Kings of War Third Edition is available now! I had a chance to ask Mantic’s Head of Studio Matt Gilbert and Community Manager Rob Burman some questions about the development of the new ruleset and companion starter set, and how the company has evolved over the last ten years.
Mantic is 10 years old this year! Tell us about the history of the company.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years. On one hand, the humble beginnings of the company seem such a long time ago, having done so many things and come so far. On the other hand, it seems like no time at all!
Mantic started by making plastic fantasy models that were aimed at being a real value proposition and alternative to existing popular ranges and games. The early successes of the first plastics – the elves, undead and dwarfs, soon prompted Ronnie to reach out to his old friend Alessio Cavatore (some of you may remember the videos recording this process!) to write a quick set of simple fantasy mass battle rules, called Kings of War. Little did anyone know then how popular that first free set of rules would become – and what a huge game it would become!
Since then we’ve produced a vast number of games and models. Dwarf Kings Hold and Project Pandora were the first foray into boxed games and years later these would evolve into the hugely popular Dungeon Saga and Star Saga games. Kings of War is launching its third edition and boasts thousands of players, and weekly tournaments across the world. We’ve explored the deepest regions of space in the future with Warpath and Firefight, two editions of DreadBall and two editions of Deadzone. We’ve created some hugely popular and exciting licenced games: Mars Attacks, The Walking Dead and Hellboy. And there’s so much more to come!
We’ve always strived to have as much fun as possible, with our customers, with ourselves and in our games and marketing. Crazy Bobby, Fisty Glue Man, Orky, Blaine, Ronnie the Bard… all these great characters are synonymous with the Mantic brand and help embody the joy we feel in making the products we do. We can’t wait for the next 10 years and to see where the fun, and Ronnie madness, takes us!
Can you tell us about the design process for the new edition?
We are constantly thinking about Kings of War and exploring how we can improve it and keep it fresh. Every year we release a slew of new and revised units and ideas in the form of Clash of Kings books. But in the background we are also compiling lists of all the things we want to do to the game “under the hood” and in the way the game is presented. As the player base has continued to grow, there has been an increasing demand to flesh out the world the game is based in and so with a wealth of material across games systems such as Vanguard, Dungeon Saga and Kings of War itself, the time had come to weave all these many threads together into a new edition of the game – bigger and better than we had ever imagined.
Matt, the head of our studio tackled the project in three main strands – the rules and army lists, the background and world building, and the presentation of the new edition. The Rules Committee – a group of hardcore fans and players that help create and maintain the game rules, were tasked with working on the core game rules and developing the updated lists. Matt gave guidance on both, saying what he wanted included and what he didn’t, bit also gave the RC scope to clean up the things in the game that needed it and also to implement the ideas that the RC had been developing over the last few years. The key message though during the whole writing process was “evolution, not revolution”.
On the presentation, Matt had his design team and marketing teams round his house for several all-day sessions pouring over all the wargaming and roleplaying books and magazines from their personal collections. The goal was to put together a set of principles and a style guide for the new edition – how to present the game in print, in art, photos and online.
For the background, all the existing material was brought together and expanded on, filling in gaps and delving more into each race and putting more meat on the bones. The map of the “known” word was expanded and additional maps have been created, zooming into key areas – something we know many people are very excited for. In addition, the new edition continues to advance the storyline, with events having moved on another 10-12 years from those described in the Edge of the Abyss summer campaign book. Winged Hussar also continue to write new novels, further expanding the world and also exploring its history. With the upcoming Kings of War RPG – development of the world is now more exciting and rich than ever.
Now all these elements have been stitched together, we think Kings of War 3rd Edition really is the edition people will look at, play, collect and think… wow!
What are the biggest changes in the new edition?
With Third Edition we’ve really tried to streamline the Kings of War experience. Of course, Kings of War was a pretty straight forward game already (which has made it such a popular tournament game) but we’ve just removed some elements to make it even easier to pick up and play.
Elements such as units no longer bouncing back after combat, being able to measure from anywhere on the base before a charge and individual characters not being able to stop massive dragons charging a unit, all help to clean up the game. Plus, the Rules Committee has been through hundreds of units to make sure they’re as balanced as possible – which will definitely keep the tournament scene competitive.
Finally, there are new massive units called Titans. These can be anything from a colossal giant striding across the battlefield and swatting enemies out its way, to a majestic phoenix swooping overhead. We’ve got some really fun Titans planned in the future!
What inspired the choice of the Northern Alliance and Nightstalkers for the new Shadows of the North starter set?
Northern Alliance were only briefly mention in second edition but their fluff was so cool that we really wanted to expand on them. Basically, an exiled elven prince roams the countryside until he finds something mysterious in the frozen Winterlands. Once there, he attracts numerous outcasts from the various races of Pannithor, like dwarfs and elves, plus some really interesting new characters, like Ice Naiads and Frostfangs.
We initially introduced the Northern Alliance in our Kings of War-inspired skirmish game, Vanguard. Players really loved the mix of traditional fantasy races and the use of the chilly spells to freeze their opponents. As such it seemed like an obvious choice to expand on the range with hard plastic Clansmen for a full Kings of War army.
Likewise, the Nightstalkers have been in the Kings of War fluff for several years and finally got a range of miniatures with the launch of Vanguard. The Nightstalkers are literally the stuff of nightmares, with plenty of teeth, tentacles and claws… but not a lot of eyes. These horrors emerge from portals throughout Pannithor and cause havoc.
In Shadows in the North, the Nightstalkers have sensed there is a powerful magical artefact hidden in the Winterlands… and they want to get their claws on it. There’s a mini campaign to play through that tells the story of the Nightstalker’s assault on the Northern Alliance.
What else do you have in store for Kings of War this year?
In December we have got the launch of the Uncharted Empires supplement. This increases the number of armies available to more than 20 and embraces some of the other races that Mantic doesn’t currently produce miniatures for. So, if you’ve got an existing fantasy army, you can quickly pop it on some movement trays and start playing Kings of War.
Uncharted Empires also introduces the concept of Theme Lists. What are Theme Lists, I hear you cry? Well, these are spin-offs from the master lists in the core rulebook, which gives us the opportunity to explore a particular faction in greater deal or have a new twist on an existing army. For example, Uncharted Empires will see the introduction of the Free Dwarfs. Unlike your standard dwarfs, these includes Rangers and Berserkers, rather than lots of black powder weapons.
Theme Lists are a really exciting opportunity for Kings of War and we can focus future campaigns around them or even introduce smaller armies that can ally with existing factions.
You can snag the new edition, start set, and some great army bundles on Mantic’s webstore and your local gaming store now. It’s the perfect time to jump in! Take a look at some of the new mechanics in this battle report from Master Crafted…