Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Kings of War First Impressions

As I mentioned in the August update, I have been playing a bit of Kings of war lately.  With Games Workshop pulling the plug on their fantasy community, there has been a general sense of apathy locally.

The local meta has always been a much stronger fantasy group than a 40k, or any other game system for that matter. A number of the members of the former blog switched to playing fantasy fairly heavily after the exodus from 40k after 6th ed came out. If I were to guess the total local WFB community a few months ago prior to Age of Sigmar, I would have put it over 20 players who were active.  After Age of Sigmar, the community began to search for a game that would scratch their fantasy mass combat itch.  At first it appeared that Avatar of War's Warthrone was gaining traction, but after Bayou Battles and the announcement that a number of GTs would be switching to Kings of War by Mantic Games for their next years events there was a surge of interest in the game system.

Earlier in the year I had bought heavily into an Ogre Kingdoms army when the initial rumors of 9th ed were just beginning to float around. I had tried to get into 8th ed a couple of times in the past but since the army I had was a finesse army I never enjoyed the learning experience.  Once AoS came out I was crushed because I realized quickly that the army I had just bought earlier in the year no longer had a game I cared to play them in.  I tried to read the rules for Warthrone, but I found them to be a little too daunting for me since I didn't have the background that the writer felt that the readers probably would.  Then Mantic released the rules pdf for Kings of War 2.0. I could tell almost right away that I would enjoy the rules set.

After Gencon, Capnwoodrow posted to the TSE gamers group on Facebook that he had played a demo of Kings of War and loved how it played. Capnwoodrow and BigD played a game the Monday after he came back from Gencon and even BigD was hooked. That Saturday the shop had a demo day for the game where BigD, Capn, Brian Preece, 2-3 others, a I all played small 1000 point games just to learn the rules. I decided to bring my Mantic undead army I had bought back when the 8th ed Vampire Counts army book came out. I loved how the army felt from the first turn to the end of the game. I could tell that the game was going to be the new go to game for me. I loved the undead so much after playing them, I sold the ogres I had to BigD.

The game itself only has 3 phases during a turn; Move, Shoot, Melee.

During the movement you can order your unit to charge, march, advance, change facing, or stand still. Instead of wheeling your unit, and it eating movement, you simply pivot from the center point of the unit anywhere along an advance or charge. That sounds amazing, till you realize you can only do 1 pivot a move. WHAT?!?!?!  Yup, just 1 pivot (unless you have the nimble rule, but that is for another discussion.)  This makes movement much more important than it is in any game I have played.  In 40k a bad move doesn't cause your unit to stand a chance to take a flank charge where the opponent does double the attacks. Warmachine movement is important also but for other reasons (here's my caster at the front line of the army, please kill me.)

You would figure since I am talking about movement I should mention something about how it's affected by the terrain.  Well that is the interesting thing, is that it's not.  Terrain only determines how effective shooting and charges are.  There are 3 basic types of terrain: terrain that blocks movement, terrain that doesn't block movement but blocks LOS, and terrain that doesn't block movement or LOS but causes a charging unit to be disorganized after passing it (eg: fences.)  All three types grant a cover bonus, and the last two cause chargers to be disorganized if their charging though them. There is a fourth type of terrain, but it is for cosmetic terrain such as a single tree in the middle of a huge field (the tree isn't enough cover to cause a unit to get a cover bonus or enough of a hindrance to slow a charge.)  Terrain is semi-volumetric in that a forest blocks line of sight of models of a certain height beyond it.  Hills are a unique situation also because units and warmachines on top of a hill become the height of the hill and their unit size (so if a catapult is on a size 2 hill, the catapult is now a considered to be size 3 for line of sight checking.)

The shooting phase.  While not all armies your likely to face will have much to do in the shooting phase there is more to it than just shooting your bows and crossbows.  If you have a wizard, this it he phase that they cast their spells during.  The magic in the game isn't the end all, be all that it was in WFB.  In fact there are only 6 spells (7 if you count breath attacks.) There are 2 offensive, 2 buff, and 2 movement spells.  No dispel mechanic either. To cast a spell you roll (n) dice and count the number of 4+'s and follow the spell effect.

Ok back to shooting.  There are two different types of shooting in the game currently (3 technically, but again breath attacks work more like spells than shots,) warmachines with indirect fire, and troop fire.  Troop fire uses the Att and the RA values to determine how many shots and what they hit on. Indirect fire works the same, but most warmachines have a Blast(n) value which is the amount of damage the shot does when it hits. So say I hit with a Balefire catapult I then roll D6+2 to determine how much damage that the shot does before rolling the units Def.  At the end of the shooting phase, any unit that took damage had to check to see if their effected by the shooting.

To do this you roll 2d6 and add the amount of damage the unit took. You then compare the total to the units Ne values.  There are two values shown in a 14/16 format.  The first value is the units wavering value. If a unit is wavering then they are too scared to do much the following turn (no advance, charge, march orders.) The second value is the rout value. If a unit is routed then they run off the table never to be seen again.

Combat is similar to the shooting phase in that you do damage, check Ne, ect. The big difference in combat is that the facing of the units comes into play.  If a unit is in a flank of the charged unit, the charger gets double attacks. If it's the rear, it's triple attacks (hence why i said that movement is much more important than any game I have played.)  The main difference between combat in KoW vs WFB is that combat is one sided.  I charge, do damage, test nerve, and if I rout the charged unit I (pivot, advance d6, or retreat d3) or failed to rout the unit pull back 1 inch from the charged unit to signify that the combat is over. there isn't combat from the other side during the active players turn.  This actually speeds the game much significantly.  

Having now played 7 or 8 games of Kings of War now I have to say that I am thoroughly enjoying the system.  Its simplistic enough to make learning the game quick, but like chess it has enough depth to make you stop and think about your next move. The way that Mantic has balanced the armies is impressive as well.  The units in the core book are all good, and there are no just bad picks.  Sub-optimal yes, but bad picks? no.  I run an undead list that is very different from the list that the shop owners son is taking(he is taking the armies optimal units, and I am taking 3 horde blocks of ghouls,) and we both are able to compete. This past weekend I was able to play in an event that used chess clocks for the 3 round tournament style games, and the pressure of having to keep track of your turn times added another facet to the game also.

As I have said I think this is my new go to game right now since the 40k crowd has died back again (sadly.) Since Mantic encourages the uses of scenic bases, I have begun rebasing my daemons so I have a second army for this game.