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Kingdom of Heaven

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22 Feb 2021 11:47 - 22 Feb 2021 11:50 #319447 by JoelCFC25
Kingdom of Heaven was created by JoelCFC25
In the last year of COVID-related isolation and record amounts of time spent at home, this title has been giving me the stinkeye from my shelves, taunting me about how long it's languished there. In a recent week-long spell of negative temperatures, I finally resolved to give it a proper initial go.

On the old forum long ago I probably whined about the rules writing and the general feeling of being lost in a sea of lengthy procedures and a cornucopia of die roll modifiers when reading things over, but in fairness to the game that was done without everything set up and actually playing through. This time I set up the approachable 3-turn initial scenario for the First Crusade--no diplomacy rules involved, a limited number of factions, and a straightforward victory condition.

Through the better part of 2 turns, I have to admit to...cautious optimism! The mental fog lifted quickly when I put all the rules into practice--I was able to make the linkage between the action taking place and what modifiers might apply by actually moving stacks around and rarely needing more than a glance at the player aid. I know it's easy to speculate without engaging in the effort to actually try, but I really think this rulebook could've been cut by 1/3 if it had been written in terse Paths of Glory or "Law of Oath" style. There is a distracting amount of unnecessary whys and wherefores that could've gone into the playbook instead.

Without going into the actual details of the many procedures and modifiers, some quick summaries help me remember when to apply which. For example: movement is going to incur attrition if you move into/through enemy strongholds unless you slow down and spent movement points at friendly places along the way; avoid/intercept attempts are boosted by cavalry (largely for the Muslims); calling for surrender is hindered if there's an appreciably-sized enemy army within 2 moves, and so on.

As other people doing proper reviews have noted, the siege event system is where this game really sings. Unlike many CDGs where a hand of opponent events and/or low-ops cards can really cripple you for a turn, you have the potential for a bit of card churn every turn. Every card has a siege event on it that benefits the attacker, defender, or either side. A good number of these events grant a replacement card draw--so if you initially got a bunch of 1-op junk, you might luck into a higher-op card as a replacement and suddenly gain the ability to activate a leader you figured was going to be immobile. Broadly, the attacker has more options--if they don't have any siege events benefiting them, they can try and starve out the defenders if they were able to blockade initially, or they can spin the roulette wheel, drawing a card off the deck and taking whatever siege event is found (even if it boomerangs by helping the defenders inside). Defenders will hope to play siege events that give them sorties out to inflict step losses or anything that will boost the stronghold's resistance factor--and crucially, a failed assault makes RF increase.

The fun part is how frequently you have to engage with the siege event system--when a defender holes up and accepts siege, the resistance factor starts at 3 and gets modified from there (especially good chance for increase when it's a garrisoned city). Even a very large army will have to make a concerted effort at reducing RF--Toulouse's army is likely to be around 50 strength when it settles into the Siege of Antioch, but every point of RF is a column shift to the left on the CRT in an assault, so even an army that big might as well be firing Nerf guns if it tries too soon.

The demobilization and replacement restrictions are still doing my head in a bit, but I think that'll make more sense with a couple of repetitions. Obviously it's far too early to react to play balance or the quality of the (nine!) scenarios, but I think with a competent teach most wargamers would find that this clocks in not much higher than Hannibal or Wilderness War in complexity.

Anyone else out there with some play experience want to chime in? Curious to hear what you think. Has this been a keeper or a shelf toad?
Last edit: 22 Feb 2021 11:50 by JoelCFC25.
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22 Feb 2021 12:01 #319448 by Sagrilarus
Replied by Sagrilarus on topic Kingdom of Heaven
I was on the pre-order list for this for three years. But it took four to deliver, so I didn't get it. I think the first Crusade was completed more quickly than this game about it.

One of the things that always concerns me with overwrought rulebooks is that, when you actually start to play and it feels straightforward, you can't shake the feeling that you're missing a few pages worth of execution in what you're doing. "This seems too easy for a 32 page rulebook" keeps nagging at me.

Have always thought about picking it up now that it's out in the world, but haven't gotten to it.

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22 Feb 2021 12:20 - 22 Feb 2021 12:36 #319455 by JoelCFC25
Replied by JoelCFC25 on topic Kingdom of Heaven

Sagrilarus wrote: One of the things that always concerns me with overwrought rulebooks is that, when you actually start to play and it feels straightforward, you can't shake the feeling that you're missing a few pages worth of execution in what you're doing. "This seems too easy for a 32 page rulebook" keeps nagging at me.

I hear you, and in the first few action rounds I had this doubt gnawing at me, but a couple timeouts to re-read some sections quelled it. The thing I screwed up once was how defenders in a castle space can simply decline battle and retreat inside the castle when enemies arrive--it stands to reason, and is very common to wargames, but the option is squirreled away in what I consider to be a pretty nonstandard place and it's easy to miss.

I think if you did nothing else but take out the 6 page extended example of play and reduced the exceedingly generous vertical padding between headings and text blocks and especially the many, many bulleted list items, you could get this down to 24 pages. A really unforgiving cut of all the strategy tips, unnecessarily verbose sentences, and rule justifications might get you down to 20.
Last edit: 22 Feb 2021 12:36 by JoelCFC25.
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24 Feb 2021 10:20 #319587 by Msample
Replied by Msample on topic Kingdom of Heaven
Its probably more toad than a game I'd keep playing. Its strengths are the sheer number of scenarios ( unusual for a CDG ) , unusual subject matter, and asymmetrical nature in most scenarios. Strikes against it are some of the situations are rather static in nature as engaging the Muslims in field combat can border on the suicidal at times given their cavalry superiority. Sieges are often the main focus and while the system to resolve them is clever, it doesn't lead to a lot of maneuver a lot of the time. I still have it and should give it a go again. The rules IIRC are decent, but it takes awhile to grok the siege system and the fact that you can play multiple cards in the same round in order to press home a siege IIRC.
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24 Feb 2021 14:04 #319620 by JoelCFC25
Replied by JoelCFC25 on topic Kingdom of Heaven

Msample wrote: Strikes against it are some of the situations are rather static in nature

I can see this--though impossible to judge how common this is based on the "introductory" 3-turn Scenario A, it's already apparent why there's an optional rule thrown in to bundle together low-ops cards so you are capable of actually activating someone. Otherwise you might have multiple rounds of low-impact vassal moves of 1 unit at a time or trying the fortunes of war if you have a siege underway and no good cards to improve your chances of victory.

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