Come with me in my way back machine, back to the year of 2006. If you happened to be playing flash games to avoid studying for college courses like I was, you might have been playing tower defense games. For the uninitiated, tower defense games involved setting up some type of defensive system to stop waves of enemies attempting to reach your base.
While they are not as nearly as popular as they were back in the late 2000’s, you can still find new ones popping up every once in a while. The reason I am giving you this history lesson is because the game we will be looking at attempts to take the same mechanics from the computer screen to the table. In The King’s Armory, players will take control of fantasy heroes attempting to save their kingdom from the advancing horde. Does this game transfer well? Read on to find out.
The King’s Armory is a co-operative tower defense game for 1-7 players to play in 2-4 hours. In my experience the game plays best with 1-5 players.
Luckily for the kingdom, scouts have noticed an impending army of monsters hoping to break through the castle defenses and take the treasures within. This advanced warning has allowed for the necessary preparation for the upcoming battle. This allows the players to set up defensive towers and hire troops to defend the castle. Players will choose from traditional fantasy hero archetypes to command during the game.
The monsters don’t want to take the quickest path to the castle and will follow the cart paths leading up to the castle. Players will be able to upgrade their heroes and troops to deal with the increasing difficulty of each wave of monsters. The climax of the game comes with a showdown with the boss monster who is leading this attack. If players are able to prevent the army of monsters from destroying the castle doors, the players will win the game.
The King’s Armory comes with a ton of components. It has large map tiles, monster tokens, hit point markers, 3D towers and even more! You are not getting cheated at all when it comes to the bits in this game. They are also very high quality.
It’s clear a lot of time when into the iconography and design of the components. There are a number of symbols on the monster tokens that convey ten pieces of information below the monster’s image. This saves you from having to reference a chart or rulebook every time you interact with a monster. If you do need to look at the rulebook during the game, it is well laid out. It separates each phase into it’s own section allowing you to quickly find a clarification to the rule.
The components look even more impressive as you get the map tiles down. You get the feel of a tower defense game just from seeing the path and towers on the table. One additional feature in the box is that you can construct 3D towers for heroes and hired troops to use during battle. While they look impressive on the table, you are forced to deconstruct them every time you put things back into the box. I eventually stopped using them because they were more cumbersome than they were worth. But that is my only complaint when it comes to components.
How to Play:
The King’s Armory’s rule book is quite expansive and I won’t be covering all of it in this section. Instead I will give you an overview, but if you want to read the whole thing just follow this link.
Players will start setup by determining the difficulty level they want to play at. This is done by which map design they choose, how the monsters enter and the castle hit point total. Players will then set up the map and place all the necessary cards around the border.
Players will then choose the hero they want to play, and starting towers are placed on the board. Once setup is done, it’s time to battle!
Using the monster selection grid, players will roll a 12 sided die to determine the difficulty level of each monster that will enter this wave. As you progress through the game, more and more monsters will come out with a greater chance of facing high-ranking monsters.
At each monster action phase, the same three things will happen where players will upkeep, move and attack for each monster. Players will apply any lasting effects, move the monster forward if possible, and then attack. Attacks are determined by the result of a d20 roll, plus the monsters hit bonus compared to the characters dodge value. If it is higher, the player takes damage. Once all monsters have taken their three actions, it is the player’s turn.
Players follow a similar options to the monsters. They move and attack, however, players have the freedom to decide where they go and what actions they will take unlike the monsters. Each attack or special action cost actions points and once those are used up, it is the next player’s turn. If after all the players have taken their actions there are still monsters on the board, the monsters get another turn.
This will continue until all the monsters have died or the players have lost the game by all dying or the castle has been destroyed.
In between waves of monsters, players will heal, earn loot, spend that loot and reposition allies for the next wave. Players have plenty of options how they want to spend the loot. Options include new hireable troops or upgrades to the ones they currently have, adding additional towers, buying equipment, renforcement or armory cards, just to name a few.
Waves will continue in this process until the 5th or 7th wave depending on the length of the game. The only difference is that at the start of the second monster action phase, the boss monster enters the map. If players are able to defeat it and the rest of the monsters before the castle falls, they win the game.
The King’s Armory designers set out to create a true tower defense game and they succeeded. There were able to incorporate all the core elements that go into these games like waves of enemies, towers and a castle to defend. This combined with stellar components would have made this game a good game. However, the added variability and flexibility of the game takes it above good status to great.
First, the heroes are all unique in their abilities. Sure, they are all ones that fall into traditional fantasy types, but they all have very unique and useful powers. They also work well with the other heroes in the game. There are ideal combinations that work better than others, but as long as you have a mix of attack and support, you will do well. I spent a little time playing each character and I enjoyed them all. Also, there are equipment cards in the game that can boost your base powers and even specialized ones that help specific players if equipped. This gives each hero a strong incentive to try to spend loot to get those specific sets.
One great addition to the game is the ability to have your own set of troops to command. This means you are not stuck just playing only one type of character. You are able to add a few front line foot soldiers with the cleric hero to create a solid wall of defense, with an archer for ranged support. Players have the option to pick and choose which of these they want to add. Even though the process of each round is relatively the same, having these different types of characters allows you to do enough unique things on your turn to be entertaining.
Another reason you might want to diversity your troops is the array of monsters you will fight. They range all over the place in terms of speed, armor and attack potency. This leads to a new challenge each wave and each game due to the method of determining the monsters in each wave.
The use of a die roll to determine each monsters difficulty can make each wave a cake walk or a nightmare gauntlet. The good thing is you know about the monsters at the start of the round, and this allows you to develop a strategy to defeat them. There are plenty of monsters in each of the five levels to not feel like you are going to see the same wave in every game.
The boss monsters do pose quite a challenge for the players. Not only are you dealing with the strongest and most populated wave of regular monsters, but these leaders can wreak havoc on everyone in their path. There is a real sense of dread as you flip over that boss token to see what you will have to face. They act very differently from the other monsters with their own unique attacks and defenses. You will need to throw everything you have at them to stop the last wave from ending you.
If you happen to think the game is too easy. Don’t worry, there are easy ways to amp up the intensity: simply adjust the map, add more monsters or limit the number of towers. This can bring the difficulty up to 11. With all these variables it would be easy for the game to end up being an unbalanced mess. But the game doesn’t do that. I guess you could push it too far one way or another, but I wasn’t able to see that in my time with the game. I found you get a solid experience regardless of the difficulty or player count.
Now, I have heaped a ton of praise on the game and rightfully so, but it isn’t without a few caveats. One of the reason I like the game so much is that the mechanics and theme is something I’m familiar with from my eight years playing RPGs. I’m used to how attacks work, spell casting and movement that make learning the rules of the game very simple. My concern is that people who don’t have this background might struggle with understanding all the little rules within the game. The rulebook does a great job explaining all of the rules and things to know, but it’s still daunting for someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience with this type of game or RPG. You will need to commit time to learn the game.
The good thing is that the game can be played as a solo game. While not as good as with a larger group, it allows you the chance to figure out the mechanics by yourself for a few rounds before introducing it to your gaming group. This will help out with the biggest drawback to the game, the play time.
This isn’t a quick game by any means. I found that games can range from 2-4 hours depending on the game length, players and difficulty. You just need to know what you are getting into when you start a game. Even at this length I never felt like the game dragged except as you started to wrap up a wave. I don’t recommend playing at the higher player count because the time in between turns can take excessively long with more than 5 players.
When you take a step back, The King’s Armory is an impressive game. Taking an established mechanics in the tower defense genre and applying them wonderfully to the gaming table is no easy task. The King’s Armory has a ridiculous amount of variability and a challenge for players each time they play.
The game does have a lot of finicky rules and longer playtime than most games which could be a turnoff for some. But if you put in the time, you can find a rewarding game to play. If you enjoy games with plenty of action and strategy give The King’s Armory a try.
If you’d like to pick up a copy of The King’s Armory, you can get it for about $60.
Final Score: 4 Stars – A board game tower defense game that presents unique challenges every time.
• 3D towers are not the most practical
• Lots of little rules to remember
• Game can run long for players