It wasn’t long ago that Legacy games were the hot new genre in the tabletop gaming. Though Roll & Write games seem to have taken over the top spot on the trending list, there are still several prominent Legacy games released every year. The King’s Dilemma from Horrible Games is a brand new game in the genre that caught my eye at Gen Con this year.
Legacy games are designed to only allow a finite number of plays. You make permanent changes to the board, cards, and characters as you progress through the game by doing things such as applying stickers to the board or tearing up cards. Once you’ve completed the set number of plays the campaign is finished. After you have played all the way through a campaign the game usually can’t be played again, or it can only be played in a limited state.
I always have my eye on Horrible Games because, despite their name, they have proven themselves incapable of actually making anything even below average. Their games always bring something interesting to the table. Potion Explosion has ingenious marble dispersing machines, Dragon Castle comes with beautiful Mahjong inspired tiles, and their small Roll & Write game Railroad Ink is quite the brain teaser. Horrible Games seem to have the Midas touch as all of the aforementioned games are all staples in my collection. When I saw their big Gen Con release this year was a Legacy game that promised a huge story line with multiple branching paths, needless to say, I was intrigued.
You’ll be fascinated from the moment you open your King’s Dilemma box. Initially you’ll see the usual board game comments: punch outs, a game board, and player shields. Under all the basic components you’ll find 75 sealed envelopes and a sticker book the thickness of your local phone book. I’m not going to cover the rules in great detail because I’m saving that for my final thoughts review once our campaign is completed. This article will provide a basic overview to give readers a feel for the game play.
King’s Dilemma is a narrative-driven Legacy game involving heavy player negotiation. Players take the role of advisers to the king of a fantasy kingdom. Every round the kingdom faces a new problem and it’s up to the players to decide how to handle it. This isn’t a co-op game; players have their own houses with their own secret objectives to fulfill. It’s up to you to negotiate, argue, and plea with the other players to try and steer the kingdom in your desired direction.
Before their first game players choose which shield they will use for the entire campaign. Each shield has a unique family crest shields and useful tracking information on the backside as well as the house’s hidden objectives which the player will try to achieve over the campaign. Players sign their shields with a house name they create. This is the signature they will sign to any card or sticker that requires it throughout the course of the game. An avid Packers fan, I snagged the green and yellow house, giving rise to the great house of Favre.
At the start of each game, players secretly select a hidden agenda card to fulfill, which will influence their votes over the course of the game. Every round a dilemma card will present players with a short story containing a problem and hints on what will happen if players vote Yes or No. For example, the situation might be: “The harvest was better than expected this year. Should we give the excess food to the people, or sell it to an outside kingdom?” If you decide to give the food to your people the morale of the kingdom will go up, but if you sell it your treasury track will increase. It’s up to the players to debate and decide which is the correct course of action.
Once the voting is done the card is flipped and resolved, influence tracks will go up or down, stickers might be placed on the board, and sealed envelopes might be opened, leading to new story lines and dilemma cards being added to the pile. A single game ends once the king either dies or abdicates the throne. As soon as one of these two results occurs players tally up their hidden agenda conditions and their hidden house objectives. Whoever has the most points is the winner of that particular game and gets to name the new king for the next game. House Favre took the first victory, so I seized the opportunity and named our new ruler King Brett the IV, and I won’t apologize for that
After one game I’m very excited to see where things go from here. One aspect I’m really intrigued by are the story objectives. Every house has its own story objective printed on its shield. You get nothing more than a hint as to what this might entail, so it’s up to each player to try and figure out what needs to be done to fulfill their house’s objective. Some of the objectives are directly opposed to each other, causing one player to be locked out of completing their objective if the opposing player completes theirs. I can imagine this could cause certain votes to become very heated with players throwing around tons of resources to try and get the vote to go their way.
Although we are only one game in, I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen so far. The narrative we’ve uncovered after one game is simple but compelling, and the game also lends itself well a little bit of role-playing if the players really get into it. It feels like the type of game that will yield great tabletop stories later on. For example, one player at our table was able to outvote three other players, but ended up backing a decision that made a faction in our village hate her. She was forced to sign a sticker that had to be applied to the board as a reminder of the decision she made, and possibly face consequences for it in the future.
King’s Dilemma is great fun so far and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what the true end looks like. The campaign promises at least 15 games running about an hour each and promises a different story line for each group based on the decisions made during the campaign. Watch 181 Gaming in the future for updates on our individual games and a full review once our campaign is finished.
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AKA “The Board Game Mole”
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