Kings of War by Mantic, a not-so-honest review

Picture copied from swordsmaster’s blog -see links for his excellent battle reports

Kings of War is my primary wargame at this time. In this blog post I try to show why I love the game so much. Therefore, this is a not-so-honest review, since I gladly admit to be somewhat of a fanboy. That said, I gladly take some time to show why I like the game so much.

First, why this blog post:

As wargames go, Fantasy massed ranks wargames are a strange beast. Most of us know Warhammer Fantasy which has been the introduction of many gamers into this hobby. As Warhammer fantasy has been dead now for a few years, it’s good to see that Kings of War takes over the mantle as leading fantasy wargame.

Disclaimer: Of course I don’t forget or ignore 9th age. 9th age is a valid alternative to Kings of War, though I think Kings of War is the better game.

The reasons to try out Kings of War (and why I love it)

  1. I like massed wargames. Skirmish games are all good and well ( I enjoy them too from time to time) but I personally prefer this:
Image copied from the Mantic Blog

to this:

Image copied after a google query and I can’t find the source. If this interferes with your IP, contact me and I’ll remove it.

This may be a matter of personal preference, but there’s lots of persons in my gaming circle that enjoy massed games over skirmish.

2. Kings of War is easy to learn. I can teach a completely new guy or girl (who does not need to be into wargames at all) the basics in just a few minutes. With the right preparation (pre-chosen armies, army list-handouts and an one-page quickplay sheet) I can do a 1,000 or 1,200 point introduction battle in roughly an hour and a half.

My favorite is to pre-build mirror armies of 1,000 or 1,200 points. As I own two Kingdoms of Men armies, I can build the same army twice. This makes for a great starter battle. The same army, one in red and one in yellow makes for a wonderful show. My gaming group has increased by quite a few persons due to these games.

3. While Kings of War is easy to learn, it’s also hard to master. I have been playing since 2015 and I still have plenty of room for improvement. I know that many gamers describe the game as “bland” (more on that later) but I feel that this applies to individual models’ abilities instead of the game as a whole. The game as a whole improves due to the relative simple way the individual pieces work. The complexity of the game comes from their interaction instead of individual rules. Other anecdote on the hard-to-master part of Kings of War: the 2017 Clash of Kings (the unofficial UK championship) winner Nick Williams got trounced in 2018, not even making it to the top five, which shows that the game is hard enough to master, even at tournament level.

4. Hobby Time and Multibasing! Frankly said: Unit diorama trump ranked up individual models.

My Abyssal large cavalry multibase.

My blog has many examples where I post my multibased units. As Kings of War has the individual unit (in the example above 2 regiments of 15×5 cm) as footprint instead of single models, I can build units as dioramas instead of cramped-up single models.

My Ratkin shown elsewhere on this blog

This ratkin horde for example shows the power of a single base to create a particulary imposing unit as a whole. Just compare it to a ranked-up stormvermin unit which is better painted, but it’s too cramped for my style:

Warhammer Showcase Stormvermin as found on the internet. Once again: if this interferes with your IP, let me know.

I am not the best painter in the world, but I do love the hobying part of the game. In a fantasy universe, I can do far more than in a historical universe, so that’s why Mantica apeals to me over -for instance- hail Caesar.

5. Flexibility of the game

It doesn’t matter if I play the game with 1,200 points on a side on a 4’x4′ board or with two 2,000 points armies on a side on a much larger battlefield, the game keeps its fun; but also keeps being played quickly. I understand that there is a practical limit to the size of the game (see Hoodling’s hole for an example) but all the sizes I play are supported by the rules itself.

6. I can, and also am allowed to, use any miniatures I see fit. Unlike GW’s policy of “only GW models”, I can use any models that I like. This means that my armies are an interesting combination of old GW models, perry, ebay purchases, reaper bones, etc.

This halfling, for instance, is a blend of historicals, Perry and GW. More on him here.

7. It’s not as expensive as some other games. This 1,500 point Goblin army (the horde army to rule over all horde armies) can be built at less than 150 euro’s while a perry twins Kingdoms of Men army of the same size can be built even cheaper. That said, some armies require creative shopping aas they aren’t found as easily on the internet. The rules are also significantly cheaper than other volumes @ € 18 for the gamer’s rulebook. Most rules (everything you need to start playing right away) are also available on the internet for free.

8. I can play Kings of War with my friends if they bring their warhammer, 9th age or Age of Sigmar armies. Just plunk down their armies on the required movement trays (warhammer regiments work fine, btw) and play. Kings of War army selection is also a breeze compared to Warhammer 8th edition.

9. No more hero-hammer.

This is a personal gripe of mine…… I hated hero-hammer with a furious hatred ever since I won a Warhammer (4th edition) 1,000 point GW shop tournament with the army list consisting of:

a) 5 grail knights + champion b) general on hipogryph all decked out in magical items and knightly virtues c) the remainding spare points on a unit of 6 mounted squires. 13 models; 6 of which formed of the required core of the army, 6 were just spare points and the sole general was the unkillable MVP of the army.

in 7th or 8th edition I played Vampire counts where the to-go- army list was a “blender” vampire lord kitted out to kill whole regiments in a single turn escorted by a regiment of knights to protect him on his way to the enemy. I never fielded him, therefore I never won. The alternative was a 4-th level wizard with one of those spells that zapped whole units in a single magic phase. I hated it and almost abandoned the hobby during that time.

Kings of War has none of these things. The general on winged beast (as shown above) is 190 points and while he is a decent support on the game, he will not rout a horde of goblins, even if he spends the whole game fighting them. While characters have their role in the game, they will not win by themselves. They need ordinary guys to win the battle.

Even vampire lords on mighty dragons (the most expensive unit in the game @ 330 points with the most espensive magical item (brew of Sharpness) will not deal as much damage on average as a simple horde of halberdiers as it’s just one guy compared to 40.

10. the final reason I love Kings of War has to do with Mantic’s business model. While past editions of Warhammer changed the rules periodically to sell more models, Mantic has delegated the rule changes to a community-based volunteer rules committee. though I don’t always agree with all their choices, the fact that they have one single role: keep the game fresh and balanced is what keeps the game as good as it is.

Still, Kings of War isn’t perfect

As all games, Kings also has its downsides. A few mentioned below:

  1. The fluff and storytelling isn’t as compelling as other universes. Mantic is a game company first and foremost and this leaves the storytelling and immersive part of the game a bit to desired. That said, they have run a decent summer campaign in 2017 which even created some interesting characters if allowed to evolve.

2. like any massed rank game, you need at least 50-ish painted models to have something of an army. This is a steep entrance to the hobby.

3. Some people see Kings of War as Bland. Concerning the fluff, I fully agree. Concerning the absence of special abilities on some models (kingdoms of men shield wall come to mind), I don’t think that’s a problem. I’d rather have a swift game without 100 special rules per model than the fully immersive battle where I have to block a whole day to spend even the smallest battle.

Poor guys. No special rules at all.

4. Dice. The game is still largely dependant on luck. Some people hate them dice, but I for me have learned to accept that even though sometimes I was the better general, the dice gave the victory to that other guy…. makes the victory even sweeter when it’s just the other way around.

the dreaded double one….

Thats all, folks……

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One thought on “Kings of War by Mantic, a not-so-honest review

  1. this is all so true!
    and also very well written!

    just one thing concerning the fluff:
    i actually LIKE that the fluff is very generic. every newcomer instantly KNOWS what the army is about.
    this also increases the WAF (wife acceptance factor / womens acceptance factor) if you wanna get your lady involved into the hobby? she will instantly understand what those elves and dwarfes are about.
    in comparison try to explain here what a stormcast eternal is…

    additionally, for me in WHFB the fluff soaked too much into the rules… i found this whole: dwarfes grudge everybody and there is an own book of grudges to be quite ridiculous. i like the mantic approach.
    lets see if this STAYS though with mantica surely being fleshed out much more in the future with the RPG coming along.

    Like

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