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Kings of War is the miniatures wargame from Mantic Games. Designed to go along with the accompanying 28mm Fantasy Ranges the game features players maneuvering large blocks of miniature soldiers around the battlefield in search of victory.

Kings of War is a new concept for mass battle miniature wargaming — a game that is both easy to learn and fast to play! With few and simple rules, there is little to get in the way of the fun and slaughter. Kings of War is a challenging game of strategy, where you can pit your wits against your opponent without devoting half of your brain power to remembering a plethora of convoluted rules.

And that’s not all, the innovative turn structure allows you to play Kings of War using a time-keeping tool (like a stopwatch or a chess clock) to time your moves. As the seconds tick away, the pressure and excitement this adds make 'Kings of War' unlike any other large-scale wargame you’ve ever played before.

Units are given simple ratings such as 'Melee Attack', 'Defense', and 'Nerve' and then augmented with special abilities that characterize the different fantasy races that inhabit the world. In 2015, the "beta" rules were updated and a full ruleset was released. Abbreviated rules are downloadable from Mantic's website, and extracts (about 70%) from the full army lists for all factions are also available for download, called "starter lists". Currently, army lists exist for Elves, Dwarves, Kingdoms of Men (medieval humans), Basileans (clerical army with saints and angels), Forces of Nature (Treemen, Dryads, and other assorted forest creatures), Forces of the Abyss (devils and demons), Abyssal (evil) Dwarves, Goblins, Orcs, Ogres, Twilight Kin (evil elves) and the Undead hordes.

Additional factions lists are now available in the "Uncharted Empires" supplement: The Brotherhood (high medieval and mystical humans with elementals), Salamander (humanoid lizards), The Herd (satyrs... ok: beast-men), The League of Rhodia (fantasy renaissance humans and halflings), The Trident Realms of Neritica (tritons/ fishmen), The Empire of Dust (Egyptian undead... yes, kings from tombs), Night-Stalker Armies (spirits, ghosts and the like), Ratkin Armies (ska... er, scavenger ratmen) and the Varangur (chaotic warriors).


Take to the tabletop battlefield with your favorite armies such as the terrifying Undead or treacherous Goblins, pitted against stalwart Dwarfs or the potent Forces of Nature – and many more besides. Kings of War lets players command their forces in an amazing gaming experience.

Prepare to rally your forces to fight in the best and biggest fantasy mass battle game.

Choose your side and then command an army of Mantic miniatures to represent incredible armies such as the stoic and pious Basileans, or plot your opponent’s downfall with hordes of devious Goblins and their contraptions of war.

The intuitive, easy-to-learn rules of Kings of War mean it’s possible to play epic battles with hundreds of miniatures in just a few hours. Hone your tactics without worrying about overly-complicated rules or removing individual miniatures when they die.

We’ve worked tirelessly with our community to make the rules of Kings of War as good as they can be. Third Edition brings together all the refinements and improvements since 2015 to make this the definitive edition of Kings of War.

This quality tome contains all of the rules you’ll need to fight epic battles across the tabletop, an extensive background section covering the races of Pannithor and their history, and full rules and army lists for 14 different factions.

Set titanic monsters against thundering mounts, have legendary heroes lead stalwart infantry, direct merciless war machines to rain distant doom, and call noble mages to wield their sorcerous power – we’ve got miniatures covering it all!

Get a taste of Kings of War: Third Edition with the Free Rules sampler. Learn the core gameplay of Kings of War: Third Edition and try out your battle tactics with two sample armies: Dwarfs and Orcs.

Kings of War, (often abbreviated to KoW) is a tabletop wargame created by Mantic Games.

The game has been designed for armies of fantasy miniatures. It uses stock fantasy races such as Elves,[1] Dwarves, Undead[2], and Orcs,[3] as well as a demonic version of Dwarfs known as Abyssal Dwarfs.[4] Each race has an alignment (good, evil, or neutral) and races of the same or compatible alignments can join forces, allowing the player to have a mixed army.

Initially released as a range of miniatures without a set of companion rules,[5] Mantic Games announced in July 2010 that a set of rules was under development.[6] The game was designed by Alessio Cavatore,[7] who previously worked on the rules[8] for The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, Warmaster, Warhammer 40,000[9] and Mordheim while working for Games Workshop.

The game was first announced in early 2010 as a closed beta.[10] The 2010 edition of the game was released in September 2010 with the Mhorgoth's Revenge starter set. The rules were finally published as a download from Mantic's website in December 2010.[11] The 2nd edition of the Kings of War rule book was released in the summer of 2015 and features a cleaned-up set of rules, new units in every army, and new armies. In October 2019, in celebration of the 10-year anniversary of Kings of War, Mantic released the 380-page 3rd edition rule book. Are you an old player of Warhammer Fantasy that didn’t burn your models with the introduction of Age of Sigmar? Do you look at your hours spent playing the Warhammer: Total War games and wish you could recreate its look on the tabletop? Or are you a historical player that just wants to add a dragon to your Roman legions? Then Kings of War might just be the game for you.

Welcome to a new series for Goonhammer from us, JP and Matt. In this series we’ll be talking about – and hopefully, convince you to play – Mantic Games’ Kings of War. This week we’re starting with an introduction to the game and next week we’ll dive into the game’s factions.

What is Kings of War?

Kings of War is a tabletop wargame of mass combat between a vast selection of fantasy armies created by Mantic Games. The term ‘mass combat’ refers to how gameplay revolves around the combat between units rather than between individual models (as opposed to ‘skirmish combat’). That’s not to say there aren’t individual heroes and monsters, but the crux of the game is the maneuvering and smashing together of units.

Like the late Warhammer Fantasy Battles, Kings of War is commonly referred to as a ‘rank and flank’ wargame. This describes both the ranked-up nature of the models in each unit, but also the importance of unit positioning and getting that ever-sought-after flank charge. 

Credit: Matthew “Urr” Trewella

 

 

Why play Kings of War?

Kings of War is a deeply tactical game aided by the simplicity of its rule set. It allows you to represent all the great battles of classic fantasy and run through them in the afternoon without sacrificing depth or fun. Positioning and maneuvering are vitally important, and where your skill can shine through, but there remains the randomness of all dice games. A lucky roll can see the collapse of a flank, while conversely, an unlucky one can see the enemy hold against all odds, giving a game that cinematic feel.

There will be moments where ranks upon ranks of infantry clash shield and sword, or titanic demons will sow ruin through desperate rabbles. Other times through deft tactical play, cavalry will plow into the flank of gibbering horrors, while the dark overlord is deftly smitten by a well-aimed lightning bolt from the opposing wizard. Assassins deftly weave their way between the clash and clamor of battle and artillery rain down deadly projectiles on key targets.

We could go on, but we really want to emphasize just how epic Kings of War can feel when a battle is underway and the imagination gets going (aided by caffeine and/or sugar). What helps with this is that you can make almost any fantasy army you like – there will be rules that fit it!

If this has got you excited, here are four detailed reasons that Kings of War is a fantasy battles game worthy of your attention:

1. A simple but deep game design

As they say for Chess, “a minute to learn, a lifetime to master.” The main rules for KoW are laid out very clearly and simply, in an easy-to-read fashion. The game’s main rules – covering everything from how to play to unit types to the battlefield, magic items, and scenarios – runs 63 pages out of the rulebook’s 390 total. A significant chunk of these have been devoted to examples, helping demonstrate how the rules are put into practice and helping those of us who find words alone insufficient to convey proper tabletop application.

As you’d expect from a rank and file game, the movement is the most complicated part of the game, and it takes up 6 pages in the main rulebook, covering all movement options, from moving around terrain to engaging the enemy and does it simply and concisely. This doesn’t mean that the game is shallow though; in our first few games, we were constantly surprised by movement tricks that we hadn’t even considered the possibility of doing. That said, the simple design makes the game easy to pick up and compete with – just to hammer the point home, both of us played our first games at a 16-person tournament, and managed to put up a respectable showing (1 win! 2 losses…). The Kings of War rules have been polished to a high sheen such that they can be learned on the fly like no other wargame. 

2. Player friendly – one rulebook, no codexes/battletomes

The rest of the main rulebook’s pages are devoted to the lore of Pannithor (the world in which Kings of War is set), with histories and backgrounds for each faction, and finally the rules for those factions. Unlike Games Workshop games, everything you need to start playing (and to continue playing indefinitely) is contained in just one book. One book to rule them all.

There have also been two supplements so far; Uncharted Empires, which adds 9 new factions to the game, and Halpi’s Rift, a supplement focused on expanding the magic system, introducing fighting on other planes, and adding additional named characters to almost every faction. Halpi’s Rift also contains the 2021 balance updates, though the supplement part of it is generally not used in competitive/tournament play.

The library of books required for Warhammer 40,000 versus the singular tome of wisdom that is the Kings of War rulebook (we still love you 40K).

The general plan from Mantic seems to be one game supplement and one balance update a year, though COVID-19 disrupted last year’s roadmap and saw them both rolled into one. Usually, there would be more games, and more feedback about the balance of the game, resulting in balance tweaks and the addition of supplement rules into the competitive scene.

3. Balance  

Were you a Warhammer Fantasy player that was used to having half your army blown off the table by a certain atypically colored sun? How about that Banner of the World Dragon? What about… well, we could go on here but suffice to say that in contrast, KoW is an extremely well-balanced game. With the majority of the game’s armies rolled into one book and therefore released at the same time, there is no power creep across factions to worry about. All play styles have a good chance at winning, given the same player skill; even the best wizards in the game can’t destroy a large block of infantry by themselves.

The game’s annual updates help ensure this remains the case by buffing the more forlorn units and factions and toning down the power of those that are shown to be too powerful. At the time of writing, the undead is the “easy mode” army, with great choices across the board, but we suspect that a few of their top-tier choices will be brought down a little in the next update. If you are interested in playing competitively, you’re in luck: Pre-COVID there was a thriving competitive scene across the world, particularly in the US, Europe, and Australia. And with a timely vaccine rollout, hopefully, this scene will kick back off again.

4. Miniature agnostic

Our favorite reason to play Kings of War is that you can use whatever models you like, provided those models make for a reasonable approximation of what you are trying to represent. 

Got old Warhammer Fantasy models? Bring them in. 

Just got a 3D printer? Print yourself an army. 

Want to support a smaller miniatures company like Mantic Games? Buy from them.

Want to run with a thematic army idea you’ve been doing for a while that doesn’t have proper rules support elsewhere? Go for it.

Or mix it all together, and do it all.

To make this work the game is more abstract than Warhammer Fantasy Battles or Warhammer 40,000. For example, All bases for models are standardized – a regiment of infantry has a base size of 100 x 80 mm, while a troop of cavalry is 125 x 50 mm. All units have a height baked into the unit profile, and most other measures are based on the front arcs or the central point of the unit.

Additionally, there is no removal for individual models. A unit stays whole right up until it is routed or destroyed, with a tally of wounds to track – usually on a 20-sided die. This allows for some great hobby projects, where players are free to add scenic bases to make mini dioramas for individual units (termed ‘multi basing’). But if you want to keep your models on their individual bases there are both square and round base-accommodating movement trays so you can play multiple game systems with one army.

 

Credit: JP “Cytoplasm” Fuller-Jackson

5. Game Time

The final point, and perhaps the biggest draw for many a busy wargamer, is that Kings of War is a fast game to play. A standard 2000pt game usually takes one and a half hours. In fact, at tournaments, this is the norm. This is a thank you to a combination of the streamlined rules as well as the common practice of multi basing units. While you get to keep the spectacle of large armies clashing, it is much easier to get through a movement phase when you only have seven bases to move around, rather than 50-100. Multibasing also means there’s no fiddling around removing or packing/unpacking individual models, saving you time and making armies easier to transport. So whether you want to just have a quick game on a weekday night after the kids have gone to bed or have a full Sunday marathon of 4 games, both are equally possible!

What do I need to play Kings of War?

Thanks to our brilliant descriptions above, you are now convinced that you need to at least give this brilliant game a try. What do you need to get started?

The Kings of Edition War 3rd Rulebook – There is both a lovely hardcover book as well as a cheaper ‘Gamer’s Edition’ softcover book that contains just the rules.

Lots of dice! – Mostly 6-sided dice, but some 20-sided dice will also help with damage tracking on units (and you’re unlikely to accidentally roll your D20).

A tape measure – The game is played in Imperial Units (ie. inches).

A space to play – A single game is typically played on 6 feet x 4 feet, although smaller points games use 4 x 4 feet

An army – For your very first game, technically you don’t even need miniatures. A bunch of cardboard bases with the unit name written on them can suffice to get an idea of the game, but obviously lacks the spectacle of having an army on the board. If you have armies from other games, most likely these have a similar faction in Kings of War. If you want to try it out, make up cardboard bases for the units (see above) and then tack your miniatures onto their respective bases.

Mantic Easy Army – A browser-based, always up-to-date army creator that ensures every army complies with the rules automatically (it literally won’t let you make an incorrect list). Make your army then print it off (or put the PDF on your phone) and you’re good to go!

An opponent!- The best first-time opponent is a current player of Kings of War, but the rules are so simple you can pressure your gaming buddy and they will end up having fun by Turn 2 (when the killing starts).

Also check out A Brief History of Tabletop Wargaming: From Ancient to Modern Gaming! or The Army Painter - Rangefinder Tape Measure!