1-4 players, Cooperative, Death Simulator
Designer: Adam Poots
Artwork: Zeen Chin, Lokman Lam, Lorinda Tomko
Publisher: Adam Poots Games
Release Year: 2015
This was a game that ran on Kickstarter.com a couple times before I even knew it existed. By the time I heard about the game it was getting a LOT of praise for being this deep, enthralling game. One of my buddies actually introduced the game to me, first telling me of all the crazy adventures he had played on his friends copy and then eventually buying the game himself. Now, usually when a game gets THIS much praise it doesn’t take me long to pick up a copy. However an infamous thing about this game is its sky scraping price tag at $400. So, in this case, it took me actually playing my buddies copy before I was completely sold and had to pick the game up myself.
Overview of Gameplay
Ahhh Kingdom Death. So there are 3 main phases to the game: Hunt, Settlement, and Showdown. During the Hunt phase 4 survivors are going to move down the Hunt track hunting their quarry. The Hunt track is represented by a long slender board that has spots for Hunt cards. You will set up this track based on whatever monster you happen to be hunting and place the specific monster hunt cards in specific spots on the track. Then you will fill in the extra spots with basic hunt cards and then finally place the monster mini itself on a designated space based on what level monster you are hunting. All these details with setup are detailed in the main hardcover book you get with the game to make it easier. There is actually a full 2 page spread with artwork and all the details on the hunt and showdown for each monster.
Once you finally reach your quarry on the hunt board, the showdown begins. You remove the slender hunt board and set up the battlefield on the regular board per the instructions in the book. You will usually draw some random terrain cards in addition to whatever the base rules for terrain for that particular monster is. This shakes up the fights a little once you return to fight this monster type again. Usually the monster goes first unless you ambush it, so you will draw a card from its AI deck to determine its course of action. Once the monster has taken its turn then the players all get a chance to attack. This AI deck not only lists a random assortment of attacks or actions the monster might take but it also acts as the monsters hit points. So during a fight you will roll to try and hit the monster, which is based off your weapon and accuracy. If you succeed in that then you draw Hit Location cards equal to how many rolls were successful. You organize those out in which order you want to try and wound. Then you roll again to try and get a successful wound, which is based off the monsters toughness and your strength. IF that succeeds, you then remove the top AI card from the deck and place it in the wound section face down. This acts as not only decreasing the monsters Health Points but also weakens the monsters different abilities since you are removing them. Once the beast has been slayed (or not) then you move on to the Settlement phase.
During the settlement phase you will be hauling back whatever resources you collected off the creature you fought and upgrading your settlement or survivors in a variety of ways. First you lay down that long slender hunt board again, but this time flip it over. On the reverse side is a settlement track. You will move your survivors down this board doing different settlement things such as drawing a settlement event card which lists some cool story element of something happening this Lantern Year. There are also story events written in on your settlement sheet that happen based on what year you are on. Once all that is done, you can craft gear with those collected resources or build new buildings which unlock even more gear and weapon choices. You can also innovate, which is learning a new innovation of some sort such as Heat or Beds. Most of these when you learn them there are even more cards that get added to the innovation deck to draw from. So each different game you play could be vastly different based on card draws. Once all that is taken care of you prepare your survivors to go on another hunt!
Win Condition /Length
This is a long game no question. There are 35 Lantern Years to make it through to finally “beat” the campaign and each lantern year is broken down into the 3 phases of hunt, showdown and settlement. I would say a typical 3 phase round takes about 2 hours depending on how lucky (or unlucky) you get during the showdown and hunt. The settlement phase timing will vary depending on how long you take to decide what you want to craft mostly. Of course going through the entire campaign is going to take much, much longer. This is not your mama’s board game. I would say a full campaign of this, on average, would take the better part of a year to defeat depending on how often you get together with your group to play.
The setup is really not as bad as you would think. Most everything stays in the box ready to be pulled when needed. Heck starting out with a hunt all you really need is the board, your trusty hardcover booklet, your minis and the box close by to pull from. Takedown is about the same, maybe a little longer honestly as you are putting everything back up that you pulled out over the course of PROBABLY many, many hours of play. The game is very addictive.
The components as far as the minis are concerned are beyond reproach. I mean the level of detail in each mini is just incredible. You do have to assemble each mini yourself and they can be challenging and I highly recommend getting some good liquid cement for them. But once you get some of them assembled and take a step back to admire the level of detail…..well all that time putting them together is well worth it. The cards are…..ok. I have seen better quality cards and these do have a tendency to stick together initially. I have found after many, many plays they start getting more “loose”. The dice are really nice with engraved numbers and the little lantern to signify the critical 10 on the d10’s is a nice touch. The tokens are pretty standard cardboard and nothing to write home about.
There are a few different game boards depending on what phase you are partaking in. Typically you will lay down the huge showdown board and leave it down and then overlay it with the smaller more slender hunt and settlement phase double sided board. Both of these boards are great and a nice high quality. The huge showdown board has some pretty cool artwork based around the opening story you will read in THE book. The double sided hunt and settlement board is a tri-fold heavy cardboard board that unfolds and sits atop the showdown board while you partake in those particular phases. It works really well and doesn’t take up any extra space as it just sits nicely stop the regular board.
The box is pretty massive. Let’s see as far as the other games I own it’s like a bigger version of the Mechs vs Minions box. It does have a decent insert included although I could see how some people would like to upgrade it to their liking. As it stands it has PLENTY of space to hold all the, what, over 700 cards? Yeah it can easily hold all those as well as spaces for all the tokens and other odds and ends. However that’s not to say it’s perfect. The token storage leaves something to be desired. There is enough space to hold all of the tokens yes, however the edge portions are fit so tight that it is difficult to get your fingers in there to get them out. Also please be aware that this box was never meant to hold or store your assembled miniatures. There is enough space you could probably toss in a few of them in the open space but I would strongly advise against that. These little things are works of art and risking damaging them like that just makes me cringe. I store mine in a nice foam core insert that holds each of them in place nicely. Also the one I have fits the width of the box and sits atop the game board so you can still store them with the rest of the game. Although there is a slight lid lift of about half an inch.
You will also be unable to store this thing on its side or up and down. It needs to lay flat, at least with the included insert. The sheer amount of cards would just tumble out all over the place inside there if stored any other way and good gravy would that be a mess to try and sort out.
Visual Appeal /Theme
The theme is indeed strong in this one. Starting the game out there is a short story excerpt in beginning of the book to read to get you started in this crazy world. After that there are multiple story events to progress the campaign. It keeps pouring on the theme harder and stronger than ever as you progress. The visual appeal is VERY mature. This is not something you will want to play with your children and indeed even some adults will find some of the content offensive. There is gore and nudity and just generally all around “Adult” things. It’s a harsh world to be thrust into and you must make the most of it.
And finally we come to the Holy Grail as it was. This is the hardcover book I kept mentioning earlier. This is by far the nicest and most thorough rulebook that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Heck it’s more than a rulebook. This is a guide to all things Kingdom Death. It has artwork, many pages of story events, setups for all the monsters, special events, the list goes on and on. The very beginning as mentioned before has a short story to read the group to get you started and then the following pages after that give super detail instructions on how to play the following showdown and settlement phases. I’m talking complete with pictures and examples. There is a nice index and glossary as well. Thus far I haven’t found anything rules wise that I wasn’t sure about or couldn’t find easily in that book.
Table Talk/Fun Factor
This is a very deep game and as such a person’s fun will vary. For a person to really get into this game they need to fully immerse themselves in its world. I mean if you go in expecting a quick easy to win game, you are going to be sorely disappointed. This is a game that takes dedication and time. You pour your life into this, putting together all the miniatures, naming your characters and settlement and making those hard choices on how you want to lead your survivors. If you can get behind those ideas then you will find this game is something you will love playing for years to come.
This game is fully co-op and you will be talking to other players A LOT. There are a bookoo of decisions to be made from the strategies on how to attack the monster during the showdown to all the numerous changes to make to your settlement. The group should always be conferring to one another on what decisions would be the most beneficial for the group as a whole. Because if you do not work together, you will for sure die alone.
Optimal Player Count
The game is designed around 4 players at all times. Now that’s not to say that it cannot be played with less. I have a solo campaign going right now where I am managing all 4 survivors at once during the showdown and hunt phases. There is a lot of paperwork and managing gear and the like but surprisingly I am enjoying it a lot and it’s not really all that confusing to keep everything in order. Of course having 4 different players managing their own stuff would be ideal to leave you to your own character. That said you don’t want to get selfish or get too attached to a particular character. When that character dies, they are dead. Luckily you should have more survivors back in your settlement to bring to the next hunt. There are rules made for 5 or even 6 players as well in the book if you have a bigger group. These make the monsters even harder to compensate for the increase in player count. Be aware though that there are only 4 gear holder cards included with the game but gear is easily managed without those, or you can make a copy of one to use although it wouldn’t look as nice.
Positive Final Thoughts
It really is unlike anything you’ve played before. I mean once you get the first four miniatures assembled and play the opening “tutorial” game you will be hooked. And as you progress through the “lantern years” and start unlocking new structures and new armors to build, you come to realize just how addicting this game is. The components are excellent and the story telling is intriguing and personally, I love the theme and art style included.
Negative Final Thoughts
This game will for sure not appeal to everyone even without the large price tag. There are some very graphic depictions in the main story book and you have to assemble ALL the miniatures yourself so you will need to go buy some model glue. Also to assemble many of them you will want to get online and find some better instructions. The game has a VERY high variable for luck involved as well with dice rolling to determine almost everything when it comes to battle and damage.
The Bottom Line
I resisted this game for years because of the price. The thought of dropping $400 on a board game was just unheard of. Then I played a friends copy and wow, I was kicking myself for not getting this sooner. It is a hard sell at that price but man, once you play it, there is nothing else in this world like it. It is addictive. And it’s not JUST a board game, it’s a full on hobby set. You create this world not only through the game play but literally as well with assembling the miniatures. This is your Kingdom. Be prepared for Death.
The Fuzzy Llama Golden Seal of Eternal EXCELLENCE