I’ve been playing a fair bit of Kingdom Death: Monster the last few days, and I expect to embark on a second campaign soon. I pre-ordered this game as one of the Black Friday specials after the kickstarter was over (I wasn’t even on kickstarter at the time it was), and I got all the goodies. I’ve already talked a bit about the miniatures, but, here, I want to talk about the quality of the other components and the gameplay.
Right off the bat, I was pretty impressed with the components here. The cards are a pretty common size, so sleeves were easy to get. Each of the stacks of cards came with a divider, which was awesome – that means that I can have a well-organized box and I didn’t even have to make tabs. The tokens are well sized, though fairly large – this is actually good, because you’ll need to be able to see them from across the showdown board. The showdown board is huge – it is nearly 24″x36″ as a single three-fold board with quite sturdy mounting. I was less impressed with the other boards (settlement/hunt and showdown extra board), as they are unmounted, and the settlement/hunt board seemed libel to tear with the constant folding and unfolding.
The gameplay I found to be quite smooth, with the exception of setup and teardown, which you actually end up doing multiple times per session. Each game session takes place over three phases (hunt, showdown, and settlement) and each phase has its own board, cards, and other widgets from the game box. As a result, a full cycle can take upwards of 15 minutes just in setup and teardown. If space isn’t available to set out all three phases at once, this can cause a break in the flow of the gameplay which could be dangerous for the short of attention span.
Like most cooperative games, Kingdom Death: Monster is quite complex. This is exacerbated somewhat by the fact that it is meant for campaign play (rather than one-off game), so there are a lot of things to track over multiple sessions. Finally, there are a lot of effects that cause you to roll on a chart, which is located in the main rule-book. This means that the rulebook is going to take a lot of wear very quickly. Extracting data from the book is going to be my first priority in terms of game aides as I feel that will significantly enhance the longevity of the game. On the flip side, the book is rather well organized, and it is fairly easy to find answers to rules questions.
With all the complexity of this game, I was worried that the learning curve might be really problematic. However, the creators wisely put a prolog at the very front of the book to get players up and running quickly. It had a basic showdown and walkthrough for the first settlement phase, which made it so that I could even pull it out on one of my normal game days to try it out.
Overall, I am very impressed with Kingdom Death: Monster. Like other kickstarted games, my expectations were that it would be good, but lacking polish – in this case, the game has significant polish and everything came together amazingly well. This game also scratches a number of gaming itches I have had lately: it has long-term planning and resource management, tactical combat, and a horror setting that is full of surprises.