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Group Project: Fixing Warrior Knights

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sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008

Warrior Knights is a remake of an old Games Workshop game. I never played the original version, but I understand it's undergone an overhaul. After 7 games (in the last week), I can say that I like a lot of things about the game, but there is something lacking.

Here's a review I posted on BGG, which turned into a discussion of game design. I'll link the thread below the quote for reference:

Summer days, drifting away but oh, those Warrior Knights wrote:

On Friday I bought Warrior Knights and after 2 hours of reading rules Stirler, Tyler, and I were ready to play our first game. It took 5 hours as we were all unfamiliar with everything. We played again on Saturday (twice!), and the games went much more smoothly now that we knew what was going on. Finally I played a 4-player game Sunday.

The game is a re-make of an old Games Workshop game, which evidently stole a lot (er, was "heavily influenced by") Kingmaker. Having never played either the old version of Warrior Knights nor Kingmaker, I can't speak much to either of those, but the new Fantasy Flight version of Warrior Knights is a pretty good rendition.

The game is about controlling cities in a generic midevil country. Each player is a Baron, with 4 Nobles under his charge. Barons hire mercinaries and assign them to the Nobles, then send those armies out to seige cities to either control them or raze them to the ground. Controlling cities confers victory points each round as well as income and votes during Taxation and Assembly phases (respectively).

The game is won either militarily, by controlling 1/2 of the unrazed cities on the board, or politically, by having the most victory points when the VP supply runs out. As yet I have never seen a game even come close to ending by a military victory, all games are won by victory points. The rules indicate that the supply of victory points should equal 10 VP per player in the game, but on these boards it's been said that that really isn't enough, and that all the playtesting was done with 12-15 VP per player. I have played with both 10 and 15 VP with 3 players and found that the 15 vp was a better number ofr sure. The 4 player game I played on Sunday seemed to have more player interaction sooner, probably because the board was more crowded, and 10 VP per player seemed to be 'enough' that time.

Let me preface this next paragraph by saying that I generally dislike war games. Ever since I was a kid playing Risk and Axis & Allies I've been terrible at them. Tactically I am pretty good in the short term, but I could never put together a long term plan, and I could never see my opponents' long term plans developing. Similarly, I wasn't too hot at Chess either. That said, Warrior Knights is a war game, but I like it very much. I think the reason is that there's a lot more you can do than simply maneuver and attack. Since you don't win militarily, you can go about controlling cities and defending them, and spending actions getting political power. You can use the game system to try and run your opponents out of money or make them unable to pay for their mercinaries (causing them to leave).

There are some very clever mechanics that I rather like. The first is the action selection mechanic. Players each have 12 cards - 2 each of 6 different actions. During the Planning phase, you select 6 of the actions to do this round. Then you put 2 of them in each of 3 piles. Each player does this, and 2 generic actions are added to each pile, then each pile is shuffled up. The actions are drawn from pile 1 first, then pile 2, then pile 3. In this way, you know what actions will happen, and approximately when, but you don't know if you'll go before or after other players, and you don't know which of your 2 actions will come up first.

The other mechanic I reallly like is that after resolution, the card is placed in one of three piles depending on the action taken... Taxation, Assembly, or Wages - where it stays until that pile "fills up". Until that time, you cannot use that card anymore. Eventually, the piles "fill up" (2 cards per player) , everyone gets their cards back, and a special phase is triggered: Taxation, where players get income from cities, Assembly, where players vote on Agenda cards, or Wages, where players must pay for their troops. Thus, when deciding which actions to take, and in which order, you often must consider not only what you want to do on the board, but also what the impact will be on the special phases.

Finally, there's a cool mechanic involved in the Assembly phase, a system of voting for Agenda cards (cards which confer special bonuses). Over the course of the game players amass votes. When an Assembly occurs, players each get 1 vote, plus 1 per city they control. Then players spend these votes in a blind-bid for each Agenda. All votes bid re spent, and you get to assign that many votes to whatever you're voting on... either a Yes/No vote for putting some law into effect, or voting for a particular Baron to get an Office or Concession. Unused votes are kept for the next Assembly.

There are some other cute mechanics, but they are largely irrelevant in the grand scheme of the game. In fact, it could be said that the Agendas don't have a big enough impact on the game to be worth the effort, but I don't know if I agree with that personally. It might be nice if there were more Agendas that conferred Victory Points or ways to get them, so that the Assmbly and getting votes had a bigger impact on the game.

In any case, I am enjoying Warrior Knights. The rules are pretty clean and clear, with the exception of one obnoxious annoyance to do with shifting troops from army to army. The game is fun, if long, and when played with the right number of Victory POints in the supply the end of the game comes at a good time - soon after players have had to clash with each other, and not just before. I'd like to play the game with more (5 or 6) players to see how the dynamics change. I noticed some things were a lot different with 4 players than with 3, such as crowdedness of the board, we were running into each other much sooner.
Look here for more info.

So, what I'd like to know is how to best define 2 routes to victory in the game. One in which a player wins by dominating the board - a Military Victory, and one in which a player wins through Influence Points - a Political Victory. I highly suspect it can be done with only minimal changes to the game as-is.

Any ideas? For reference I'll link the game's rulebook (from Fantasy Flight's website).

Joined: 12/31/1969
Group Project: Fixing Warrior Knights

I think you could do this pretty easily by the following:
- Keep the victory condition of holding more than half the cities
- Don't give as many influence points for holding cities (say only the players with the most cities get IPs, and then just one or two)
- Have more assembly motions that give IPs (either through voting or spending money)
- Give IPs for being the chairman or head of the church

sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
Group Project: Fixing Warrior Knights

I like those ideas, and they're some of the same ones I'd come up with. The most likely candidate is "more Agendas that offer points" like the one that says "Each round buy 1 VP for 5 crowns, or else give this charge to someone else". I think some of the cards they have already make VPs too pricey - like 10 crowns for 1 vp each Assembly? Too much money! Make it 5...

I really liked your idea about offering vps for 'holding office'. How about simply you get 1 vp whenever you take over head of Church or Council (via Rally Support or Serve the Church)?

At first I disagreed with your suggestion that the cities not offer points, but I think I'm coming around. However, I think giving just 1 or 2 points to the guy who has the most cities doesn't really change much. Maybe an Area Majority style mechanic - 3vp for most cities, 2vp for second most, 1vp for 3rd most (in 2-3 player games don't award points for 3rd)? That's for Kingdom cities of course. Overseas cities should confer 1 (2?) vp each round.

Good ideas!

Group Project: Fixing Warrior Knights

having played the original warrior knights as well as Kingmaker I can tell you that both systems have their obvious merits and demerits.

Kingmaker was a favorite of my old group because it played well as a 3 player game. This was a game where the greatest challenge was the event deck that frequently caused chaos. Plaguing armies, teleporting nobles around the board and always your human opponents ready to stomp on your dispersed pieces as you tried to restack your army. Thus it was't so much of an in your face game as a surivival against the event deck :) If you were lucky enough and played your free move cards at the right time you could force a parliament and claim victory.

What made kingmaker fun was the different decks. There was an event deck which presented various aspects of the war of the roses but also had keeper cards such as free move, a writ to parliament. Very handy in tight spot.

The other deck was the crown deck. This was the army cards deck where you could draw a noble or a troop card or a job/office. These cards usually came with a troop total as well as responsibilities in case of events. For example the WARDEN of the NORTH job responded to Scots invasions by teleporting to the north of england making a saving throw versus death.

It was these two different decks that spiced up play.

The ruleset was at times difficult to sort through and did cause problems from time to time. But overall the game was alot of fun.

Warrior knights on the other hand had some nice aspects that were borrowed from kingmaker, BUT what I didn't like was the foreign trading ship aspect. The returns were fantastic (which is historically true) but it fostered a sit at home and gamble on boats rather than a go out and fight with your army mentality. (at least in our group)

I haven't played the newer version but I look forward to reading reviews about it.

Joined: 12/31/1969
Group Project: Fixing Warrior Knights

I am excited to read about the new version of WK. It was a regular game for us in the late 80's. It is the only game that we played for 20+ hours straight. (it keeps getting longer as it gets farther in the past) We almost had a fist-fight amongst best friends when some backstabbing started to happen around 16 hours into the game.

Based on your review, it sounds like they made several changes. The parts of the game that I really liked was that there was an ability to vote on issues that affected the game (i seem to remember some hand written rules on cards that we voted on) and the leveling effect of the event cards. Disaster seemed to always strike the leader hardest (hence the long games).

My memories are flooding back. Now if I can only track down all the old players, we might be able to set aside a weekend and get a game going.

Joined: 12/31/1969
Group Project: Fixing Warrior Knights

I don't like 20 hour games, personally, and I think if you

Don't give as many influence points for holding cities (say only the players with the most cities get IPs, and then just one or two)

then the game is going to take ages to deplete the pool.

In a six player game, controlling half the board will be next to impossible since there a 5 people working against you. I would guess in a 2 player game (can you do 2 player?) getting half the cities is not too hard.

How about you reduce the target for the number of cities to control, depending on the number of players?

This will allow you to "surge" for victory, overextending yourself if you fail.

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