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Subject: Still an enjoyable classic more than 40 years on. rss

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Selwyn Ward
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Tunbridge Wells
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Shown on Board's Eye View (www.facebook.com/boardseye) is a revival playthrough of the classic Wars of the Roses game Kingmaker, designed by Andrew McNeil. The game was originally published by Ariel in 1974 and then by Gibsons. The UK edition came in a long Monopoly-sized box, as was pretty much standard for board games of the period. This, however, is the Avalon Hill Games version which was published in the USA a year or so later. It cleared up some rule queries and included grid references that made it easier for players to find what were thought to be obscure English locations. As you might expect from Avalon Hill, it also added various degrees of complexity to the rules, especially with regard to combat. A disappointment was that, though still attractive, the mapboard was notably smaller and duller-looking than the board in the UK original.

In Kingmaker, players each control a faction of nobles. There were 23 nobles in the basic game, which meant that Kingmaker was theoretically playable by up to 23, but in reality it was always a game for between 2–7 players. In addition to the nobles they draw, players can expect to pick up cards representing titles, offices, towns, ships, mercenaries and bishoprics. These are allocated to the player’s nobles, adding to their troop strength as well, in the Avalon Hill version, as increasing their voting power in parliament. Thematically, the game represents the 15th century struggle in England between the rival houses of Lancaster and York. The royal claimants, however, are treated as mere pawns. The factions vie for their control and the winner of the game is the faction with control of the last surviving crownable claimant.

When nobles are killed, their cards are recycled into the draw deck – so the same noble’s descendant may later appear but possibly as a member of a rival faction. Titles and offices go to Chancery, which means they can be distributed by the King (or Chancellor if the senior Lancastrian and Yorkist pieces have both been crowned) when they summon a parliament. Particularly with the (anachronistic in my view) requirement for Lords and Commons voting, parliament is likely to involve a lot of horse trading.

By modern standards, Kingmaker is a game with a high luck factor. Randomly drawn event cards determine the towns where plague strikes and determine the odds needed to win a battle. Event cards are also likely to disrupt strategy by summoning particular nobles and/or office holders to specific locations. Out of all the luck and chaos though comes an engrossing game that is thematically sound and which still stands the test of time.

There have been rumours of an upcoming revision and reissue of Kingmaker. It’s something we’d definitely like to see at Board's Eye View.
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Bill Cook
United States
Massachusetts
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I haven't played Kingmaker in 30ish years, so my memory may be faulty. But I remember it being one of the few AH games of that era I hated. The problem wasn't luck, but a serious stop-the-leader mechanic. As soon as somebody was about to win, everyone could stomp on them and the game would go on forever. Or until we all got bored and moved on to something else.

Is that Kingmaker, or am I confusing it with something else?
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jumbit
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Quote:
Kingmaker is a game with a high luck factor.

Something likely overlooked is the high degree of luck in the historical Wars of the Roses. All sorts of crazy unpredictable things happened. In that way, the game is actually a more accurate simulation.
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Richard Pomeroy
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Chester Springs
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A few years back I broke out my copy that had over 30 years of dust on it and gave it a spin. I really enjoyed it and was hoping to delve deeper. Unfortunately two of the guys in my (quite small) group gave it the we don't ever want to even see the box again feedback. So it shall sit and collect dust until I find a fresh set of victims.
 
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Mike George
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This game should be reprinted, I can only hope.
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Dave Dawn
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Monroe
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Count me as one who still finds it enjoyable!

Long Live Kingmaker!
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Mick Mickelsen
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Dallas
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Someone in our game group recently acquired this and all of us older grognards were excited to revisit this source of fond memories.

It was like traveling in time back to high school to once again go on a date with that special girl from yesteryear only to find her incredibly annoying after the first hour. We were all so ready for this to be over that after few hours we just quit mid-game and looked for something "modern" to play.

I came home to my wife and apologized about fantasizing about those high school "might have beens."
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Bruce Probst
Australia
Glen Waverley
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EMBison wrote:
Is that Kingmaker, or am I confusing it with something else?


Yes and no. It is the game's most serious fault: playing it to a conclusion is a very long process.

However, I'm not so sure that "gang up on the leader" is such a bad thing. Yes, it contributes to the length of the game; but those in the leadership position (or coming near to it) have to start playing a very canny game indeed, which IMO is where the game gets most interesting.
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Jaime de Marcos
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BruceP wrote:


It is the game's most serious fault: playing it to a conclusion is a very long process.




Play a limited number of rounds (usually 8 is enough) and apply the Advanced Parliament rules if there is no sole king by then. The Parliament should elect a new king between the two highest-ranked controlled heirs in their respective family line. The faction(s) that controls the elected heir is the winner(s). This should keep the game within a 3-hour time span.
 
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Enrico Viglino
United States
Eugene
OR
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EMBison wrote:
I haven't played Kingmaker in 30ish years, so my memory may be faulty. But I remember it being one of the few AH games of that era I hated. The problem wasn't luck, but a serious stop-the-leader mechanic. As soon as somebody was about to win, everyone could stomp on them and the game would go on forever. Or until we all got bored and moved on to something else.

Is that Kingmaker, or am I confusing it with something else?


That's Kingmaker. You didn't even need a bunch of people to
make it never-ending. Just someone hiding an heir in a stronghold.

The expansion cards help some - but made it even more about luck.


The first couple hours were fun. Then the 'goodies' deck ran out,
parliament assigned what was left, and it runs in stasis of non-action
for the next 8-10 hours. Finally, someone decides to make an exceedingly
low-odds attack to end the misery - assuming everyone hasn't quit already.

Showed a lot of promise, but never meets it.



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Brett Christensen
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Fargo
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The Ariel rules had a time limit option to play for VP's. The AH version did away with it, presumably to frustrate grognards for all eternity.
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Leo Zappa
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Aliquippa
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Yeah, played this one a lot back in the day, and I do own a copy. I have to agree that while the game experience was fun for the first couple of hours, the end game was frustrating in the extreme and most of our games finished without a winner. Something would have to be done to bring the game to a satisfying conclusion before I'd ever consider this one again. A straight reprint? Pass...
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Wendell
United States
Yellow Springs
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desertfox2004 wrote:
Yeah, played this one a lot back in the day, and I do own a copy. I have to agree that while the game experience was fun for the first couple of hours, the end game was frustrating in the extreme and most of our games finished without a winner. Something would have to be done to bring the game to a satisfying conclusion before I'd ever consider this one again. A straight reprint? Pass...


We came up with rules (combo of the expansion deck and our own changes) to mitigate this during our hundreds of plays, but yes it could be a problem and if Kingmaker were ever reprinted, it could use some work.
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Greg Sarnecki
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California
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Been working on re-do of KM since 2015. Fixed the major issues of turtling and everlasting games. Aiming for that sweet spot between historical accuracy and playability. Trying to wrap it all up by year's end. I hope to post the final map, counters and cards before the New Year.
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Eric Jungemann

Cameron Park
California
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Great to hear, Greg. Looking forward to it!
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Edmond
France
Paris
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Crown of Roses is a more detailed treatment (https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/36480/crown-roses)
but was inspired by Kingmaker.
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Greg Sarnecki
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California
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Crown of Roses is _sort of_ more detailed.
In fact, CofR actually simplifies the map, turning it into a county map of England, i.e. large area movement.
It also has its litany of errors though (heraldic, geographical, historical) that I can detail sometime, so it's by no means perfect - is any game?
That said, it was really the inspiration for me to re-do KM, so I owe it a big debt of gratitude, for opening my eyes to a wider reality than that presented by good old KM.
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Corbin Covault
United States
Ohio
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Just FYI, my friends and I play a modified set of "house rules" specifically designed to solve the turtling problems and finish a game in four hours. House rules variants blatantly stolen from many sources. Not necessarily everyones cup of tea, but we have fun and game endings are generally exciting instead of maddening.

I've written our house rules down in one place. See:

http://www.phys.cwru.edu/~covault/kingmaker_houserules.html
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