On the 2nd September 2014, Mantic announced to their newly formed Kings of War Rules Committee that they were dropping their plans for a tidied up 1.5 edition and were now going to push on for a full 2nd edition of Kings of War. That was 17 months ago and it’s been a wild ride ever since.
Kings of War 1st edition had always operated in the shadow of its cousin, WHFB. Some gamers simply dismissed KoW as a “cheap knock-off” despite protests from people who’d actually played it. We’d also seen the game stagnate a little in 2014, with tournament attendance dropping and few new releases. The anecdotal feedback we’d been getting was that there were balance issues putting people off the game. Heavy cavalry and high defence units were often cited but trying to go up against an Elohi army was an extremely painful proposition (an army of De6 flyers! Oh my!). People also had some issues with the core rules, such as True Line of Sight which seemed to go completely against the modelling freedom aspect that we all love. All in all, 1st ed was generally considered to be a fairly solid set of core rules, but could do with being tidied up.
The Rules Committee was brought on board initially to help write a new Abyssals army list (the original version was considered to be the worst in the game by a huge margin, bordering on completely unplayable) and make a few small tweaks as necessary to make a 1.5 edition to tide the game over until 2nd edition (still considered several years away). As we tinkered away on the army list we started to come up with balance issues – how do you balance an army list when you know that there are balance issues elsewhere in the game? Do you balance the list properly – which case it’ll be underpowered against the rest of the game? Do you try and match the power level of the overpowered units in the game? Do you try and make it a rock-paper-scissors list against the overpowered units to try and tone them down, risking a runaway effect?
All in all I think we each came to the same conclusion that this would be much easier if we could do a quick pass through the rest of the army lists (even if we can’t touch the core rules) and fix some of the bigger balance issues. We started to collect our thoughts to try and pitch it to Mantic. Alessio also came to the same conclusion without seeing our discussion, and began to put together his pitch for a 2nd edition. And Mantic came to the same conclusion without speaking to either the RC or Alessio.
Alessio has always described it as being going in wanting to break down an open door.
Well we worked in private for several months, initially listing where we felt the core rules could do with some work and following that up with potential solutions. We playtested lots of variations of rules, worked on some initial army list ideas and generally had a great time being able to run off with a tangent before being prodded back on track by Alessio. Gradually the shape of 2nd edition came together and by the time that it was announced to the general public (with great cheers from existing players), we had the majority of it locked in.
A little over a year ago at the start of 2015, we were finally able to share our work with the rest of the community. This first public beta was challenging because there were still a lot of changes to be made. Soon the RC made a 2nd public beta available, followed by a third and before long we were up to our eyeballs with playtesting and battle reports.
We also started to hear quite strong (and as it turned out, fairly accurate) rumours that KoWs main competitor, Warhammer Fantasy, was being dropped in favour of a new skirmish game. This was great news to us and we anticipated a sizeable influx of new players as they sought to play a game catering to their fantasy regimental battle needs.
Well I don’t think we quite anticipated just how much of an influx we’d get. We didn’t anticipate just how controversial Games Workshops decision to abandon Warhammer Fantasy would be, nor the sheer amount of players that would embrace the game we love. We started dreaming up the idea of writing an expansion that would allow players to use their existing model collections, not just from Games Workshop but from fantasy model ranges everywhere. In the meantime we had public beta testing to finish! We read every report, we played dozens of test games, we rushed and read, proof-read and re-read the entire rulebook as the deadline advanced.
And so, 316 days after making the decision to make 2nd edition, on the 14th July 2015 Mantic sent the final files to print.
Coming up next: How 2nd edition has fared since release.