Third Edition is nearly here. Jason Moorman of the Mantic Rules Committee provides an insider’s look at the rules writing process in this preview. The group went to work on the third edition of Kings of War over a year ago by creating a living rulebook that contained the errata, Clash of Kings updates, and the second edition rules into one document. When they were given the go-ahead they started by including FAQs and clarifying and cleaning up language until they reached a 2.5 edition that reflected the current meta, then moved into writing the new edition.
Moorman walks us through some of the thought process behind improving gameplay through updated and new rules…
The five of us agreed that easily the messiest part of almost any game of Kings of War is regrouping after a charge that doesn’t rout. Since Second Edition came out, the rules governing that 1” fallback have become increasingly complex. In some games sorting out which units falls back and how far they fall back takes up as much time as the actual combats. There aren’t a lot of tactics involved in shuffling units 1”, just steps to mindlessly follow. We felt we could do better.
Our solution was to simply get rid of the fallback all together and leave units Engaged after combat. No more pushing your units back 1”, or as close to 1” as possible. No more forcing the defending unit to fall back 1” because the attacker can’t. Units simply stay in contact. Then, if the other player doesn’t want to remain Engaged, they can simply Disengage on their turn by moving their unit out of contact with the enemy.
Generally, we were happy with this solution, but we worried that this may result in the loss of some tactical options created by the 1” fallback. We added a free Withdraw move to make sure we didn’t inadvertently remove depth of play while streamlining. Basically this conditionally moves the 1” fallback into the other player’s turn and makes it optional.
Both internal RC playtests and the larger group of playtesters found this to be an elegant solution to a messy problem that reduced game times considerably.
Like a lot of the community, we felt heroes can be a bit dull in Kings of War. One general is much like another, and many options rarely see play time at all. We wanted to add a bit of depth to Individuals without slipping into so-called ‘Herohammer’. We found a couple of ways to do this.
First, we created two tiers of combat Individuals. Most Individuals are Yielding, meaning, among other things, that other units may move through them under normal circumstances. The average flagger or wizard can’t stop a horde of Paladins from moving freely about the battlefield.
On the other end of the spectrum, however, are the Mighty Individuals, the impressive warriors that are capable of shifting the tide of the battlefield on their own. These individuals simply don’t follow the rules for Yielding.
To add more flavor to specific types of Individuals and further add to the distinct feel of some Heroes we also added Auras. Aura-like effects had already been given to some heroes through the Clash of Kings books. Third gave us a chance to expand on the idea across armies.
Preparing for the Future
We wrote third edition with an awareness that we will be adding in new units, new abilities, and new spells in the years to come. We worked to put systems in place that would make integrating these new changes as easy as possible going forward. A good example of this is spellcasting tiers.
We found throughout Second Edition that it was difficult to introduce new spells because a spell that was balanced when taken by a 120 point spellcaster suddenly seemed broken when taken by three 50 point spellcasters. Even Legendary spells were sometimes too powerful on cheaper casters. To get around this going forward, we’ve introduced Spellcaster tiers. Simply put, each spellcaster in the game has been assigned a numerical value reflecting how powerful they are. In future supplements this allows us to restrict spells to more powerful Spellcasters if we feel the need to do so, or to give more powerful versions of a spell to more powerful Spellcasters.
Though it is neither obvious nor explicit, we actually used Spellcaster tiers to determine what spells to give the Spellcasters in the book, and to determine how powerful those spells would be. So, for instance, the Tier 3 Empire of Dust Cursed High Priest has more and better spells than a tier 1 Goblin Wiz.
Another method of future proofing Kings of War, is the introduction of keywords. Below each unit entry are a selection of highlighted words. Although at the moment, many of these do not have an effect in Third Edition, they may become important when we introduce elements such as formations (which will be returning once the meta has settled down), new spells or special rules. So stay tuned [to the Mantic Blog]!