With the children away and the Gamer’s Edition rulebook just landed in our laps, we decided to try out Kings of War first. I didn’t bother making proper army lists, I just put out whatever of Jen’s units I could place quickly and some of my own to try and look balanced.
She had the Undead, using her Vampire Counts. These seem to map across fairly well. She had regiments of Ghouls, Zombies, Revenants (using Grave Guard) and Skeleton Warriors with two Vampire Lords.
On my side, I used the fresh new Twilight Kin placeholder with regiments of Buccaneers (Corsairs) and Bladedancers (Witch Elves), a troop of Dark Knights (Cold One Knights), a Dark Lord and a High Priestess of the Abyss (using the very appropriate Death Hag from the old Cauldron of Blood). Adding them up afterwards, both armies were around the 800 point mark.
We didn’t take any updates to any units, or use any terrain this time, and we had a 4’ x 4’ table to play on. No scenarios, no time limit, nothing.
Jen placed her units down to cover the flanks, meaning I couldn’t get around the side – I screwed up some of my movement and she got a couple of flank charges on me. My Priestess managed to avoid fighting until the very end and spent the whole game throwing Fireballs around. They are particularly effective against units like Ghouls, which were wavering on the first turn!
There’s a lot to get used to about the game. We both found it odd to do nothing on our opponent’s turn. The combat procedure of charge in, fight, move out without being hit back made it difficult to gauge fights, and progress, and who was going to survive. Early on when I could see all the charges Jen would get in against me I thought it would be a loss for me, then I had a couple of good turns and removed almost everything, making me confident that she couldn’t recover. Ultimately the game came down to my Bladedancers (with 10 damage already) being wiped out by what was left of her Zombies, before the Zombies were blown up by a Fireball. Finally, the last Vampire Lord chased down the Priestess and smashed her into the ground to become literally the last man standing, and Jen won.
When we finished, we looked at the time – it wasn’t a tiny game, though we could still have added more to it – and it took us under two hours. Given how simple the rules were (it takes two turns maximum to learn what everything is and what it does), we were both confident than a bigger game wouldn’t take too much. Compared to Warhammer (all editions until now), no units have unique rules and the stats are much simpler. There’s only a few calculations in the game and they are simple, and based on the rules. For example, Crushing Strength (2) adds 2 to your result when rolling to Damage. It’s a common rule, shared by her Vampire Lords and my Dark Lord, so it was easy for us to know what it meant.
So what did we like about it? Well, it was quick. Although we sat doing nothing until our turn, it didn’t take long to wait. It was also quick to pick up – the stats and rules are simple enough to get into the game quickly and look for tactical opportunities.
On the other hand, it felt like there could have been more choice. I realise that this could be down to only having a few units either side, and not really paying attention to the army lists (the criteria was “this is already ranked on the shelf” and not “what would be an interesting or effective army”), and not using scenarios or terrain. Years of extremely infrequent Warhammer games have steered me towards straight Pitched Battles to keep things simple but Kings of War is simple enough to pick it up from scratch and play a couple of thousand points in a couple of hours, so I don’t think a scenario would be too difficult to add to the core rules.
It’s also a little bit more abstract, yet more realistic. The way that units move – specifically the interpenetration of units while moving (sometimes referred to in Warhammer as ‘virtual pivots’) means that large regiments can reorder in a way properly representative of a real unit. Knowing several people involved in historical re-enactment, I have been told a number of ways that units in wargames don’t behave like real units would. On the abstract side, your attacks, roll to hit and damage is purely a score. It’s not immediately or directly related to the weapons or units, unless you begin looking at them and comparing to similar units in their army or others and telling yourself that this unit must have more attacks because it has two weapons, or that unit has Crushing Strength because they have halberds. In old Warhammer, you would look at a unit’s list of equipment and calculate from that your armour save and damage output. In Kings of War it’s all pre-calculated and without putting that little bit of personal analysis in, it didn’t make immediate sense. Luckily the units that I’d picked were, on both sides, relatable to their statistics. The
Witch Elves Bladedancers even acted in a manner I would have expected them to by causing extra morale damage and ignoring morale trouble in their own unit!
Overall, we are both keen to try this out again. Next up though is a play-through of Age of Sigmar to see what this new spin on Warhammer can offer.