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Clean play in Kings of War

Coming home from the Clash of Kings doubles tournament yesterday, me and Elliot had a discussion about what “clean play” means to us. The basic idea being how you do things such as measurements, dice rolling and other general gameplay bits to reduce any arguments and make things as clear as possible for both parties.

That’s not to say that “playing dirty” is anything underhand (though a few things can slip into the unsporting realm), but you can unintentionally be doing things that cause confusion or are just a bit sloppy. At the extreme end of the scale you can do something unintentionally that might make your opponent think you’re trying something underhand. I’m certainly guilty of some of these things and working on improving my own clean gameplay.

Less confusion and more clarity makes for better games!

These are some of the aspects we discussed (yes I took a few notes!) but they fall under four main categories (though some do fall under multiple);

  • Pre-game
  • Measurements
  • Dice
  • Communitcation

There’s lots of points to go through and it certainly isn’t an exhaustive list.


Discuss terrain, including where the edge is

(Guilty myself)

It’s common practice to discuss all terrain before the game starts but bears repeating. Discuss every piece of terrain on the board before anything takes place, including rolling for table sides or setting up any objectives. Discuss not only the height of terrain but what type it is and get agreement between both players.

The other thing that needs discussing with terrain is where the edge of it actually is. In a recent game versus Dan King there was a slight disagreement mid-game as to whether my slavedriver was on a hill (and therefore visible) or not. The Slavedriver was stood on the terrain base, but not on the actual raised hill area itself. Dan counted the whole base as the hill, even though the base extended a good 15-20mm around the raised portion, whereas I was counting just the raised portion. We hadn’t discussed beforehand. In this instance, the charge Dan wanted to do wasn’t legal anyway for other reasons, but we’d have had to 4+ it if we couldn’t come to an agreement simply because we didn’t discuss where the edge of terrain actually is.

Clear printed list

It annoys me no end when players turn up either with an army list just on their phone or one that’s just a list of units and artefacts jotted down on a piece of paper. Your army list should also have the stats for the units on the sheet.

No-one can know every single unit and army in the game, so you should have a printed reference sheet to remind your opponent what your units can do. It doesn’t matter whether you know your units stats immediately off the top of your head – your opponent should also readily have access to that information without having to spend 10 minutes flipping through their copy of the rulebook before deployment begins.

Differentiate artefacts

(Guilty myself)

Make it clear which unit is carrying which artefact by having some form of identification. Elliot has gemstones on each of his fallen hordes, each with a different colour. He notes it on his army list which one has which artefact. Perfect.

I need to do better at this.


Measure flat, not from above

Yet another that I’m guilty of but one I’ve been specifically going out of my way to get better at doing.

When you’re making a measurement, whether that’s movement or with a charge, place the tape measure flat on the table wherever you can.

Imagine this side on view, trying to measure a 10″ charge range between these two units with the tape measure held above the unit:

It’s an extreme example, however the distance between the units is more than 10″. By holding the tape measure above, it looks like they are in range. This also applies to movement. By holding the tape measure above the unit and using that to measure where you can reach, you could very well be moving far more than you’re actually allowed to.

Whenever you can, measure by laying the tape measure down flat on the board and moving the unit alongside it.

Use an arc template and laser

I’m a bit confused that this even has to be said, but on several occasions I’ve heard people complain about “competitive” players using an arc template and a laser. Don’t. Arcs are an extremely important part of the game and too important to leave to chance. Arc templates and lasers, with clear communication of intent are the way to head off very important disagreements.

Use a reference base

Have a spare 50mm base, especially if you have a 50mm flying monster in your army.

When you want to carry out a move with your monster, or any unit, that you’re not sure you can complete, leave the original where it is an carry out the move with the base. If you’re not sure where your flying monster can jump to then measure and place the 50mm base there. Then you can check for things like 1” spacing, what facing you’ll end up with, who can see you etc. All pertinent info that you’re entitled to before making that commitment.

Without a spare base, you run the risk of making the move, finding out that either it’s not legal or you don’t want to move there and then struggle to put the unit back in its original position.

Failing a spare base, mark the corners of the original position with some dice before moving a unit.


What is a cocked dice

Agree before the game what a “cocked” dice is and under what circumstances you will re-roll one. My preference is that anything not perfectly flat on the board/mat is cocked, regardless of how much. Any dice that end up stacked on top of another are also cocked and get re-rolled.

Agree it before you or your opponent make a crucial roll that ends up being ever so slightly cocked.

Picture Dice

I’m the very definition of a #customdicewanker. If you use custom or picture dice, only have one face that has the picture on it. I always put the custom image on the 6 and all the other faces have the standard dice pips. I have seen a few dice before which have two or more faces with pictures on them and it’s a pain trying to remember which picture is which.

Leave those ones at home.

Call out scores required

When you go to make a roll, call out what scores you need. If I’m hitting with 10 attacks on 3’s and damaging on 4’s (as far as I know), I’ll say out loud “10 attacks, needing 3’s then 4’s.”

Occasionally your opponent will correct you because you’ve forgotten the charge was hindered, or they have ensnare or some other thing. Calling it out to your opponent makes it clear what you think you need and gives them the opportunity to correct you.

Don’t use a digital dice app

Seriously. I know people want to speed the game up, but these things just cause confusion and mistrust. The time it takes to call out the scores you need, roll the dice and then start picking out dice is time for your opponent to correct you if you’re wrong. Dice apps take that away and mistakes creep in.

In one game my opponent rattled off “5’s to hit, 4’s to damage, and that’s 3 damage in total” before I had a chance to correct him that the charge was hindered and needed 6’s. He replugged the numbers in and came up with 5 damage instead. Not good.

Kings of War is a fast enough game. You don’t need to speed it up any more and the little pauses here and there are essential for the flow of the game.

Roll away from dice piles

Recently I played a game where there was a key combat. My unit would rout on a nerve test of 7. They rolled the nerve test and got 9. Ok, Inspiring. Re-roll please.

One of the dice clearly came up a 1. The other dice bounced into the edge of another pile of dice. They picked out a 6, but I could have sworn the actual dice was a 5.

Should I have challenged it there and then? Yeah probably, but I was a bit worried that the game was already a little tense and didn’t want to exacerbate it.

Roll your dice well away from other piles of dice so they don’t get mixed in. If your dice bounces into a dice pile by accident, re-roll it as a courtesy.

Pick out the misses, not the hits

When you roll a big barrel of dice, it’s quite common for people to start scooping up the ones that hit, or the ones that damaged, leaving the failures on the table.

Do it the other way around, please.

Scoop up the misses and leave the hits on the table. Not only does it mean your opponent has more confidence that you’re not scooping up extra hits, but again it gives them time to call out if you need a different score. If they remind you that you’re hindered and hitting on 4’s instead of 3’s, that’s not a problem if all you’ve been doing is removing 1’s and 2’s. You can go through and remove the 3’s as well. On the other hand, if you start scooping up those hits before your opponent has chance to correct you, god knows how many 3’s you grabbed.

Roll the entire outcome of a batch

Occasionally you’ll find yourself rolling batches of dice. If you have 20 attacks and hit the flank, but only have 20 dice, you obviously need to roll those 20 dice twice.

What some players will do is roll to hit with 20, count how many hits. Roll to hit with 20 again, count how many hits. Count out how many dice hit in total, then roll to damage.

They can forget how many hits they got at first, they can get confused over how many dice they need to roll or any number of things.

Instead complete the entire roll of each batch. Roll 20 dice to hit, then roll to damage. THEN roll another 20 dice to hit and roll to damage with all hits from that second batch. Don’t try to remember how many hits you got in the first batch, just roll to damage straight away and get that damage recorded on the target unit.


Declare intentions, seek consent

Kings of War is an open information, pre-measuring game. You should be declaring what you’re doing each time you move a unit and making sure that your opponent is happy with it. Moved so you’re just out of charge range of your opponent? Ask them to confirm and make sure they’re happy with it. Placed a unit out of an opponents’ arc? Ask them to confirm. There shouldn’t be any later discussions about whether a unit is or isn’t in range as long as you voiced your intentions and confirmed them when moving.

On the flipside, do not under any circumstances try to renege on what you agreed or say “Just put it there and we’ll see where it is on my turn” when your opponent asks you to agree. They’re telling you where that unit is. If you disagree with that, your time to say so is now. Not on your turn where it turns out that they’re a smidgen in range, even though they specifically said they were standing just outside. If they slightly mis-measured it, then you should say so when they voice their intentions.

Advise if your opponent is about to miss something

Keep an eye on what you’re opponent is doing and what they’re likely about to do. If they are about to make a mistake, tell them before they make it. For example, in a recent game my opponent was measuring their unit for a charge on mine. Before they declared it and picked the unit up, I reminded them that there was a hill in between so line of sight was blocked.

Declare what you’re rolling for

Another “obvious communication” thing, but tell your opponent clearly which combat you’re rolling for. Which unit you’re targeting. Too often I have opponents who don’t clearly say what they’re currently rolling for (understandably in some cases). I try to make an educated guess on what they’re rolling for, or misunderstand what they’re rolling for and advise them the wrong target numbers. Clear communication heads off confusion.

Mark damage as it’s applied

Mark damage immediately. If someone is rolling multiple batches of dice, mark the damage from each batch straight away. Again I see it too often where I’m rolling several batches of dice, telling my opponent what I’m scoring in damage from each batch and they’re just trying to remember the result rather than marking it on the unit immediately. This leads to confusion and disagreements about how much damage was applied in the first place.