Barbarian Kingdom & Empire
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Weight: 700 grams (estimated)
Average Rating: 5 in 1 review
Long out of print, this is a great find IF it is your kind of game. BK&E is definitely not a Eurogame. What it is, is a combination of war game (units have combat and movement factors, die roll on the odds columns for combat, etc.) and economic game (must allocate income between unit upkeep and administering the government) with a great gimmic (players can come and go during the game).
Although there are many playable scenarios for shorter games, the real game is an interesting one in which players can join and quit at any time (the only limit is the 6 sets of counters for 6 players max). It works well over a long playing time. The components are cheap (thick paper 'board' printed in mostly black and white with some blue rivers and red cities) and thin cardboard chits. The map is of Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East, divided into irregularly shaped regions.
At the start, there are garrison units along the borders of the Roman Empire. Each player starts out with a single Barbarian tribe. Like Civilization, these tribes double every turn and can move one region. Tribes can't stack, so after a while, not all tribes will be able to double because the new units won't have anywhere to go.
At some point (wait too long and you can suffer tribal unrest, go too early and you are short of units), you turn the barbarian tribes into real (i.e. combat strength) units which can now attack the Roman garrisons. Once they break through, they can attack cities. Cities provide income. (You can sack them for some quick dollars if you fear another player will take them away.)
Several turns later you turn into a Kingdom (how many turns depends on whether you are a Hun or a Viking or an Arab, etc. since different barbarians have some different abilities and starting positions, so 'kingdoming' time is modified for play balance). Kingdoms can no longer sack cities, must pay upkeep on their units, may buy new units to expand, and must spend money on Administration (or not, which can invite problems).
Later in the game, depending on how much money is spent on administration and some die rolling, you turn into an Empire. Some of your more mobile units go away, but you get the ability to build garrisons, which are cheap but immoble, and Roman legions which are expensive but can ignore 'retreat' combat results. At some point (voluntarily or otherwise) your empire collapses and you can restart somewhere as a new Barbarian.
Victory points are your cumulative income over the course of the game. Winner is highest victory points divided by the number of turns played. So new players can join the game at any time by starting out as a new Barbarian and harassing the kingdoms and empires already on the board. A player can quit at any time and let his empire go into civil disorder.
Though cheaply made, this is a great concept and works well if you have a gaming group which meets periodically and can leave the game set up to play a few hours every once in a while. To get a real feel in one sitting, you must allow 5 or 6 hours.