a computer gamer!
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Alf Seegert
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Nice detailed review!

I haven't played the King's Bounty board game, but I'm a big fan of King's Bounty: The Legend on the computer. I think that both King's Bounty and Heroes of Might and Magic III played a big hand in inspiring my own upcoming board game Fantastiqa.
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Ivan Grozny
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Liumas wrote:
Nicely done review! Thanks.

Have you tried the computer game on which this is based?


Owned that game twenty years ago, but gave it away.

I'm not much of a computer gamer, but I have played the new beta version of King's Bounty on www.odnoklassniki.ru in the games section and enjoyed it. It is somewhat different from the game reviewed here, as I remember it.


EDIT: P.S. Very nice review!thumbsup
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