If I were king of the game…

Now I’m just a random ol’ fan of the game, I can post brain dumps without it being taken as official policy and the RC being held accountable for them!

What would Kings of War look like if I were in charge?

I don’t just mean Rules Committee in charge, I mean in charge of the overall product including Mantic releases, support etc. An element of realism is in play here, so no “everything done in hard plastic and 50 supplements per year” wishlisting.

New units

Kings of War has had little bits of new things here and there but the last time there was any major army list release was Uncharted Empires. We’ve seen a few living legends, some tentative formations and the CoK tweaks (but it should be noted that those are tweaks, not new things). We’ve not had any new non-living legend units for people to sink their teeth into since then.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon, despite the RC having the concepts and rules ready to go.

The time is right for a new batch of units to be released. Something to shake the meta up, to get people to dust off armies that might have been shelved and put these cool concepts on the tabletop. Dwarf Bear riders, a Carroccio Standard for Basileans, hunting packs for Ogres, Corrupted Fire Drake for Abyssals – the rules are all ready to go.

I strongly believe that Mantic should aim to release one new unit (even if it’s just the rules) for each Mantic army per year. Yes, they should also be backfilling their catalogue, but many people have built all the key units for each army using other manufacturers models already. Many of them won’t rebuy a unit just because the official model comes out. I had an Undead army, I had converted Wights and I feel that Mantics Wights are some of the best models they make. I haven’t bought a single box because I already had models and had other units to build and paint.

On the other hand, if Mantic releases a new unit and new models to go with it then many players will buy them. An Undead stitch monstrosity would have me reaching for my wallet…

Without new releases (and tweaks via CoK do not fulfil the “new releases” requirement), I fear the game will go stale. It did in first edition and I believe it can and will in second if Mantic don’t do new units.

I think Mantic should aim to put out a supplement each year with new non-living legend units, to be released in May/June, ready for summer activities. Include a bunch of scenarios and a narrative campaign – exactly like the Edge of the Abyss expansion.

Come the third

Third edition will happen, eventually. The RC have planned for the day they get an email from Ronnie saying that he decided to do 3rd edition while in the shower that morning (and Stew the studio head finding out from a seminar at the next open day). They have the tweaks ready to start testing (tidying up some LOS bugs, reworking some unit archetypes etc).

When it happens, and even in my fantasy “if I were King” scenario it would be the end of 2019 that it would be released, I think the rulebook should be split in three:

  • Core rules, containing exactly that.
  • Sourcebook, containing all the background including army and unit specific background.
  • Playbook, containing artefacts, scenarios and condensed army lists (as close to pure tabular format as you can get). No fluff, no background, few images. Just rules.

The reason for splitting the book up like this is…

Annuals

Each year produce an annual to be released at the start of December. This contains a supplement in itself, such as Siege, various miscellaneous articles but also contains an updated Playbook. Forget the one page of tweaks that we were allowed to do in CoK, we would be able to amend army lists directly. That’s not to say everything would change each year, but the RC could address some rather more far reaching balance outliers such as Chariots that we were unable to do in CoK.

Those new units that were introduced in the mid-year supplement? They get folded into the army lists in the playbook. If you want the full background for those units then you have to get that summer supplement but now they’re in the complete army lists released at the end of the year too.

The reason we bundle it in with a supplement in itself? So the book doesn’t become obsolete next year. If you want Siege rules then you’d buy the “Kings of War 2020 – Siege” annual. It’s got the Siege rules, but also has the 2020 Playbook included. Even when it comes to 2021 and players won’t really use the 2020 playbook, the supplement will still sell and not sit on a shelf collecting dust.

In the grand scheme of things, a £15-20 annual subscription for the latest updates is not a huge amount to ask. You spend more than that on a new unit for your army. In return, you get a full supplement of rules plus balance updates for that year.

From Mantics perspective, releasing at the start of December means that this is the ideal Christmas present for every Kings of War player. Every single KoW player should be unwrapping this book on December 25th (and potentially multiple copies if Grandma doesn’t understand how Amazon wishlists work and ordered something that had already been bought).

Art director

Appoint an art director. This doesn’t have to be a new hire – Mantic have plenty of people who are talented artists on their payroll and can simply add this to their list of responsibilities. The art director is responsible for setting a design style for Kings of War and ensuring that new releases adhere to this style.

I feel that Mantic models fluctuate between gritty such as the Abyssal Dwarf line or Undead Zombies and something much more cartoony seen in the Basilean line, the Undead Skeletons and many more examples. Ogres have a mixture of art styles – the original “skipped leg day” look of the original restic Ogres and the more realistically proportioned Beserker Brave models. Even models that are supposed to be thematically similar can have striking differences – the Beserker Braves and Warlock are supposed to be intertwined, yet the Warlock skipped leg day and the Braves most definitely didn’t. Both models look great, yet they have a different art style so don’t look cohesive.

I realise that this is a symptom of how Mantic makes its models. It hires sculptors on contract and sometimes the original sculptor for a product line isn’t available to make the new models. It happens.

The art director would be there to make sure that this is invisible. If something doesn’t match the original design then it gets sent back and redone.

Mantics best model lines are when they’ve sat down and sculpted everything in a consistent style. The Empire of Dust range being a prime example. Not only are they good sculpts in themselves, but the range is cohesive and looks like it belongs together.

 

3 Comments

  1. 100%

    One of the things that Mantic set out to do is prevent the game from becoming bloated like Warhammer. But, the downside to that is, your meta stays the same. CoK did make the meta fresh for a while, but overall, it takes new units to make the game truly fresh.

    I never minded buying tons of supplements, but apparently it does create a huge barrier for new players. I was never interested in campaigns at all either, so I feel like the game needs something. I like new artifacts, unique characters that can change an army’s play style, units and so forth. Good article.

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