A Lifestyle Game of DEATH
Assembling and painting miniatures, buying a folded space insert, sleeving every card, organizing the gear cards in a shop binder and printing out bgg user created player aids are all things I have done for Kingdom Death over the last few weeks. Notice I didn’t mention actually playing it. This is truly a lifestyle game. I put 20+ hours into this game before I even fought anything. This game demands a lot from you, both in game and out, but it reward you with many memorable moments.
In Kingdom Death: Monster (KDM) there are three phases, typically everything begins with the hunt. This is where your survivors go through a gauntlet of events as they track down the monster. There is a dedicated hunt board (shown below) with stages of random events, both generic and specific to the monster you are hunting. Some events will give you resources to craft with later, some will make you deaf, take an arm or worse.
You move down the hunt board turning over event card after event card. If your party is in one piece by the time they reach their quarry, then the showdown begins.
The showdown is the heart of Kingdom Death, it’s where your careful planning of gear, weapon proficiencies and survival skills come into play. If your survivors… survive the hunt, it’s time to set up the board for the specific monster you are about to fight. In the rulebook there is some monster art, flavor text and placement rules for the monster, survivors and terrain. There are also instructions on how to build the monster’s AI deck (their move set they will be attacking with).
This is Kingdom Death, so naturally the monster attacks first. Draw one AI card and follow the instructions. It could be anything from an intimidating glare, damaging your mind, to grabbing a survivor and dragging him across the board, knocking them down and losing a turn. When the monster attacks, take an amount of dice matching their attack’s speed. If their speed is two, roll two dice. Any roll that matches or is larger than the attack’s accuracy number is a hit. For each dice that is a successful hit, the survivor rolls a hit location dice, representing the survivor’s chest, feet, head etc that will be wounded. If the monster hit with both dice, the survivor would roll two hit location dice and take damage on each location.
After the monster attacks, each survivor can move and attack if they are in range. You roll as many dice as the speed on your weapon. If you look at my gallery below, you will see that my bone axe has a speed of two, so I roll two dice. The second number is a 6, that is my accuracy. Each 6 or better I roll, is considered a hit. For each hit you make, draw a hit location card, the hit location I drew is Beast’s Flank. Roll one die per hit location and add your weapon’s strength (3) for the bone axe. If the result is equal to or higher than the monsters toughness (8) it’s a hit. Most hit location cards have a lantern symbol on them, that means special stuff happens with you roll a lantern (crit). Whether you crit or not, when you successfully wound the monster, remove an AI card off the top of the deck and place it in the wound stack. The monster is dead when there are no AI cards in the AI stack or discard pile and you get one more wound in.
This phase is a series of steps that take place on the settlement board. First you heal any wounds on your survivors, erasing any damage. Next you gain endeavors for every survivor that returns alive and from any bonuses in play. After that, you update your settlement’s timeline, checking off another (lantern) year and check to see if there are special events for the year. Next you draw a random event, this can lead to good… or horrible things for your settlement. Then you update your death count, followed by checking any milestones you may have achieved (first death, first birth, etc.) the next step is develop, it’s where all your building, endeavor spending and crafting happens. You can craft gear with resources you harvested from your fresh kill or build settlement locations such as… the Catarium… or the Organ Grinder to build more weapons, potions and armor. Next you can update your survivor’s gear and get them ready to depart on their next adventure. Finally you record any gear/resources you didn’t use, so you don’t lose them on the hunt of your next monster.
KDM is probably the most unfriendly solo game I play. There is no real solo mode. You have to control 4 characters yourself. Keeping track of all their abilities and gear is quite daunting. At this very moment my settlement has 18 individual characters to keep track of. It’s overwhelming in every aspect. It’s the most expensive game I own…. I’m not doing much to promote it huh? I think it’s important to know all of that going in, but with that being said it has given me my most memorable gaming moments. It will never leave my collection, I am 10 lantern years in and loving every second of it. If you enjoy video games like Monster Hunter, where the cycle of killing unique bosses is at its core, while being brutally hard like Dark Souls, you should definitely look into it.
Why do I play such an unforgiving, brutal game? I think I figured it out. The lows are equally matched by the highs. For every crushed rib, ripped out eye, or disemboweling there are equal amount of discovery, adventure and crits. So many crits! These crits don’t just feel good, they feel great. Let me explain. You roll dice to successfully hit the White Lion. When you hit him, you have to roll again to see if and where you wound him. On these wound cards special things happen if you crit. On this particular card, if you crit…. then crit again you instantly kill him. This can happen turn one if you are lucky. I’ve fought the White Lion many times and this has only happened once, but it was such a great feeling. It makes losing half of your settlement when you return to camp almost worth it.