I do not miss 1st edition.
I don’t think this is going to be a divisive statement, but I really don’t miss Kings of War 1st edition. There’s an oldhammer movement which seeks to promote the older editions of WHFB, but I don’t think that there’ll be one springing up for Kings of War 1st ed. I fell in love with the game right from the release of the first hardback but even then, I could see that there were glaring issues with it.
2nd edition was timed absolutely perfectly. Ronnie probably had some inside information on the approximate release of Age of Sigmar, knowing that there could be a flood of people looking for a new rank and flank fantasy game, but I doubt he knew the exact date. We managed to have the 2nd ed hardbacks out within a couple of weeks of AoS dropping so with the nine month development time, I don’t think we could have gotten it any closer.
We saw the huge influx of players as soon as the AoS rumours started being confirmed with the KoW Fanatics group on Facebook going from 300 players to 3000 practically overnight. But what if we hadn’t done 2nd edition? What if we’d have been using 1st edition still? Would the game have stood up to the huge influx?
God no it wouldn’t.
We’d been papering over the rather large cracks in the game for 2 years at that point and it was creaking at the seams. If we’d have seen the huge spike in new players, many of whom (not most, many) are liable to pull extremely obscure rule interpretations out of what is pretty clear text then those patch fixes would have broken and so the game would be too.
I’m going to be looking at some of the glaring flaws in the game, mostly relating to balance. Please bear in mind that there was a 25% points increase from 1st edition to 2nd, so an 80 point unit in 1st was 100 points in 2nd.
Line of Sight
True Line of Sight was in. And it was a nightmare in 1st ed.
“Just bend down and take a look; if your models can physically see then they can see.” Sounds oh so simple on paper, except when you start to try it out in real life. I’ve never seen a rule cause so many arguments and “4+ it” just isn’t acceptable when blocking LOS was one of the few ways of preventing a charge.
It also caused huge issues with KoWs relaxed modelling rules. Stick your cavalry units on top of 20mm high rocks? Your units could see and be seen over the top of units that weren’t on top of rocks.
War Engines were a painful. Originally, the rules stated that you drew LOS from a single point anywhere on the model, as long as you were consistent. That led to people mounting catapult arms vertically and extending them, then measuring LOS from the very tip. Cannon barrels pointing at the sky, and conveniently LOS measured from the very tip could see over the top of even cavalry. This was changed in later comp packs to “must be measured from a crew member”, but of course there was nothing stopping you from sticking your crew members on a tall rock or even a lookout tower.
A prime example of this was at a tournament I played where my opponent had mounted his Lightning Bolting (or Zap as it was back then) sorcerer at the top of a 50mm high staircase, allowing it to see over everything. I couldn’t hit back since I was combat focussed and his units were blocking my charges.
Then there was the different interpretations of 28mm from manufacturers. Mantic Men At Arms models stood head and shoulder over Perry Miniatures models. You could have two apparently identical human units, yet one of them would be much taller than the other.
The usual TLOS arguments reared their head as well. You could see across the edges of bases, so there were lots of arguments over whether the LOS was being drawn across an empty portion of the base or not. You could see through large gaps in the units, so some units such as Ogres found it impossible to block LOS.
In the end, there is absolutely no way that TLOS would have stood up to an influx of players, some of whom would be determined to exploit and break the game in any way they could. Even with the more gentlemanly spirit of KoW in 1st ed, there were serious issues and some rather unfun exploits being used towards the end. Most players were using abstracted rules in their heads (I codified them here as a suggested amendment and they were used as the basis for 2nd eds LoS rules).
Defending an obstacle
What is the definition of “right behind” an obstacle? It was common to sit 1” behind obstacles because there was no counter-charge (see below) – would that still count as “right behind an obstacle”? What about 2”? 6”?
What if the unit wasn’t aligned to the obstacle but was instead at a 90 degree angle? Do you measure to the farthest tip of the obstacle?
Then in the charging section, a disrupted charge (now called Hindered), would occur if the target was defending an obstacle. What if the target unit was aligned and touching an obstacle with its front edge and you charged the rear? It’s a disrupted charge. Because the unit was defending an obstacle. Even though you hit a side other than the one the obstacle is on.
There was no such thing as a counter-charge. You could only charge. This meant that if a unit charged your flank, unless it was particularly wide then you wouldn’t be able to charge back in on the following turn and would have to turn to face instead, and then suffer another charge from the enemy unit next turn. Finally, after taking 3 lots of attacks, you would be able to hit back the next turn. We’re not even discussing the positive boost of not suffering a hindered charge when counter-charging. Units would hit you in the flank and all you could do was turn to face and then charge after they’d taken their next turn.
That’s assuming the enemy unit was still there next turn. Instead of charging back in, flyers could just fly wherever the fuck they liked. Dragon in the flank? You turn to face and it then charges another unit in the flank. That wasn’t even specific to flyers because…
Corkscrews were everywhere
Corkscrews exist in 2nd edition, but mainly on Nimble units because they are the only ones to have two pivots on the charge. In 1st edition, everyone had two pivots on the charge. You think corkscrewing is bad now? Imagine when every single unit in the game could do it.
The “Dan” charge
Corkscrews were termed “Nick charges” in 1st, because I figured them out and became very proficient at them. There was another type of charge, even more horrific, that me and Dan King privately figured out but never publicly used for fear that others would cotton on too.
Individuals had no facing. Their entire base edge was “front”.
If you stuck your Individual, say an Army Standard Bearer in a “safe” position behind your units, that position was anything but safe. A flyer could declare a charge against that ASB, fly over the top of the units in front, turn 180 degrees to face the rear of your unit, kill the ASB and then overrun into the rear of your unit.
Now THAT was game breaking.
War Engines could pivot before firing. The standard War Engine blast was 2D6 instead of D6+2. They were 20% cheaper than they are now. There was no max 3 limit. Even with comp packs stipulating max 3, some armies had a massively variety of them so effectively ignored the max 3 limit.
These are all from the KoM army list:
Kingdoms of Men had 3 pieces of indirect artillery which were consolidated down into one entry in 2nd ed (this caused much gnashing of teeth and meltdowns as you can imagine). The Trebuchet is what became Siege Artillery in 2nd. Rockets were nearly identical in damage output and Mortars were just behind but also slightly cheaper. You could fit 9 pieces of indirect artillery, all of which had the potential to one-shot a regiment off the board with ease if you rolled a 10+ for the blast, even in tournaments with max 3 comp. KoM had the cheap and cheerful units to make sure you could plant a lot of nerve in between too.
You couldn’t get out of their arc because artillery could see 360 degrees, you couldn’t hide because true line of sight, and even 3-4 pieces of artillery in an army was a tiny investment in the grand scheme of things.
And then the grand daddy of war engines:
Blast 3D6. Average 10.5 blast. Piercing 3. Vicious.
I know some people don’t like Angkors now, so I can’t imagine the vitriol we’d see with Blast 3D6.
Defence 6 was undervalued. A lot.
40 points for a single, separate Lesser Obsidian Golem, about 45-50 points in current KoW points. For Defence 6, nerve -/12. And you could take as many as you liked. No need to unlock troop slots.
Note: a troop(3) of Large Infantry or Large Cavalry was classed as a regiment for the purpose of unlock slots, so that 90 point “troop” would unlock heroes, monsters and war engines. This was rewritten for 2nd so that a troop officially became a regiment, rather than having them count-as a regiment.
Now imagine a wall of cheap obsidian golems, backed up by Blast(3D6), Piercing(3) Angkors that had been modelled with lookout towers allowing them to see over the top of golems.
You think a 40 point road block is bad?
70 points, now 85, for a De6 10/12 unit with Speed 9 and Nimble.
You’ll have noticed that you used to be able to take single large infantry models without using hero slots. This was “fixed” halfway through 1st edition when new army lists would only have troop and regiment options, and no singles, but the original hardback army lists still had this option.
So why did we move single options to the hero slots in 2nd ed?
Single model spam was horrific
Imagine playing a game where your opponent took nothing but werewolves. In the standard 1st ed size, 1600 points, you could fit in 22 lone werewolves. All speed 9. All Nimble. All able to see everything because True LOS. All capable of corkscrewing. They would all pounce and multicharge single units each turn, usually hitting flanks and rears because there was no way of protecting them. You couldn’t charge back into the ones that hit your flanks and rears, and if you turned to face then they would of course just corkscrew off into another unit. All of them were able to claim objectives (and there was only Kill, Kill & Pillage and Pillage scenarios anyway).
But do you think it would be bad with Werewolves?
Drakon Riders swapped 1 defence for +1 Crushing Strength, +1 speed and gained Fly. They also swapped Lifeleech for Elite, and the way Elite worked in 1st was that you would always re-roll one missed attack (the same as the Blade of Slashing now).
This is the reason that max 3 duplicates comp was introduced. Not artillery but 22 Drakon Riders flying about the battlefield. Werewolves were bad enough and would be considered broken in 2nd ed, but Drakons were even better and cost the same. And the worst is yet to come…
Unit balance was horrific. Let’s look at one clear example from the KoM list. In 1st, Ogres were part of KoM. They got their own separate army list halfway through but remained part of KoM.
A Knight regiment was 15 points cheaper than an Ogre Regiment. It lost 1 nerve, but gained +1 Crushing Strength, Headstrong and +2 speed. And was 15 points cheaper. There was no Brutal rule.
There was absolutely no reason to take Ogres unless you wanted to hamstring yourself.
Side note: I took an Ogre army to Clash of Kings and took 3rd place. My 5 pieces of KoM Artillery probably had something to do with it…
The ASB Swarm
This wasn’t so much broken, but it was hilarious.
A mounted Army Standard Bearer will set you back around 60-70 points now. Back in 1st it was the equivalent of 35-40 points. The Orc one had 2 attacks, hitting on 3+ and with Crushing Strength (1). Not so bad on its own but very effective against War Engines as you can imagine.
And when spammed.
I remember my first game at the first Clash of Kings tournament and triumphantly jumping a dragon over the enemy orc lines.
Which then promptly got charged by 12 mounted Flaggers. 24 CS1 Me3+ attacks. My dragon survived and flew off, trying to get away, but spent the game being charged round the board by a literal swarm of Orcs carrying flags.
Add onto this that in order to Disorder a unit and shut it down, all you had to do was charge it. You didn’t even have to do a point of damage. Spamming 4-5 ASBs cost you next to nothing but it guaranteed that you could completely shut down shooting units and was the only reason that War Engine spam wasn’t as widely used.
Sometimes, a book or unit comes along that is so bad that it practically forces a new edition reset by itself. For KoW 1st edition, that was Elohi.
Defence 6 flyers. Regular units. Crushing Strength(2). Regeneration (Angelic). Equivalent of 195-200 points. Can see over the top of everything because True Line of Sight.
These paid 10 points over Drakons, which would already be considered broken in 2nd, and gained +1 Defence and swapped Elite for Regeneration.
These were a nightmare to play against and were so broken that they were one of the primary reasons for the development of 2nd ed.
Just having a single De6 dragon in each army in 2nd edition seriously skewed the meta so much that we felt it necessary to remove Ensorcelled armour for the latest Clash of Kings update. Imagine what it was like when there was an entire army of the fuckers…
Take 9 of them and use the remaining points for spamming ASBs for charging and shutting down enemy artillery. Boom.
On a side note, when it came to 2nd ed these obviously got a considerable amount of work done to them. Playtesting feedback showed why it’s so important for playtesters to provide battle reports. We kept reworking Elohi and had many iterations but most playtesters came back with the same conclusions; Elohi were too weak and were now unusable.
Yet within a few months of release, Elohi were considered to be a top tier unit and many players claiming they were brokenly good, an all Elohi army was unbeatable etc etc. Why this sudden turnaround? When we actually got battle reports from our playtesters, it showed them using Elohi like they would in 1st edition. Tanks. Charge in, regardless of what you were charging, and rely on your De6 (now De5) to tank any damage you took. Don’t bother with fancy tactics, just charge forwards and rely on your high defence to save you.
When players either adjusted their tactics, or started the game and weren’t weighed down by conventional thinking, suddenly Elohi became top tier again.
So, will we see an OldKoW movement like we have for WHFB?
I strongly believe that if we’d have been stuck with 1st edition when the influx of WHFB refugees came flooding in that KoW would be dead and buried by now. The sheer amount of game breaking stuff in 1st edition, kept in check only by gentlemanly sportsmanship, was absurd. It certainly wouldn’t have been adopted by the tournament scene and I suspect we’d have lost most players, even KoW vets, after they played the same Elohi spam army 7 times in a row.
By the time we’d have gotten 2nd ed out if Mantic had stuck to their original 5 year plan instead of cutting it down to 3, the game would have been dealt a mortal blow by the sheer brokenness of many things being widely exploited.