Authors: Tom Wham &
Doug Kaufmann

Publisher: West End Games /
Games Workshop

Awards: none



The Things are back !!!

Well, that seems a strange reception for a boardgame, but I think itīs the appropriate form form for greeting this 11-years-old boardgame classic back for sale. Kings & Things* (KT) originally was publiched by West End Games, and now a new and improved edition is for sale in Germany from Pegasus Spiele...

In the game each of the two to four players takes up the role of a local lord at the fictional world of Kadab. The world has been shaken by wars for centuries, and finally the family of the Emperors of Kadab died. Itīs the aim of the players to become the new Emperor, unite Kadab, and - most important - have much fun while doing so. To become Emperor a player must succeed in building a citadel (the best fortress available in the game) and be the only one who has build a citadel for one whole turn. If another player should succeed to build a citadel as well, the game goes on until the owner of a citadel has gained one other citadel by conquest.

Being a tactical game, the most important playing pieces of the game are the forces of the players. Since Kadab is a fantasy world, many different kinds of troops are available for the players. So Killer Penguins, Ghosts, Druids, Mages, Knights, Swamp Lights and many other (un)thinkable troops are ready to join your forces. With these so-called "Things" the players may defend or expand their terrain by fighting against forces of the opposing players.

In the game exist 8 different kinds of terrain: Plains, Woods, Jungle, Mountains, Swamp, Desert, Ice and Oceans. The terrain pieces are hexagonal tiles which are randomly mixed at the beginning of the game and then spread out to form a random game board with Ice next to Deserts and Mountains next to oceans. At the start of the game each players resumes his starting position at a corner of the gameboard, owning 3 terrains, 10 randomly drawn things, 10 pieces of gold and a tower (which is a level-1 fortifivation).

After the starting preparations the game proceeds in turns, in which all players perform their actions in line. During a turn the players first collect their income of gold. The income is based on the number of terrains owned by a player, the levels of all his fortifications, special income markers and the number of special heroes in the playerīs army. In the next phase the players may try to add one special hero to their army. These special heroes are extraordinary good fighthers which may have additional special abilities which might give a great advantage in the game. Players may roll a dice to get a hero to join their army, an they may influence the outcome of their die-roll by spending gold.

Next comes the phase for recruiting things. The recruiting procedure in KT is different than in any other unit-based wargame. Each player gets a certain number of things each turn, depending on the terrain he owns, additional gold he will spend and things he wants to change back. The things a players gets are RANDOMLY drawn from a pouch called the "Things-Bag", and so a players doesnīt know what things he will get this turn. The things-bag mainly contains fighting units with different combat factors, but there are also some treasures, spells an random events in the bag. Treasures may be spend by the players just like they spend gold, and spells and events may be played whenever the owning player decides that the come in handy. The players place their forces face-down into regions they own, and they may keep all sorts of playing pieces (up to 10) hidden behind their players-screen.

During the next phase the players may move any or all their units for up to four terrains on the gameboard. Some terrains are difficult to cross (Jungle etc.) and they take up an additional movement point to enter, and a player automatically must stop movement whenever he comes onto opposing forces. At such an instance a battle-marker must be placed to show that during combat phase a battle will happen here. During the movement phase the things which have the ability to fly have their greatest hour. They may move over every terrain at a movement cost of 1, and they may even cross oceans to fly deep into terrain occuoied by another player.

After all movments have been performed by all players, the main phase of the game, the combat phase, begins. One by one the battles (occuring from fights between the players or by fighting neutral forces to occupy a neutral terrain) are performed. In a battle each player turns the things he has face-up, and then the killing starts. First to fight on both sides are things/heroes with a magic ability, next come the archers and last the close combat units. After each class of units has performed their attacks the casualities are removed. So a force consisting mainly of Magic-Users and archers has a great advantage over a close-combat army, since they may attack first and remove all csualities before the other side even can attack. After a round of battle attacker or defender may withdraw, or otherwise the batte will continue until one force is wiped out. All casualities move to the things-bag, where they patiently await their return to Kadab. But there is a major poblem with things: Things depend on their homes, and they will only fight for you if you own a terrain which is the home-site of the things you want to use. So you might have Killer Penguins in your army, but they will only be of use in fights if you have an Ice-Terrain. As long as your units are face down, you may use such things to move them around on the map, but if you are forced to reveal the forces anytime in the game and a player notices that you have no supplies for some forces you must return those to the things-bag. But only if any player notices.....

After all battles were performed the players may spend money to improve their fortresses (one level per round). Level 4 is the maximum (=Citadel), but to build a citadel a player must have had an income of at least 20 gold that turn. Finally the players may use any special abilities from heroes in their army, and then the next turn begins (with a different starting player).

I must confess that I was quite taken by the game since I had the first look at the components. The game pieces were designed by Doris Matthäus (Euphrat & Tigris, Am Fuss des Kilimadscharo etc.) and I think they they are looking quite great. The game itself is really easy to learn, and I think that a clever, interesting and innovative set of rules is used. Itīs really a lot of fun to have the things "going wild" on the gameboard, and the game offers high class entertainemet for many hours.

In fact, apart from the graphical design and the clever rules the game has some other very positive aspects. So the german edition of the rules is written very understandable, using a mix of rules and humor which makes it already fun the learn the game. The player screens contain a short turn summary which is a great help during the play, since they contain all important major rules, and the game also comes with small tables which allow an easy evaluation of heroes, spells an random events. With all these aids the game is very accessible even for new players, and even players who are undecided about strategical games will like the game.

The game is played best with 4 players, but itīs also quite interesting with 2 or 3 participants. The rules say that the average duration of a game is 60 to 180 minutes (depending on the number of players), and this is the only thing I must disagree with the author. A 4-player game of KT may easily take up to 5 (!!!) hours to play, but I think that this long duration easiy is set aside by the fun to play this really stunning and entertaining game.

Go for it !

G@mebox Special: Variant rules for Kings & Things*

James Williams plays the game with the following rules-variant:

Our group played with a variation you might like to try. When we laid out the map, we shuffled all the terains together, turned them upside down, and then laid them out. If your starting square was an Ocean, you got another random pick. Whenever your things enter unexplored territory, the hex tile is flipped over. If its an ocean, the things bounce back to the hex from which they entered. This variation added an exploration/discovery element to the early game, and we almost always played with it.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany