Here it is, at long last, my review of Kings of War. I’ve played sporadically in the last year that I couldn’t do a fair write-up of the game. But now here we go. The real trick is to write the review without comparing it to Warhammer Fantasy Battles, like so many other review have done before…

Kings of War is a fun game.

It plays fast. You can field lots of units even in a standard 2000 point game.

Most wargamers will find the armies for Kings of War familiar: Kingdoms of Men, Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Goblins, Ogres, Undead. You’ve also go Basileans–sort of a pseudo-Byzantine army with angelic aid. Forces of Nature are tree spirits and faeries going on the offensive. And then there’s the Abyssal Dwarves, and Forces of the Abyss, who are just evil.

Each army has its own distinct character an special rules.

In standard game, you’ve got six turns–each player alternates their turns until the game is over. And each turn has three phases: movement, shooting, and melee.

The rules for basic movement are fairly simple, just make sure you keep track of the following: 

  • The center point of you unit if you’re pivoting.
  • The the front center point (“The Leader Point”) of your unit for Line of Sight purposes.
  • Make sure your units stay at least 1″ away from an enemy unit unless you’ve charged.

During the movement phase you give orders to each of you units: Halt, Change Facing, Advance, Back, Sidestep, At the Double, and Charge. Most infantry have a movement of 5″, cavalry, 8″ or 9″.

Charging is more complicated, but nothing of which is counter-intuitive:

  • Make you’ve got Line of Sight to the target.
  • You measure from your Leader Point to the closest point of the enemy unit your charging.
  • You have have enough space.
  • You may pivot once at the beginning of your move, once you’ve charged, it has to be in a straight line.

The Shooting Phase is just that: you shoot missile fire, including spells. 

The game uses a the standard six-sided die to resolve combat (with an occasional 1d3 popping up her and there. Each unit has number of attacks according to its profile along with a Ranged “Ra” target number to hit. Most units need a 5 or better to hit with shooting, without modifiers.

You want to roll hit. “1s” are automatic misses. “6s” might not be an automatic hit depending on modifiers.

As much as I would like to make it so with my Hundred Years’ War armies, Kings of War is not a “shooting” game. You probably won’t win by pelting your opponent with missile fire. You’re suppose to get in there, mixed it up, charge, attack.

The Melee Phase is where you get to roll handfuls of dice. 

The number of dice you roll is determined by your charging units profile. For example, under “The Kingdoms of Men” army list: troop of 5 knights on horseback rolls 8 dice, while a horde of 20 knights rolls 32 dice to attack. And they hit on a 3+.

As a general rule, untrained units hit on a 5+, trained units hit on 4+, elites hit on 3+.

After you roll to hit, you roll to damage. Here you compare what you roll with the opponent’s Defense (“De”). If the unit takes wounds, your opponent marks them down next to the base in some way (we’ve used bright orange dice).


Nerve and Morale

When I first played Kings of War, this is part where I almost spit out my Mountain Dew.

Here’s where I learned melee is not simultaneous. If it’s not your turn, you don’t roll any dice, not even to test the morale of your troops. 

My first thought was: “Oh no, this is just ‘Warhammer Light.’ If you get charged, you die.”

As it turns out, that’s not the case (unless, of course, say a Horde charges a Troop). If an opponent has charged a fresh unit of yours, there’s a good chance it would be around for a counter-charge on your following turn.

To get your unit to route (removed from the game) or wavered (where they can only Halt, Change Facing, or Move Back), your opponent has to roll 2d6 and add the number of wounds. If the total is equal to greater than the numbers under your unit’s Nerve Profile (for example, a Troop of Knights is 11/13), then bad stuff happens.

But most regiments have an average Nerve rating around 13/15. Your opponent would have to get fairly lucky (or use sound tactics) to make your unit route on the very first charge. Defenders having a fighting chance.

And I can live with that.

While I do prefer games where melee is simultaneous, I’ll concede this method helps Kings of War play fast.

Heroes, Wizards and Generals

These individuals are good to have around. You’ll want an individual hero-type on the battlefield to wield special magic items. A mounted general on horse/griffon/dragon can make significant impact on the game. Wizards can cast spells to hinder the enemy (like Wind Blast) or support their allies.

But they are not, by any means, decisive. (Unless you somehow use sound tactics at the right place at the right time). They make great support units and their nimbleness allows them to move around on the battlefield to help where they’re needed.

Still, you probably don’t want to invest a lot of points into individual heroes, the battle must be won by the rank-and-file.

The same goes with magic items, and the special rules of each army.

Final Thoughts

Again, Kings of War is a fun, fast game.

The rules encourage you to play fast. Under other rule system, a game like the Monday’s massive battle would have taken all day.

The only real nitpick I have is with the “footprint” rules. You unit base sizes should fit within the parameters on page 49 of the rulebook or in the free downloadable pdf. Most of my troops and regiments are about 20mm too big in the back. They’ve been mounted for Neil Thomas’s Ancient and Medieval Wargaming.

But that’s okay. I’ll just have to get some properly sized movement trays.

Or finally finish that Undead Army which I’ve had for years…

(Hey, not bad. I only mentioned Warhammer once.)