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Derek Green
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The game has a nice map and is fairly simple to play. Travel by sea and by rivers adds an element of mobility that most games do not enjoy. While neither I nor my opponent utilized this option much, it could have shaken things up a good deal. Unfortunately, there is not much chance that I will ever play this again due to the fact that the game has flaws which prevent it from being an enjoyable gaming experience.

King Philip's War has possibly the weakest combat system that I have ever encountered. Since everything is based on random die rolls and a handful of often non-sensical and repetitive events, there is no skill involved with combat or while fighting in congested areas such as Plymouth colony. At the same time, the low stacking limits and intrinsic defensive values of villages and settlements makes a pitched battle at any one of those sites impossible to win for the attacker, barring spectacular luck. Thus there is no reason why an intelligent colonial player should ever completely lose an entire colony, unless their die rolls are bad.

The idea that colonies and tribes should produce a set number of units per turn regardless of how many villages remain to them is a sign that the designer(s) gave no thought to the logistics of war. A close game does not seem very likely. Either Church will be late in coming and the raid rolls for Philip will get lucky and the Indians will rack up a huge lead that the colonial player cannot catch or Church will come early and King Philip's rebellion will be quashed in a slow, boring, and predictable game of attacking undefended villages/settlements.

The intrinsic defensive value of settlements and villages is such that it takes either multiple attacks or a considerable force to take out an undefended area. In reality, would a small town in western Massachusetts be able to defeat a large warband led by King Philip? It is remotely possible, but should never happen more than once or twice per game. The same complaint is valid about the attacks of the colonists against undefended Native American villages. On one attack, my large warband under a Sachem was defeated and ambushed by a settlement. How can that possibly happen when that settlement can not possibly have the manpower to pull off an effective ambush against an organized field force? While attacking an undefended Providence, Rhode Island, my full strength force was twice repulsed with the loss of half a unit both times while inflicting absolutely no damage. At another juncture, the colonial player tried to bring me to battle, but I evaded so he struck my village, which alone and unaided somehow managed to inflict a massacre on his men. While the event die was an interesting concept, it is a distinct failure as a game mechanic.
Another element of the game which I find baffling is the acquisition of arms by Native American armies which boosts their combat effectiveness. While the general idea of them taking arms from raided and razed villages makes perfect sense, they already have the same combat value as the colonial troops and are depicted on their pieces as being armed with muskets. This was obviously a printing error, since the additional musket markers necessarily imply that King Philip’s men are casting aside their old weapons in favor of these superior weapons that they have acquired in their raids. If the muskets that they acquired in their raids give them a combat bonus, then why don’t the English enjoy the same bonus? After all, they produce and import these weapons and should generally have better access to them.

These flaws would be acceptable if the game were fun or in some way made the player care about the game. However, after four turns of "action", neither the two people playing nor the moderator cared to experience more of the game. As I said at the outset, this is not a terrible game, it is just not good. The movement rules in the game are excellent and show a great deal of thought, while the combat rules leave you puzzled and ruin the game more than any other element. The hype here was undeserved and King Philip's War will be to the small community of war board gamers what the Star Wars prequel trilogy was to millions of movie-goers, a festering disappointment with no lifeforce and an example of a squandered opportunity.

For the sake of balance and improved gameplay, I offer the following suggestions:

1.) Church should enter play on the turn where he arrived historically. This will prevent dice rolls from determining events and making the game a cakewalk for either player.

2.) Settlements without troops should not be able to ambush or panic their attackers. In fact, event dice should not be rolled when a settlement or village is being attacked. The idea of the place having two hit points makes sense, since that allows for the other player to react and save his people from destruction.

3.) Settlements, villages, and forts with troops in the defensive should not be subject to ambush; it simply makes no sense.

4.) To offset the numbers of the colonists, the natives should be able to use their reinforcement points to add men to damaged units. The same ability could be applied to the colonists, who had a huge manpower advantage in this war. (According to wikipedia, there were 16,000 men of military age in the colonies and perhaps 3,400 Native Americans of serviceable age).

5.) If we were going strictly by history, then it would appear that English settlements would have the manpower to defend themselves while Native American settlements would not. For the purposes of balancing out this game and giving King Philip a chance, the Native Americans should never suffer any disadvantage not also applicable to the English in any rule deviations.

6.) Event cards would add an interesting element to the game. How precisely they could be fitted to the game is not clear to me (the historical circumstances only allow for a limited number of events), but it could allow for a comeback possibility in the game which is simply lacking at present. Another solution is that all historical events happen when they happened in real life, though then the game would be scripted. However, as much as I do not like scripted game elements, anything is better than a dice fest.

7.) Diplomacy cards could allow for some interesting circumstances to emerge or for the tribes to enter the war in a way that is not based on prior success, since there is a possibility that it might not happen and the game might end before it is really underway.

8.) Battle cards. Cards allowing for conditional ambushes would make sense. An ambush card would allow the defender to fire first and then the attacker would fire with his remaining force. Panic would also make a good card. Instead of rolling doubles preventing a battle, it would give the player more investment if he had to play a card that would make the battle not occur. Maybe there could even be a card played for battles where it allows for the possibility that the leader died and then you roll dice to see whether it happened. Random weather events like hurricanes or floods could prevent sea or river travel. The key point here is that cards add life and player involvement to the game.

9.) The battle table makes a great deal of sense and is better than rolling more dice to add up all of the things in your army. If we removed the event die and replaced it with the possibility of playing battle cards or giving certain leaders some special abilities besides a +1, then players could think strategically and be rewarded for it, rather than depend on the will of the dice.

10.) Tribes and colonies should lose reinforcement abilities as they lose settlements. For instance, Massachusetts raises two full strength units per turn. If their five western villages are razed, then will they have the same manpower to work with? No! There should be a tabulation to make sure that all progress, not just complete clearance, is rewarded with results. For the sake of balance, the English will have to be hurt as much by razing in the game as the Native Americans, though that is at the expense of historical accuracy.

With these fixes, I believe that the game would be a 7 or 7.5 out of 10. As it stands now, it is the epitome of mediocrity and deserves only a 5. Unless you are a diehard fan of King Philip’s War (the historical event), it is best to pass this game up unless one of your friends has it and you find yourself hanging out with them one evening with nothing better to do. Perhaps in the future this game will live up to its potential in a revised reprint or else a new game entirely will be developed on this topic.
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Pete Pariseau
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KPW is an exercise in reacting to chaos. If you don't care for managing the results of random outcomes, you shouldn't be playing wargames.
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John Poniske
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Mediocrity Redefined

Sorry you were disappointed in the game, Derek, but I am glad you were drawn to the subject. I'm also sorry you believed the designer scored a bell ringer on the mediocrity scale, but then I'm also glad you don't speak for the majority.

You do write quite well however and you present yourself with a minimum of venom. Thank you for that. You're absolutely right. This is not the end-all, be-all game on King Philip's War. From your careful dissection I believe you have the ability to design a better game on the subject and I challenge you to do it. This is not sour grapes, but an honest wish for you to improve on what I've started. You are right, there is a great deal of luck in KPW. However, I disagree that it's not enjoyable to play, too many people have been doing so for too long to go along with you there. On the other hand there is plenty of room for more depth of detail. Maybe you can add it.

My goal was to create no more than a simple understanding of the period (I understand that for your tastes it is far too simple and that's fine too).
I just wanted to bring the period to light in an entertaining and challenging way. And again, I disagree with you as KPW can can be very challenging. I was not out to create any great strategic achievement, yet the game offers a variety of decisions to make and for a wargame it moves along fairly quickly.

I also agree that the events die is total randomization which does not begin to mimic the reality of this tragic war. What it does do is emphasize facets of the war that might otherwise have been excluded. I've been saying all along that the game was nothing more than a jumping off point for people to learn more. It has apparently served it's purpose, Derek, because it seems you wanted to learn more and you did so. Kudoes to you for digging deeper.

I'm glad it encouraged you to think your problems through logically. I truly do hope you come up with a better representation of King Philip's War. I don't doubt you can do it. I look forward to giving it an honest review as well. Thanks, Derek, for taking the time to give us such a thorough a report.
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Hawkeye
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Classy response, John ...
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Rob Doane
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Quote:
However, after four turns of "action", neither the two people playing nor the moderator cared to experience more of the game.


Just so we are all clear, are you offering this review having played the game once for a grand total of four turns?
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Rob Miller
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Misterhawk wrote:

Classy response, John ...


Yeah, except that it isn't.

Not everyone is going to like your work, and constantly repeating the polite version of "Oh, yeah?!? Let's see you do better then!" is passive-aggressive and immature at best.

To Mr. Green: I enjoyed reading your review. I've been watching the reviews for this game with great interest. Understand that your review, and the subsequent conversation it has generated, has surely influenced my choice. Thanks for your honest take on KPW. Sadly, you can't write a negative review here without taking some amount of undue heat.
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Rob Miller
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Edit: I'll take your word for it, and assume that I was too provocative. Let me try a complete rewrite, and see where it goes...

I really do appreciate this review, and I think I'll still go ahead and purchase the game despite the negativity I've read here and other places. I'm interested enough in the subject matter to spend the time and money to form my own opinion.

It's just that the average response to a negative review around here seems to be an attempt to completely discredit or silence. I like to have as many differing points of view as possible to make a choice, and resent the fact that some people seemingly don't think I should.

I also find it odd when a designer defends his work with what seems to be a completely disingenuous response.

Speaking of odd, why did you feel the immediate need to review my posting history? This shouldn't be the only way that you feel you can handle debate or conflict. If you really feel the need to rebuke my words, please do so, but don't use irrelevant stuff like posting history in your attempt.

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John Poniske
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How do you measure immaturity or the genuine nature of a stranger's remarks, Robert? I dislike what you said but I wouldn't tear you down in public. I don't know you and you don't know me. Neither will I tear down any critic who takes the time to analyze his/her response. Don't get me wrong, do I think Mr. Green went overboard ... yeah, I do. But his presentation still impressed me.

Critiques help us improve our work, Robert. Be careful you don't confuse careful criticism with verbal abuse. Criticism of what someone produces is one thing, attacking someone's nature is something else again. I meant what I said earlier. Mr. Green made a few intresting observations and using them as a jumping off point he might very well design a better game on the subject. I am doing the same thing right now by researching criticism on past approaches to AGINCOURT to try to improve on existing designs.

Having had my say, I choose to jump off the rhetorical merry-go-round now.
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Rob Miller
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John Poniske wrote:
How do you measure immaturity or the genuine nature of a stranger's remarks, Robert?


By taking a look at how threads of this nature typically go. This one was already showing signs.

Quote:
Critiques help us improve our work, Robert.


You really don't need to keep using my first name, or any name at all. I assure you I know to whom you're speaking. Do understand that this strikes me as mildly condescending, but I'll assume you're just being polite.

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Be careful you don't confuse careful criticism with verbal abuse.


An interesting thing to say, as I was afraid you'd done this very thing when you read the review.

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Mr. Green made a few intresting observations and using them as a jumping off point he might very well design a better game on the subject.


Ok, but I'm laboring under the assumption that Mr. Green is a gamer, and not a game designer. He hasn't said anything in this thread to indicate that he is, and isn't flying the standard "Game Designer" tag.

This is why I took your words as disingenuous, as he hasn't given any indication that he's a game designer, let alone any indication that he'd like to redesign your work. Hence my "let's see you do better" comment.

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I am doing the same thing right now by researching criticism on past approaches to AGINCOURT to try to improve on existing designs.


I'm not familiar with this one. Is this your work as well, or are you planning a redesign?

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Having had my say, I choose to jump off the rhetorical merry-go-round now.


My apologies to you, as I'm quite sure I've been my usual abrasive self. I just really don't like seeing people taken to task, with little real substance, for posting negative reviews. I felt this is what was happening here.
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Dana R.
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John Poniske wrote:


Having had my say, I choose to jump off the rhetorical merry-go-round now.


Man I should have taken your lead...I read one more and now joining you off the ride.
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Rob Miller
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Slabcity wrote:
John Poniske wrote:


Having had my say, I choose to jump off the rhetorical merry-go-round now.


Man I should have taken your lead...I read one more and now joining you off the ride.


You admit you would have been better off taking his lead, and felt the need to post about it when you finally decided to do it? Weird.
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Chris Hansen
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If given the option, I would prefer to play with the green pieces, please.
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I own this game but I haven't played it yet so I can't offer much of an opinion other than to say that I don't think John Poniske's reply was mean spirited in the least. When I first read this review I had a similar thought to the one that he shared: "Sounds like this guy might have some ideas for his own game." The changes proposed are so different from the mechanics of King Philip's War that they sounds like a new game rather than tweaks to the existing game.

I thought this review was interesting and I appreciated reading some criticism of the game. From my reading of the rules, I suspect that I probably won't agree with the review once I finally play but it's good to see some discussion about potential problems nonetheless. The main criticism of this review I have is that it spent too much time reviewing what wasn't in the box rather than what was. Also, as others have pointed out, it's a little premature to write a review (negative or positive) after only playing 1/2 of a game.

Finally, I do agree with Robert that posting negative reviews on BGG does come with problems, especially with popular games. There is a certain popular game that I've made a few negative comments about and people always reply to me essentially saying that I don't know what I'm talking about or that I just need to play the game again. Obviously, it can be hard to read that someone hates something you love, but the fact of the matter is that not everyone likes the same thing and that's okay. It's sad that sometimes posting an honest criticism of game is met with "Shut up!" rather than thoughtful discussion.
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Arrigo Velicogna
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I think that the thread has degenerated, but the original reviewer has some interesting point. I would have liked to listen to John reply on them.

Actually, I still like to understand the rationale for some decisions, to be quite honest a couple of the point raised by the reviewer are certainly deserving an informed debate. Debate that will be only possible if:

1) We do not kill each other, and accept the idea that some mechanichs can be debated.

2) John give the explanation.

By the way I often have asked designers why they did something in a certain way.It is part of the hobby.
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Dances With Militias
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Well, mediocre or not, kudos to John and MMP for having the stones to publish a game on a virtually unknown-to-the-general-public topic, instead of the usual Gettysburg/Stalingrad/Bulge/Waterloo fare because, you know, there just aren't enough games out there on those subjects.

It's a chance to scalp English settlers in a single Saturday night sitting, and I haven't discovered anything in the game mechanics that can take that fun away.


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Rob Miller
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CountDeMoney wrote:
Well, mediocre or not, kudos to John and MMP for having the stones to publish a game on a virtually unknown-to-the-general-public topic, instead of the usual Gettysburg/Stalingrad/Bulge/Waterloo fare because, you know, there just aren't enough games out there on those subjects.

It's a chance to scalp English settlers in a single Saturday night sitting, and I haven't discovered anything in the game mechanics that can take that fun away.




Heh! Well said!
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Rob Miller
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toastar784 wrote:
Why in any way would I want, after being slightly annoyed and offended at your response, to possibly take a look at what you have said previously on a forum such as this; since I don't know you in person and I cannot say how you truly are in 'life'. Rather, I should just spout out that you are 'immature and passive-aggressive', without knowing if you perhaps merely 'come off' that way.


It just seems like you'd use it as a crutch of sorts. This is all I meant. I suppose I'd just like people to react to what I'm saying right now, to them, instead of conversations past.

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I'm fine that you may feel to be a crusader against the discrediting of negative reviewers and there is nothing wrong with that sentiment.


You are the first person to ever say this to me, and I sincerely thank you.

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All I wanted to convey was the fact that I found this, and previous postings of yours, to have tinges of snideness and condescension.


Tinges? You, sir, haven't read my best works.
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Derek Green
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I apologize if you took offense to what I said in my review. As I said above, there are certain elements of the game which are quite well done, such as the movement rules. With the proper revisions to the combat system and fixes in the general areas which I proposed (which do not necessarily have to work in the way that I suggested), this game has the potential to be pretty good.

If I came off as ungenerous in the review, then I did not mean to come off as such. I appreciate your effort on this project and it certainly took some guts to design a game on an obscure war that not very many people are aware of. The person who commented that it is good that there is an occasional game made which has nothing to do with Gettysburg or Waterloo raised a good point. However, my objections were not to the subject matter of the game or the basic concept, just to some of the game mechanics and the issue of balance between the two factions. You seem to think that I am criticizing the simplicity of the game, but in reality, that is one of the stronger elements of the game, as I note in my opening line.
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Derek Green
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"When I first read this review I had a similar thought to the one that he shared: "Sounds like this guy might have some ideas for his own game." The changes proposed are so different from the mechanics of King Philip's War that they sounds like a new game rather than tweaks to the existing game."

I actually am contemplating designing my own game, though it will not be about King Philip's War. Part of the reason why I wrote the review was to examine game mechanics more closely and see what it is that seems to me to constitute a fun, well-balanced, and easy game.
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Derek Green
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To Mr. Green: I enjoyed reading your review. I've been watching the reviews for this game with great interest. Understand that your review, and the subsequent conversation it has generated, has surely influenced my choice. Thanks for your honest take on KPW. Sadly, you can't write a negative review here without taking some amount of undue heat.

Doc, I think that you are right. To be fair though, I can understand why someone would get defensive about something which they sank a great deal of time and effort into, so I do not find John's response to be out of line.
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I dunno, Derek...maybe it all went downhill with the thread title. "Mediocrity Defined"? I mean, really now: is it really the "epitome of mediocrity"? Honestly?

Maybe it's me, but I save those sorts of heavy descriptives for real mediocre stuff, like Chrysler products, David Foster Wallace novels and the Bush Administration.
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Rob Doane
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I will say that it feels a little strange at the start of a battle to be thinking to yourself, "I sure hope my side gets massacred!"
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John Poniske
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Strange to think that ... yes. On the other hand a massacre always has a negative public opinion affect on the massacering (sp?) party. I had hoped that folks would recognize that a massacre alerted neighboring settlements/villages to the dangerous proximity of the enemy and forced the raising of additional hostiles (regardless of the side).

I am pleased to see the thread settle into honest open debate instead of name calling. This is what I had thought BGG was all about.

ARRIGO, It seems you had questions regarding mechanics? Please start your own thread.
 
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John Poniske
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Robert, You asked about Agincourt. My working design is called AZINCOURT (French spelling). To my knowledge there are four titles on the subject and the critiques show that past designers have settled for creating games that follow the historical outcome - fun for the English player but tedious for the French player.

Agincourt is a much debated historical triumph for the English in which the French who outnumbered the English (who happened to be riddled with dysentery) somewhere between 3 or 6 to 1, managed to have their keisters handed to them largely because of a heavy application of English longbows. Legend has it that France lost about 1/3 of its nobility in the battle.

My approach will be a unique division of both armies between two players. In other words both players will play the English AND the French. Another critique happened to be the static nature of the battle. I will offer multiple starting scenarios including those that will either reduce or increase starting forces. Another critique happened to involve captured nobles and the lack of emphasis on this aspect. I plan to introduce a mechanic to capture/wound/kill 60+ named nobles. With a reduced number of units and rapid play as well as the ability for both players to enjoy the effects of longbow destruction, this should capture some attention (some of which I'm sure will be criticism - but it is through honest feedback that we manage to improve our work).

Josh, I PROMISE I'll stop jumping off on tangents and get back to LINCOLN'S WAR in the very near future!
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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In general I have to side with my friend Derek. I was the moderator for the game and all participants became bored towards the middle, as the game took on a repetitive feel. Mostly the random elements seemed to be too numerous. You roll for combat, and random events, and to see who is affected by the event. All of this randomness goes into a few attacks, so a string of bad luck over two turns is really devastating. What really troubles me is in that both of my solo games I found the early going decided by dice. As the Indians, I could not, regardless of my superior odds, raze a single New England settlement until turn 3. By this time Church was in the war. Arguably, one can then just restart the game. After all this is a simple game with an excellent rulebook. However, it left me cold. This is unfortunate, as I've been following the game for over a year and I preordered it in June. KPW is not a terrible game; I can see sparks of greatness. I just think it needs more, such as a card driven mechanic, to really bring the conflict alive.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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KPW is an exercise in reacting to chaos. If you don't care for managing the results of random outcomes, you shouldn't be playing wargames.


This strikes me as a knee jerk response to a person's valid and informed criticisms. Derek plays mostly wargames, so he can deal with random results.

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Sadly, you can't write a negative review here without taking some amount of undue heat.


It seems to be the unwritten law of the land. Not that has stopped me from criticizing games by such sacred cows as Raicer, Berg, and Herman. In the case of Berg and Herman, I have gotten heat directly from them, even though I've also praised the games I think they got right. As for the talented John Poniske, I enjoyed Hearts and Minds: Vietnam 1965-1975 and I am looking forward to Lincoln's War, but I think John missed an opportunity with KPW. Derek took a risk here in attacking KPW in part because it has been received with nigh universal praise. In addition, the controversy touching this game, and the feeling that an attack on this game is a proxy attack upon the hobby, will make it a bit more passionately defended then other titles.
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