A reaction to Counter Charge 559

[Counter Charge] (“a podcast to all things Kings of War”) is a stapple in my podcast rotation. It’s one that I frequently listen while painting, almost like it’s been made especially for this!

In particular, I like their army reviews.

Matt Croger (the show’s host) recently posted show 559. The title of counter Charge 559 is “rewriting panithor” in which Matt discusses the booming amount of army lists and the fact that somewhere in the future this number probably will be lowered a bit. MAtt does a suggestion to cull the number of lists tot 21 by combining or just plainly removing some lists.

First of all, let me stress that I do agree with the assessment that 29 lists is too much for the sake of balance and scope of the game.

Matt goes by each of the lists and removes/combines lists by keeping those in which the Mantic IP is strong and “killing off” the generic lists. For instance, he suggests combining the imperial and free dwarf lists and focus on the IP/gameplay from the free dwarf list and writing a narrative that makes this possible. (i.e. the Free dwarf rebellion overthrows the dwarf emperor and destroys the empire). In that same way, Matt suggests getting rid of the Kingdoms of Men army in favour of an expanded League of Rhordia, killing off the general elf list in favour of both theme lists and making the order of the green lady the default Forces of Nature list.

For the remainder of this post, it’s practical if you’ve actually listened to the podcast. [Here’s the link again. ]


Now for my take on this matter. I think Matt is actually right in savouring the Mantic IP and expanding on it. Trident Realms, Nightstalkers and Halflings give us Mantic IP that can (and should) be expanded upon.

Going forward into the armies that have Mantic IP instead of generic fantasy tropes is a good way to make KoW special and sever the ties to oldhammer. What I missed in the article is the gaming side of the matter.

I would like to have the armies also have some more variety on the gaming table. For instance, the Salamander and the Northern Alliance armies feature a lot of the same mechanics on the battlefield (large-based high nerve anvils with CS, 18" hard hitting shooting and strong supporting large infantry). The same goes for Orcs and Varangur, while these armies are thematically different, the game style is a little too close for me.

So instead of 21 armies, I would not oppose to going down to -say- 15 or so, as long as these are not only different in the fluff division but also on the gaming side. For instance, why could Dwarves and Abyssal dwarves not share an army list? Maybe with one or two special options or special upgrades for either army. The same with both elves, Northern alliance/varangur.

Creating tactically different armies also means thinning out army lists. For instance, the undead army as it is, can do anything. Infantry, cavalry, monster mash, alpha strike, grind, horde army and even some shooting. Why not make the undead army tactically very different to the other undead army by severely limiting the surge-able units to zombie-like units (Zombies, z-trolls, revenants, possibly wights) and expanding on the vampire-ghoul-werewolf theme, while Empire of Dust has those grindy-undead such as mummies, skeletons and revenants, both in melee and shooting variety. In this case, both armies can become something very different.

Same goes for Basilea, the army has been both a grindy army featuring paladins and horde-infatry with high nerve, good heals and iron resolve. It’s also been the best alpha strike list in the game for a while. I’d be okay if Basilea focussed on either trope and left the other to another army. This would mean going to a new direction with the game, but I think I’d love that.

In line with keeping Mantic IP over generic lists, Matt suggests killing the Kingdoms of Men list in favor of an expanded League of Rhordia list. In this case, I do disagree. First of all, League of Rhordia is quite an GW Empire ripoff and has barely been expanded beyond this. It’s also rather bland. Finally, the Kingdoms of Men is a great introduction to historical players, so I’d rather keep one generic list for that purpose.

What do ya all think?
(This post is a copy from my blog post here)

Edit: As Rob Phaneuf kindly posted out, its his mate Matt Croger instead of himself. I edited the above post to give credit where it’s due. Apologies for the mix up. :wink:

No other edits, even though some forum-goers disagree with my (and Matts) assessment. It seems it’s actually possible to disagree on something while remaining civil. What a novelty!



Cheers - I’ll have a listen as it sounds an interesting article.

As a general point I’ve certainly no fundamental issue with armies developing in line with a continuous narrative.

There are only a handful of builds that FoN can do that the various spin off/themed lists can’t, some things can get a little samey.

Main issue with undead is the range of models available in the army sets - which mantic have previously indicated they aren’t going to change/render potentially useless (often in relation to comments that mummies and the pharos don’t really fit with the rest).

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Thanks for the kind words! Just a heads up that the episode was hosted by Matt Croger rather myself. I think you’ll agree Matt did a great job.


I agree that Mantic should maintain and even favour their unique IP, but I also think that the “generic fantasy” armies are important to grow the game by tempting people who already have models and/or are fans of fantasy in general.
I also think that the “generic fantasy” armies (Elves, Dwarfs, Goblins Kingdoms of Men, Orcs and Undead) should have a broad range of options (even if some are redundant and/or not “the competitive option” like skeletons or ironwatch) to accommodate existing collections being brought into KoW. With some unique ideas from Mantic mixed in, of course.

I am not sure that lumping together armies with similar play styles is wise. Armies are not as one dimensional as that implies and it eliminates the opportunity of more nuanced differences (like a variation in stats and unique support mechanics or heroes) and theme.
Players also like some choice in play style to go with the theme they like (and vice versa) and space to make the army their own.

I also commented on the podcast post on Facebook and said this:
I don’t like the way theme lists are done. There are simpler ways to get enable a thematic list within a main list.

Heroes with special rules/unique mechanics: that affect the keyword to encourage a thematic list; like having the wardrum and shaman affect/benefit orc keyword and shrine/riftforged heroes affect riftforged keyword would encourage taking mostly one or the other, even if the lists were merged.

Formations: these give you a theme without a list that people expect to have multiple ways to play. Putting the “slave units” just in the Abyssal Dwarf list with the formation from the Ratkin Slaves list would enable the same theme without a list that is hard to make relevant.

Mutually exclusive options: This is standard in historical, there’s a list of troops that are always available and troops that are only available before/after a certain date, in certain place or under a particular general.

In KoW, we could (for example) have a dwarf list with a few common units and two options; if you play Imperial then you get ironguard, warsmith and flamesmith units, but may not take units from the Free Dwarf portion; which has pathfinder upgrades for certain units, spear levy, etc.


the army was created as somewhat of a joke, at least in name. while sigma (think age of sigmar) is the eighteenth letter in the greek alphabet, mantic thought it would be cheeky to name this army after Rho, which is the letter before sigma in said alphabet.


Rob, maybe you are starting to sound a bit aussie if people are confusing you and Matt :grin:


“Going forward into the armies that have Mantic IP instead of generic fantasy tropes is a good way to make KoW special and sever the ties to oldhammer. What I missed in the article is the gaming side of the matter.”

@Vince I have to respectfully disagree with this statement, GW were the original creators of the entire fantasy battle scene, the original guys who created the oldhammer world and GW did make something beautiful, including lore etc… which through capitalism ruined this as GW expanded as a company and killed off this enire scene so they could copyright. Corporate greed killed warhammer and KOW originated to fill this void as the premise of KOW was any figures can be used from any company and as any proxy (within reason). I beleive this is what made KOW special. I sincerely hope the creators of KOW do not loose their roots as GW did.


Rob’s voice is much more “come hither”


That’s amazing.
I did not catch that, well spotted!

I also enjoyed that the description of Free Dwarfs as having round shields and horned helms sounds like a description of GW models.


I have enjoyed elves since reading the lord of the rings 20+ years ago. Removing them from this game would probably turn me off to it honestly. Ive considered other armies (orks or gobbos) but that’s about it.

Id say that the fantasy tropes are foundational to games like this and while mantic might focus on its own more unique armies, removing the foundation might make the game too alien for people to get in to. It would for me.

As for capitalism destroying GWs way of doing things long ago, it probably will be its death. I havent bought any GW in a long time due to the price. Them doing that has opened up other game developers to me, like mantic, that i otherwise wouldnt have considered.


Not having too many factions and expanding on the unique IP sounds good at first, and this is what Ninth Age is doing with their game to maximize on tournament play (in addition of only having 2 tournament viable builds per faction)

Yet KoW lives from the possibilities and having more than just the classic factions
We might not need more core lists but reducing theme would be the wrong way

Same as not every factions need their own models, people are using other models anyway,but they more likely use them on lists that have no models and buy Mantic models for those that have (and Mantic cannot compete with historical humans in quality)

So I am more in favour of expanding rather than reducing them


I could not disagree more with the premise of the episode: since every faction was not represented at the US Masters, there are too many factions and balance is suffering. Any other considerations that go into the choice of a faction to take (ease of unpacking, number of models, protection during air transport…) when attending a highly competitive event on the other side of the continent are going to highly influence your decision, not just their relative perceived strength. I think 21 out of 29 is a pretty reasonable number for an annual top-tier event.

Also, I follow several game system media and I do not really see the balance issues in Kings of War that plague several other games. Perfect balance is impossible, except in Rock / Paper / Scissors, and even if two armies were totally equal in statistical capability, that does not account for the relative experience and tactical execution of the players running those armies.

Kings of War is a competitive game because it was designed to be, and is also a welcoming space for casual players and hobbyists because of the direction Mantic has developed model standards. I think the best thing they have done is produce overlaps between their factions allowing models to be used in neighboring factions (Elementals are excellent-al at this) notwithstanding counts-as figures being allowed, and this wide open approach is not common in today’s gaming landscape.


this is something often ignored, an elite army that can go as cabin baggage is something different than a horde that need 2 large cases
as well as a full multi-based plastic army is different to an all metal/resin army on individual bases

rather playing an army that survives transport to the tournament than the “best” I have but broken on arrival


I am everything but a competative player. I have difficulties with cutting units or whole armies out of the game. Surely, balancing becomes more difficult, if not impossible with this number of armies, but look at all those beautiful armies on this forum alone! So much love, effort and dedication has gone into these very different projects. Not a single army mirrors another even if they’re the same race. The accessability (due to to very open minded politics on own models by Mantic, classical fantasy armies and relativley cheap models) brought me into KoW. I guess, for other sit was the same.
Flesh out the existing armies, make them more unique, more focused, maybe.
Cutting mummies out of my Undead? No thanks! Rename the pharao if you must. The models look very ‘draugr-like’ anyway, fitting nicely into the rest of the undead range.
Write elves out of the game? No, I want to double-use my Sylvan Kin at some point.
As always, a nice episode of CC, but I can’t agree.

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Don’t agree at all.

KoW should expand into more fantasy armies not start taking armies away.

KoW should be the go to game for mass fantasy battle. Every conceivable army should be given rules. I’d even like to see an army creation tool for armies that aren’t “official” yet.

As for taking your metric for what armies are played or not by the player base from a tournament entry list - that is frankly laughable.


Rereading your post made me laugh Keno when i thought about it. Taking away even the negative effects you see to anyone with elf armies or plans to build one.

On a higher level view imagine writing elf armies out of a mass fantasy setting rulebook?

It’s like a person saying Bolt Action should get rid of the Germans.


Ha, you spotted a bit of an exaggeration there!:wink:
Someone suggested to melt armies together and just give them a few unique units. I thought, everyone builds Sylvan Kin these days and hate the Mantic elve models, so why not go further! Get rid of the normal ones.
If you follow that road further down to the abyss, where it surely leads, you could organize tournaments forcing people to all play with the same army (different lists, of course😆). That’ll be fun… not.
People, including me, spend stupid amounts of money to buy expansions for video games like Total War Warhammer to get additional armies and races to play with. Why should KoW be the exception? How would losing armies, options and lastly players benefit Mantic and thus the game?
If you would like better balanced tournaments limit them (maybe not as far as stated above😉), but why limit the whole game?
Would people attend a tournament with fewer available options, maybe no themed lists?
If not, where is the point in ruining it for everybody?
To be perfectly honest, I think this topic is a nice little ‘mind game’ but nothing else. If you want perfect balance and only minimal choice, why not play chess? (You could even paint the chessmen😉)


Chess? Completely unbalanced … once you get your pawns to the other side and get multiple Queens … Chess definitely needs to be slimmed down, maybe cut some figures so it’s more balanced as some people are just too good at using those unbalanced OP pieces, definitely have to get rid of queens and maybe some other pieces as well. All pawns and one King only for tournament play now THAT would finally be a truly balanced game! :rofl: :wink:

Also … what’s up with white always going first!? WT***** OP unbalanced white chess army! Get rid of that as well! :laughing:


I think there is a fine balance between slimming down and making it “too unique”. Take warmachine hordes as an example, when people tell me the name of a faction there, it tells me nothing, and thus sparks no interest. Even though the players who have read a lot about said faction will tell me many cool things about the fluff of the faction, it kinda bounces off for me because I know instinctively that every new player that sees the faction will not get any impression or idea of what they’re about.
That could happen in KOW as well if the factions were all named basilea and rhordia etc. It might benefit the game that new players get to see the words “elf” and “dwarf” etc.

Aside from that I tend to agree that there are just a bit too many lists, especially if many of those lists are practically the same, with samey stats and playstyles. In the long run I would not mind more flavourful rules and differences between the armies, and if compiling or removing one or two is the price of making that happen so be it. But it might also be possible to make the favoured armies more flavourful and give the ones who are deemed not worthy of coming along for the ride the “bretonnia treatment” which was to simply wait 14 years to give them any new rules so most people just stop playing them, but noone could claim they had been removed per se. :wink:


this is an interesting point, as is telling someone that there are Dwarfs and Free Dwarfs, sparking interest into the story/background over just Dwarfs?
Same with Elves, there are Elves, Twilight Kin and Sylvan Kin already hints about the story and that there is more than just “Elves”

For me, theme armies that tell from their name that there is something more to the game as just some bland names that tell nothing if you don’t know the background help a lot