Board Game Review - Kingdom Death
Finally getting a chance to review one of the most enjoyable co-op board games I've played to date. A friend of mine found it on Kickstarter and jumped in. I missed out but eventually bought a copy of my own to play. Kingdom Death is described by it's creator Adam Poots as a "Boutique Survival Horror" game. Well to be honest there's plenty of horror, but not much survival! This game is fucking brutal! I've played through 3 full games now, each progressing a bit further than the last but never successfully "beating" the game. I use quotation marks because you can't really beat the game.. you are destined to lose from the beginning. But that's all part of it's charm.
The game is heavily story driven, it plays out very similarly to D&D but without a DM as a lot of the events are randomized or follow a structure dictated by a timeline that you follow each year. Even though it's structured, it is still random as the results are based on your previous years choices or current game status so each game is very different to the last. The first page of the rule book is the beginning of the story and as it reads out, you place your first encounter enemy and the survivors on the board and follow the story which is also sort of an intro and how to play. It's quite a unique and cool way to start a board game. After beating the first enemy, you return to your settlement and follow more story events and it guides you through the settlement phase where you get to spend resources on new gear that helps keep your survivors alive, innovations that help the settlement grow and follow timeline story events. This phase can be the most frustrating as story events can and often do kill one or more of your survivors, without you having any say in the matter and most of the time not being able to fight back. One of the nastiest events is "Plague" which infects four survivors and if they aren't cured they die. If they aren't cured, they pass the disease on to four new survivors next year and the process starts all over again until everyone is cured.. or killed. After the story events play out all players (if there is anyone left alive) get to vote and choose a new target to hunt.
Hunting the enemy can sometimes be more dangerous than actually fighting it. Each hunt space you progress through, you need to either roll a random event or draw a monster hunt event. These events can be amazingly beneficial, giving you some of the rarest and strongest gear in the game.. or not. You can be devoured whole by a worm because you were too noisy, turned to stone, get cancer from a bird, have insects fill your brain until your head explodes or fall in quicksand and lose your weapon and be forced to fight the next battle without a weapon which leads to getting your head kicked off by an Antelope. Yes, these are all things that have happened in my games.. As I said, it's brutal.. You lose survivors VERY quickly. You can attempt to breed and get more survivors in the settlement phase, but it is not a guaranteed success.. and may lead to the death of both survivors attempting to get it on. If you successfully track down the hunt target (or it tracks you down first..) then the battle begins.
If you find it, then you get to go first. If it finds you, then it ambushes you and you get bashed around for a bit before you can fight back. The monster is played by a series of AI and hit location cards. On the monsters turn it draws an AI card and follows the steps to determine its actions. First it chooses a target, usually the closest person, then it has an attack. These attacks can sometimes be weak or non threatening.. but more often than not will devastate whoever they hit. Survivors can get armor to soak up some of the damage, but if you take too many hits you will need to roll on an injury table which if it doesn't kill you immediately will either kill you slowly, or leave you with a debilitating injury. These may include but are not limited to; being blinded (losing accuracy), losing an arm (can't use two handed weapons), having back or leg injuries that slow movement and prevent weapon use or my absolute personal favourite.. destroyed genitals. Bet you can't guess what that stops your survivor from doing! Too many injuries and you will die, or be forced to retire from and sit in the settlement, usually to become a sacrifice or a breeder.. that is if you managed to keep your genitals.
On the players turn, they get to hit back at the monsters. You need to roll to hit, which can be increased by better weapons or accuracy. If you miss, nothing happens, but if you hit then a hit location card is drawn determining where on the monster you hit and you need to add your survivors strength to determine if you deal damage. Sometimes the hits may not penetrate, or cause the monster to react and attack you back, or trigger a trap that often devastates the entire party. In one particular fight, we had to land one more hit on an enemy to defeat them. Our survivor had a godly amount of strength so his hit was sure to damage the monster and it was knocked down so hits land on a 3+. We were almost certain to attain victory! We rolled and hit! Everyone rejoiced... then we remembered, wait, we need to draw a hit location. We drew it.. and it was a trap. The monster proceeded to get up, utterly obliterate our entire party, causing several severe injuries and killing one survivor and forcing us to fight a few more rounds before we could finally defeat him. It was utterly heartbreaking, but it is just one of those things that makes this game so amazingly awesome.
I've realized that the best part of the game is recalling past adventures and being able to tell people some of the ways we have achieved victory over our enemies. But what's even better is telling them of the gruesome, entertaining or just absolutely silly ways that our survivors have come to meet their demise. I'm definitely going to continue to play this game for a while, I may even start to post game logs as i've noticed some people on Board Game Geek and Reddit do. They're quite entertaining to read, I suggest checking them out. I highly recommend the game to anyone interested in playing a 2-4 player coop style death-fest. You can play solo, or with more people, but I feel like 4 is the magic number. It is quite pricey to buy, but one alternative may be to purchase Tabletop Simulator on Steam as someone has made a Kingdom Death add-on for it on there and it does look pretty good. My only piece of advice is; do not get attached to your survivors. Do not name them after your favourite character.. because they WILL die. Horribly and painfully..