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Kingmaker Developer's Notes - 4, What Versions to Put in the Box?

This is the fourth post in a series about Alan Paull's re-development of Andrew McNeil's game Kingmaker for Gibsons Games. Posts: Basic Principles, Prestige, The Board, Parliament, Random Death, Teamwork!, Controversies, Scrope to Masham, Stuff we left out.

A critical decision that we had to make was what to put in the box. One alternative was to publish just the new version - my working title had been ‘Revised Kingmaker’, but that was amended to the more evocative ‘Kingmaker The Second’, as in ‘the second Gibsons version’. However, I felt that to do justice to Andrew’s game, we should make it more of a deluxe, everything-within-reason-in-it game. This would enable all players to experience the new streamlined version, but would also allow veteran players to re-play the old games they used to play, though with new artwork and new components, and with, I believe, much more clearly written rules. The game box now contains the new Kingmaker The Second; Classic Kingmaker, which is more-or-less the old basic, traditional Gibsons version; Extended Classic, which is similar to the old Advanced version; plus not only a range of options and variants, but also a new Solo Challenge, designed by Steve Froud.

For Kingmaker The Second, I designed an introductory setup with pre-selected Crown cards for each Faction, so that new players could just select their designated Crown cards and get started relatively quickly. The purpose of these pre-set Factions was to avoid the difficulty in the traditional game whereby a player or two might get very weak starting positions, whereas someone else might get a very strong starting hand. While you might recover from a poor start, it takes considerable skill, and I wanted to avoid inflicting that on a new player of the game. Once players were comfortable with the new version, they can use the alternative setup - what I call “controlled random”, whereby you are guaranteed to receive the core of a reasonable Faction, but also a number of randomly dealt cards, so there is more variation in the starting positions without creating either extremely strong or extremely weak Factions. There is also an optional time limit rule.

Kingmaker The Second can be played with from 2 to 5 players. For the 2-player version, bearing in mind that there is very little scope for political intrigue with only 2 players, I have adjusted the game to make it more challenging and more balanced, by introducing a non-player Faction that controls some critical roads. So, you can no longer get control of the road network through pure luck of the draw, you must fight for it. In addition, each player draws 2 Event cards each turn instead of 1, thereby increasing the tempo slightly. Readers of the rules may notice that the pace of the Event deck, especially in relation to Clamour For Parliament cards, is a key driver of the game’s tempo, so its setup is slightly adjusted for each player count.

Classic Kingmaker is specifically intended to function as the original Gibsons Games basic game, in which victory is achieved through having the last royal piece, alive and crowned (no Prestige Victory). It is for 2-6 players. I canvassed opinion widely on whether to include 7 or more, and in general players agreed with my view that 7 or more players led to too much down time and a less enjoyable experience. For this version, we provide extra Crown and Event cards to swap into or to add to the decks, so that the decks are very similar to the earlier game, though I haven’t reversed the subtle adjustments that I made to Raids & Revolts in the Event deck. For example, we recommend that you replace the Kingmaker The Second City and Town cards that have troops with those that have no troops, and take out the new Lord of the Isle of Wight card, replacing it with the old Carisbrooke royal castle card. Classic also uses old-style Writs of Summons, instead of the Clamour For Parliament. It includes the complication of Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, as a fourth Lancastrian heir, as in the earlier game, but clarified. You may notice in the Classic rules that I have made decisions about specific ambiguities or gaps in the earlier games’ rules. Of course, if your own house rules disagree with these decisions, you are at liberty to stick with your own ones.

Extended Classic Kingmaker represents the original Gibsons Games ‘Advanced’ game, and includes Ireland, the Continent, and Scotland, the Crown cards King’s Pardon, Lieutenant of Ireland, Le Lucas Ship of Whitby, the French and Irish Mercenaries, as well as the special Duke of York and Duke of Lancaster cards. The Event deck has the ‘Advanced’ cards, including Irish Revolts, French Sieges, and the Parliament Must Be Summoned cards. All these cards are explained more fully in the rules than in the earlier game. I should mention the Duke of York/Lancaster special cards in particular. The Duke of York and Duke of Lancaster cards were not well explained in the earlier game. I have implemented these as special ‘Plantagenet’ cards, not normal Crown cards, that are linked directly to the heir of each House, representing extra resources provided by the royal households. They control specific extra castles, Fotheringhay, Ludlow, and Sandal for the Duke of York, Kenilworth for the Duke of Lancaster.

Extended Classic includes the Battle Board sub-system for detailed pitched battles that appeared in the earlier Gibsons’ version, together with the use of dice rolls for the death of Nobles rather than looking at the Event deck. It has a specially designed board for the array of nobles in battles. I also included the Loyalty Table, so there is a chance that the heir to a dead Noble will immediately rejoin the Faction of his father. I hope that players will find Extended Classic to be a fun, if more complicated and longer version of the game.

As Kingmaker has accrued many options and variants over the years, I have included a range of these in the new game. This collection is by no means comprehensive - though I think it includes most of the ‘officially published’ material that seemed to me to work particularly well. I have not included material that I believe unbalances the game too much or provides excessive ‘take that’ opportunities. This undoubtedly means that some players will not find their favourite optional card in the game - space precluded a totally comprehensive inclusion of all house rules and extra cards. However, you will find optional rules for: random placement of royal pieces at the start of the game; returning from Parliament directly to home castles; Town fighting; Ambushes; rules for handling Parliament by votes in both Houses, including victory by votes in Parliament; using Writs of Summons as Commissions; re-shuffling decks when Embassy cards are drawn; and a string of additional Event cards in a 20-card set called ‘Divisions and Disasters’. This last set is based on cards originally published as an expansion in 1977.

The Solo Challenge, designed by Steve Froud, deserves its own section, so either I or Steve will cover that later.

Next time: Teamwork!


Kingmaker Kickstarter live between 26 September 2022 and 14 October 2022:


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