Warrior Knights

Games Workshop Ltd, 1985, 2-6 players, ages 10 and up. This classic game is one of my all-time favorites, easily in my top five and one to which I give my highest recommendation. Players play medieval barons in control of four different nobles (each of whom can command a seperate army). Your goal is to conquer and hold as many cities on the board as possible. Conquering cities increases the amount of money you earn each turn as well as increasing your political power. Money is used to pay your existing troops as well as purchase new ones. In addition, it gives you votes in the Assembly round. In addition to money, you also receive voting power based on how many cities you control.

Turns consist of wages and income (your cities, among other things, generate income and your troops consume it). Then you may move your armies around on the board and attack or lay seige to cities or other Baron's nobles' armies or strongholds. After each player has had two turns comes the Assembly. In Assembly players may purchase troops (at open auction) and vote on a variety of randomly drawn "motion" cards. One player is the chairman and has the ability to break ties, while another player is the veto holder (and can, obviously, veto a vote). These powers rotate around the table each turn, so everyone gets their shot at them. That's a really brief summary of the game and doesn't truly do it justice. The rules are extremely well crafted, balanced, and clear. Even better, they're written such that you can start a game and play along as you read the rules. The Assembly voting adds an extremely entertaining political aspect to an already entertaining strategic game.

Games go pretty quickly (2 hours or so) and are always a lot of fun. The fate cards drawn at the beginning of each turn really help to keep the outcome in doubt. All it takes is one really bad fate card to drop a front-runner into last place. And once on the bottom of the heap, a player down on their luck can usually get back into the game (and even win) because it's not worth anyone else's while to waste resources on the weakest player. The playing pieces are typical Games Workshop - lots of paper of varying thickness and not much else. Still, it's held up pretty well over all these years. All in all a truly great game that I've played literally dozens and dozens of times. It's been out of print for a long time but the occasional used set does show up on eBay (and prices still seem to be relatively reasonable).

For whatever reason, this game really lends itself to rules tweaking. We have lots of house rules that we've incorporated over the years, including adding Talisman-esque special abilities to each Noble. Here's the list we've come up with. They're actually pretty balanced:

1.Necromancy - Before each movement phase, Baron may roll for dead troops (regulars or mercenaries) - on a 1 or 2 they are revivified and may be placed on the Baron's stronghold - this may be used on any Baron's dead troops.

2. Precognition - Baron may always know the top fate card. Also, he may draw 2 fate cards, replacing the one he doesn't want on the bottom of the fate pack.

3. Espionage - Once per assembly Baron may demand to see one another Baron's mercenary bid or vote on an issue. Once per movement phase Baron may roll to discover the target of an assassin - 1 succeeds.

4. Luck - Usable once between assemblies - a Baron may re-roll an unsuccessful roll.

5. Charisma - Baron's mercenaries never desert - further, on a roll of 1 or 2 Baron may claim another Baron's deserting mercenaries. Baron may lure away a royal pretender on a roll of 1 if the two nobles are in the same square. Baron must pay mercenaries unless broke.

6. Medicine - Baron's troops never die from any form of disease.

7. Transportation - Baron's armies can move 2 spaces in the open, 4 spaces on the road, or 3 if a combination is used. On a roll of 1-3 Baron's nobles may skip the "to" or "from" space on overseas cities.

8. Supermen - Each of the Baron's regulars need not be paid and are indestructible.

9. Logistics - Baron's nobles can re-arrange troops at any time during the movement/attack phase as long as the nobles are in the same or adjacent squares.

10. Financial Wizard - Baron receives 10% interest on total monies before each wages/income phase commences. Baron may improve cities at 2 times stated valued rather than 3.

11. Statesman - Baron can count overseas cities in assembly vote tallying. This Baron can veto a "no" decision. He has two personal votes.

12. Satan (aka Bummerman) - May turn any crisis he draws on the Baron of his choice. If another Baron draws a crisis for this Baron's faction, it is automatically a "no crisis".

Here's a handy-dandy set of special ability cards that my buddy Dean cobbled together: DOWNLOAD CARDS

Update: At some point, Fantasy Flight Games garnered the rights to this game and set about working on a new edition. As luck would have it, I was contacted by the designer of said new edition and asked to try it out. After browsing through the new rules, we were sufficiently impressed - it maintained much of the original game, while adding a few (but not too many) new wrinkles. In fact, we were just about to give it a try when we were re-contacted by the game designer, who told us that FFG was not happy with their version and had decided to go in a different direction. So, I don't know who actually wound up designing it, but FFG did release a new edition of Warrior Knights in 2006. However, after having experienced FFG's heavy-handed "re-imagining" of Arkham Horror, we decided to simply ignore it. If past experience is any indication at all, it will basically cost a lot of money, have 10 times more pieces than the original, 100 times more rules, and take 1000 times longer to play. Frankly, we just don't need the aggravation.

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