Warrior Knights25 Oct 2006 0
Warrior Knights is a board game of diplomacy, commerce, and, of course, warfare, in the Middle Ages. It is published by Fantasy Flight Games and available now. The game covers a hypothetical kingdom in Europe, with real-world territories along the edge of the map, such as Ceylon, Alexandria, and Syracuse.
The knights and barons involved are also hypothetical, but have names evocative of the kingdoms of the Middle Ages: Baron Raoul d?Emerande is Spanish, Baron Mieczyslaw Niebieski is Polish (or perhaps Czech). In all, there are 6 Barons, each with 4 subordinate nobles. Although the names are aligned by nationality, there is no real attempt to have them reflect any real personalities from history.
The original Warrior Knights was designed by Derek Carver and published in the mid-1980s by GDW. The current version is described by Fantasy Flight Games as being reinvented for a new generation while paying homage to the original. It does not appear that Mr. Carver was involved in the design of the current incarnation.
PLOT & PRESENTATION
The King is dead! The Barons (represented by the players) are vying for control of the kingdom, and have sent their nobles forth to forcibly stake their claims to the throne. Although the trappings of the Middle Ages are all present ? mercenary armies, siege warfare, heavy church influence in events, fortified cities ? no attempt was made to tie this game to the succession in any real kingdom. In fact, the cities of the kingdom are an eclectic mix of names from many languages: Semlik, Vecht, Surat, Roczak, and Altamont are among the towns awaiting the players? forces.
Each player controls one Baron, and the rules use the terms ?player? and ?Baron? interchangeably. Each Baron controls four nobles, who, in turn, control the Baron?s troops, both loyal regulars, and mercenaries.
Barons may become, through gameplay, either the Head of the Church, or the Chairman of the Assembly. These offices can have a considerable impact on the turn-to-turn play of the game, and are often contested on each turn. The Chairman of the Assembly determines many of the actions that happen in any given game turn; he also gets to wield a cool, and incredibly sturdy, gavel ?counter? that?s almost 4 inches long and (despite being cardboard) makes an incredibly satisfying rap on the table. The Head of the Church gets a similarly-hefty scepter, but doesn?t get to wave it around as often.
Barons compete for influence within the Kingdom. The player with the most influence when the influence pool is exhausted becomes the King, unless a player manages to conquer half of the cities on the board first.
Although the game does not portray the succession of an actual kingdom, it is sufficiently flavored such that players will have little problem accepting the game?s premise of medieval diplomacy and warfare. The titles, commands, graphics, and agendas at the assembly are all obviously medieval-influenced, and create a fine atmosphere for gaming the era of knights, maidens, pennants, tournaments, and sieges.
Warrior Knights does not contain any elements of fantasy. Although there are some places where divine providence rears its head, it is through the Grace of God and His Church that anything supernatural takes place. Even then, there is no real need for much suspension of disbelief. Examples of events triggered through the ?church? mechanics include a flood, arson, a broken family line, or good trade winds. There are no sorcerers hurling fireballs at the attackers from the city towers.
SET-UP, GRAPHICS, AND DOCUMENTATION
The game box is 11.5 inches square and almost 3 inches deep. The cover depicts a rather mean-looking, uh, warrior knight, in full plate armor and helmet, with a sword and a billowing red cape. This knight is a repeating motif that is found every side panel, as well as the back of the box. I?m not sure the box would stop a bullet, but it?s sturdy enough that it?d probably protect gamers from most thrown edged weapons.
Inside the box, there is a mounted, folding, four-panel map. Much like the box, the map is clearly meant to survive the Apocalypse. Four sheets of counters hold roughly 380 counters, plus the gavel and scepter. There is a large shrink-wrapped pack of cards holding about 300 of the little buggers. 24 plastic cities and 24 plastic nobles round out the box. There are no dice ? because players won?t need them! The card-driven mechanics are explained below, but the Fate deck serves as the randomizer.
The map illustrates the hypothetical kingdom with a hexagonal grid. The hexes are almost three inches across, and of the 36 on the map, roughly half contain cities. There are also roads, a river, and several mountain ranges, all of which affect play. There are many hexes covered with forests, which do not. Each of the city illustrations are the same, and some cities have a port icon indicating that players may embark their nobles there.
Around the edge of the map are six additional overseas cities, as well as three ?expedition tracks? to follow commercial ventures (see below). There are numerous places to lay out cards, because, hey, with 300 of them, they?ve got to go somewhere! There is also an area to store the influence pool from which players take their influence as they earn it. Finally, there is a track where Barons place their shields as they line up to hire mercenaries. There is no turn record around the map, nor are there any administrative references, such as turn sequence guides.