Complexity in Kings of War

What level of complexity for flavour or extent of army specific special rules do you think is ideal?

A lack of “flavour” and army differentiation has been a consistent complaint that Mantic has been trying to address for a while.
Different unit options, average stats and army wide special rules was apparently not enough.
Thankfully they’ve been tentative and careful about it.

We’ve had the unique, once off, unit upgrades per army at the start of third edition. Some were great and affected the way an army plays; like Indomitable Will, throwing mastiffs (not new though) and sacrificial imps (kind of); but others didn’t have mach of an impact (scream shards) or were clearly divised after the ideas ran out (which is fair, 28 is a lot).

Now we’re seeing more with the new nightstalker and NA rules. Also the rift forged orcs and halflings, come to think of it.

I think those armies are at roughly the right level.
What I call a “special mechanic” (mindthirst, saucery, frozen, etc) per army and a few units (2 or 3, excluding special characters) that do something not seen in other armies is about right.
Each army in a fantasy wargame should have “their thing” that only they do IMO.
That said, I think it can be done without necessarily having special rules spelling it out though.
Dwarfs, for example, effectively have a rule that gives dwarf infantry +1 De for -1 Sp compared to similar units. Plus throwing mastiffs and access to more piercing shooting; to help with threat protection.
Which makes playing dwarfs an experience unlike other armies, so achieves the same result as having saucerors or mindthirst.

The worry is that it’ll keep going until we have a “bloated” game that’s hard to keep track of.
One of the strengths of KoW is that it’s easy to understand and keep track of your opponent’s army, even if you haven’t played against it before.


I agree, in that too many special rules would harm KoW. Mantic hasn’t forgotten one important part of the hobby: imagination. Example:
Basilaen armies have lots of heal, due to their divine powers, granted by the shining ones. In gameplay terms, they have access to the ‘heal’ spell.
Undead can ressurect Zombies, Skeletons and other undead creatures by the dark art of necromancy. In gameplay terms, they have access to the ‘heal’ spell.
So this gives flavour to both armies but still is a general rule/spell that a lot of players know and have access to.
The players imagination plays a vital part in it. Ruleswise it’s the same, the ‘fluff’ how armies use it differ vastly.

Unique units or special rules are cool up to a certain point. Just look at a WH40K codex. It’s almost impossible to keep track of one army’s special rules, yet alone your opponent’s.
Careful use of special abilities/rules is the way to go, I would say, too.


one problem with flavour is that if it only impacts the gameplay, they are hard to spot for people not playing different armies or when first looking on an army

the difference on paper is not that big but gameplay is very different, specially as KoW is not a game of single units but combined warfare

other games have a more obvious “in your face” approach to what the difference between the factions is but the gameplay itself is very blunt and focused on the single units or those units with “flavour” (like making the combo so obvious that really everyone gets it but than the gameplay is not different from any other combo in the game)

and 40k is a good example of how bad things can be, as the flavour is obvious but once you play, those are all the same (basically, I played over time Tau, Thousand Sons, Space Wolves, Dark Angels and vanilla Marines and the main difference in gameplay was simply just whoever got the most recent Codex can to the same but better)

I agree that the current form is about right, and it should be kept subtle and in place to avoid the problems other games had


This is the key word. I have never been bothered by the “blandness” of the rules and would hate to keep current of all armies’ rules to be able to play the game. No “Gotcha’s” in kings of War please!


The beginning of the end of all the games I have quit is when I have a game where my opponent uses combos of rules I don’t know to the extent that it’s not worth the effort of finding out if that’s even how the rules work to me; so my eyes glaze over and I utter some variant of “just let me know what saves I need to roll”.

One of the things I avoid in games (and hope Mantic does too) is “the illusion of depth”.
Where a designer makes a game seem deep and complicated by having a lot of rules or options; but those options either don’t make much of a difference, are not really that different or only a few are the obvious choice.

Something clear and simple in terms of rules, but that takes some skill or planning to get the most out of is ideal (like the the Frozen/Tundra Fighters rules).
Alternatively, something where the options all have a use, but also have a downside; including being situational or exclusive of the other options (like the choices that Saucerors offer every turn).


KoW always had the problems that things are not obvious or harder to pull off

Back in 1st Edition people who never played it complained that they don’t want to try because there is no flavour and all factions play the same.
Which was simply based on looking at stats and Elves and Dwarfs must play the same because 1 point difference in Defence and Speed cannot have a big influence in gameplay

This has been fleshed out over time and the special rules added make the difference bigger but overall people still underestimate how much a difference those things can make without playing the game

I like that there are now some combos with certain characters/units like Eat the Weak for Ratkin or Frozen for NA, but this is nothing outside the usual game rules and easy explained if the opponent does not know it


@kodos I have often said that people should at least try KoW, because it “plays better than it reads”.

One of the “tests” I have for games is if I can adequately explain my army to my opponent.
There is a limit to how long it can take and how much information can be dumped before someone loses attention and interest.
I don’t like gotchas (a big reason that I play KoW) and don’t want to win games because my opponent didn’t know something and therefore made a bad move.

In KoW it’s simple.
Army wide rules before the game and a one or two sentence summary of what each unit does as I deploy them.

In games where each unit has unique rules it’s impossible.
If I have to rattle though the spell lore, command abilitues and weird extras my army has then I have already lost my opponent’s attention.


I think the game is in a pretty good place and most (but not all) armies have a decent amount of flavour with units and special rules.

Like what they’ve done with NA and the Frozen synergies - which gives the army a nice vibe without making things overly complicated.

Hopefully the Clash update will do similar things for some of the others, making use of the plentiful (but not often used) Keywords units/armies have.


I think this is the core of an elegant and simple game, boring to read but exciting to play
while the more exciting a game reads, the less elegant it is and the less simple it plays

and take chess as a prime example here, you won’t be thrilled by just reading the rules, and if it would not have that reputation there would be people arguing that it cannot have much tactical depth because just some different movement stats and the models and both factions have identical lists


I may have a slightly critical view on where the KoW is concerning the complexity and army specific rules/tools.

I play EoD, FoN and Herd armies. What are their army specific ability/rule. It seems to be Pathfinder for FoN/Herd and Lifeleech for EoD. However, not all units have it, there are some exceptions in each army which I can understand, but the fact is there is no rule which would apply for the whole army.

What are the army specific items/tools for these armies. These are:
Casket of the Damned - for 10 points, once per game the Surge on the unit with the item is increased by 6 dice (used to be 5 dice, I do not recall when it changed); when I started with KoW I used the item quite often but gave up on it as the 10 points may often be better used on something more reliable; I think 5 dice for 5 points would make it for me
Frenzied Otter for FoN - max 3 re-rolls of 1s in Melee damage for 5 points; this seems reasonable for the units that can take it (I was using it mostly on centaurs)
Sabre-toothed Hunting Cat for the Herd - gives Duelist for 10 points; only 3 individuals can take it but since Duelist is good on speedy (read mounted/cavalry) individuals with good number of attacks I find it hard to justify even for the fast Centaur Chief with 4 attacks and would definitely prefer something else (a horn providing Rally?)

Finally, a really huge disappointment for me is the complexity (in my view quite unnecessary) in the spells department. When I started with KoW at the beginning of 2nd edition there were not many spells and I felt an addition of a few more would not hurt. Unfortunately, since the beginning of the 3rd edition I feel there are far too many now. Some of them I never see taken, quite a few I do not remember at all what exactly they do … :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

Well, it does not mean I do not like the game, quite the opposite, but I think there is some room for improvements without raising the level of complexity and in the spells department I would really prefer if there were less spells.

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Absolutely true. There is always room for improvement. The general direction is good though.


EoD certainly has a unique style. They just seems to stay on the table while my army melts and I cower from potential surges.

For FoN and Herd; they don’t seem to have it… yet.
My point was more about what level armies should be than where they all are. Judging by the new rules and releases, I think we’ll see all the armies that aren’t brought up to speed.

I’m not fond of the arcane library either TBH.

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I think the game is in a pretty decent shape.

One of the things I love about KoW was something I realised is I can play against a player I don’t know, against an army I haven’t faced before, and by simply spending a minute or two scanning his list, I have a decent idea of what his army wants to do and where the main threats are. I might not catch all the nuances, but I have a fairly good idea of what the list wants to do.

Most games I’ve walked a way from are games where you can’t do that. Since every unit has like 4-5 rules, some unique and there is just no way to understand what they want to do until you have either studied them for a week or lost to them a few times.

I do agree that the army wide rules and the army unique upgrades do need some work. Some lists have amazing upgrades and some are pretty useless. I hate it when there is a army unique upgrade - but only like 2-3 units in the army can take them - this just feels weird. (looking at you poison frogs!)

But for anyone who claims the armies don’t have unique flavours, let them play EoD and undead a few times. At face value they can appear very similar, but they act and perform quite differently on the table. Same for the elves.