Games We Play – Kings of War

This is the first of a series of articles describing the games Weight of Fire play, why we play them and how to get started.

We’re going to start with Kings of War, a mass combat fantasy wargame from Mantic Games. Find out more after the break…

Overview

Mantic games, producers of Kings of War, describe it as “the game of mass combat between mighty armies in a fantasy world”. Players act as generals leading their armies into battle. These armies are (normally) made from 28mm scale miniatures representing a variety of troops from lowly peasants and goblins all to the way to monstrous dragons. These troops are formed into units of similar troops. Armies will consist of several units and can consist of, in the most extreme cases, a couple of hundred models.

Kings of War is an interesting hybrid of two gaming styles.

The first style can be traced back to Warhammer Fantasy Battle, another system where fantasy armies consisting of potentially hundreds of models fought each other. Indeed many of the armies and unit sizes have their roots in Warhammer and at first glance a game of Kings of War could look very similar.

The second style is traditional historical wargames such as De Bellis Antiquitatis (English: Of the Wars of Antiquity) and related systems. The main thing drawn from these games is that the smallest seperate element considered by the rules is a unit not the individual men / elves / goblins that make up these units. This has several important consequences both in gameplay and modelling and is a substantial difference to Warhammer.

Gaming

Kings of War is a ‘ranks and flanks’ game that tries to represent pitched battles in fantasy worlds that draw from historic battles, eg Pelenor fields from Lords of the Rings.

Organising large groups of people can be very difficult. This leads to units being quite cumbersome. Units caught out of position can take several turns to rejoin the battle. Units facings are very important and while units will retreat after multiple rounds of combat successful generals will engineer charges on the flanks or rear of enemy units to quickly sweep them away.

Kings of War represents the unwieldy nature in another way by limiting a players actions to their turn only. While this can seem odd initially this allows games to played surprisingly quickly compared to other games. Tournament organisers often schedule 90 minutes per game and expect most if not all games to complete within this time.

As units are the smallest elements tracked by the rules, damage is tracked at the unit level and represents a combination of physical injury to members of the unit and loss of morale from combat, shock etc. Units will fight on for a while after receiving damage but may become ‘wavered’ representing morale failure and unwillingness to engage or be destroyed representing massive casulaties and fleeing survivors.

This leads to a strategic game where units will manoeuvre trying to engineer favourable combats wither through flank or rear charges or through multiple units charging a single enemy unit.

Modelling

While many fans of Kings of War are drawn to the game many others are drawn by the modelling opportunities. There are many manufacturers of miniatures currently operating catering to a wide variety of tastes.

Kings of War particularly lends itself to modelling projects as, due to tracking everything at the unit level, there is no need to remove individual models. This allows all sorts of creative possibilities that would not be possible with individual miniatures, including scenic bases, dioramas, use of LED’s as can be seen in the pictures for this article.

How to Get started

One of the first things to do if this sounds good is to get the rules. Mantic’s website has a free rulebook and multiple army lists here. Also of use is Easy Army, an online army builder used by most of the community. Also used by the community are Mantics forums along with several facebook groups, Kings of War Fanatics being one of the largest.

The other thing to do is get hold of an army. Assuming you haven’t got an old Warhammer army in the loft Mantic sell models for many of the armies but there are many other companies out there making fantasy or historical miniatures that can be used.

Its entirely possible to play using unit templates made from card while working out what you want or while you build it it may be worth playing with unit templates

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