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Kingmaker The Royal Relaunch Review


Kingmaker: The Royal Relaunch a.k.a. Kingmaker II is the re-vamp and relaunch of the 1974 classic. I played it then and thoroughly enjoyed it, though it did take ages, so was keen to see its development. I was pleased that the aim was to make it quicker to finish with alternative routes to victory. Also there was to be an added fully-featured Solo mode.

Turbulent Times

Kingmaker recreates the series of civil wars from 1455-1487 fought over control of the English throne after the death of warrior king King Henry V. This period came to be known as the Wars of the Roses fought, as it was, between the House of Lancaster, represented by a Red Rose, and the House of York, represented by a White Rose. The various nobles of the day sided with one faction or the other and attempted to influence the royal succession, often by means of brutal battles and executions. Prominent amongst these nobles was Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick who became known as the Kingmaker.

The whole chaotic period concluded with Henry VII defeating and killing Richard III at the battle of Bosworth. He then married Elizabeth of York thus uniting the two houses and starting the reign of the Tudors, which we all did at school, with Henry VIII and Elizabeth I to come, but that’s another story!

Do You Want To Be In My Gang?

So, how do you recreate this period of flux? By making the process revolve around the actions and associations of the 24 noble houses represented on the board by their heraldic shields. Whilst these noblemen can perish on the battlefield their house will continue and get re-cycled later on as the next scion in line of succession takes the rein and carries on, though maybe on another side.

Players control groups of these nobles and move about the large map of mediaeval England and Wales attempting to capture the various Royal pieces in line to the throne. The Royal pieces form the two lines of succession.

For the House of Lancaster that is: Henry VI (who is the crowned King at the game start); Margaret of Anjou (Henry’s wife) and then Edward of Westminster their son.

For the House of York it is: Richard, Duke of York; Edward, Earl of March; George, Duke of Clarence; Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

The aim of the original Kingmaker was to control the last surviving Royal piece, crowned. Only the senior surviving member of each of the House of Lancaster and the House of York can be crowned King. There can be a crowned “King” in each of the two houses simultaneously but they won’t become the one true King and win the game until the other is defeated i.e. dead! This can take a long time to accomplish especially as it takes a few turns to build up your band of nobles to be large enough to accomplish things and the conditions for a coronation can be quite strenuous to meet.

Kingmaker II has alleviated this. As well as making coronations easier to achieve it has introduced an additional route to conquest: Prestige Victory. Prestige points are gained throughout the game and are gained for a variety of reasons: controlling a King or other Royals, each Office, winning major battles and sieges, controlling Bishops, Cities and Government Offices etc. Once certain conditions have been met later in the game you can claim the Prestige Victory card and ultimately the game.

Noblesse Oblige

To start the game you will either use one of the 14 pre-built factions supplied or create your own random one. Either way you will have one Noble with a permament title and one or more untitled Nobles. You can also have a Title and Offices to award plus various Bishops, Towns, Ships and Mercenaries you might control. You can only award Offices, which will bestow extra troops, to Titled Nobles. The Nobles start off at one of their home castles. Their counters are two-sided with an in-castle side and an out on the field side.

A noble can be allocated a maximum of 1 Title, 1 Office, 1 Bishop or Archbishop plus any number of Towns, Ships and Mercenaries. These all allocate extra troops, which may be linked to being in a particular area, except for the Ships which provide naval movement options. You will need to use your movement turns to gather your nobles together to reach a size of force that can accomplish anything: win battles and sieges, capture Royals etc. and here we come to the key design feature.

Rank has its’ privleges but also its’ obligations. One of the tenets of the Kingmaker design is that your top nobles can, and will, get called to go off to distant parts of the realm to deal with various emergencies: Peasant Revolts, French Raids and the like. So when you are awarding the Marshall of England Office along with his juicy 100 troops be aware he will get called away on duty no less than 10 times! This can rip a huge hole in your carefully assembled force and leave the remainder vulnerable to attack.

Another of Kingmaker’s differences was all the action is controlled by cards: Crown Cards that give you Nobles, Titles, Offices, Bishops, Ships, Towns and Mercenaries: Event Cards that provide some boons but mostly dispatch your Nobles to far-flung reaches. This same Event Card deck is also used to resolve battles, no die-rolling here, and may also reveal your named Noble has perished on the battlefield.

New For Old

Kingmaker II the Royal Relaunch gives you a whole heap of goodies in a very weighty box. As well as the new improved game described here you also get the complete version of the original Kingmaker.

Kingmaker already had, an innovative, area control and movement system but with Kingmaker II the map has been significantly simplified and refreshed. Whilst still the same layout covering England and Wales the areas are now larger making movement more dynamic and the control of roads and choke points even more vital. The relaunch package gives you both options on either side of a large double-sided board.

Since 1974 many Kingmaker enthusiasts have added their own rules and extensions to their favourite game. The best of these are also included in what is referred to as the Extended Classic Kingmaker. When you throw in a complete and very detailed Solo mode plus a heap of player aids you are getting a lot for your money.

King For A Day

Kingmaker II takes all the clever designs that made the original great and streamlines the system to make success, or succession, achievable in a reasonable time scale. Its noble heritage make it worth this second coming. If you’ve played before you’ll appreciate the improvements and wealth of options offered. If you haven’t played before you should give it a go, enjoy all the machinations of mediaeval politics and maybe learn some things about British Heritage and history along the way.