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Krieg und Frieden
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Each player is a leading noble in a land where the king is old and childless. His successor will be whichever of the great nobles seems to the king to be best suited for the task. The candidates gain favor in the king's eyes by being the dominant figure in solving the various problems, such as war and famine, which afflict the kingdom and by taking a leading role in the completion of the king's dream -- the building of a great cathedral.
Average Rating: 3 in 6 reviews
Our gaming group has thoroughly enjoyed Krieg & Frieden. We have played it with the original scoring rules and the variant. The variant does provide some 'smoothing' that newcomers may find encourages a replay.
The mechanics of this fine game have been explained ad infinitum, ad nauseam. The interaction and what the players put into this game will make or break it for your group.
If you like a game that can reward some interesting, hard-nosed, sometimes back-stabbing decisions, as well as expose you (as the noble) to the vagaries of ill fortune (and realistically, didn't people in the era when cathedrals were being built have to endure fickle fate at times?), then K & F is for you.
It is not a family game. This is a game where the gloves should come off (similar to Intrige) and everyone should be looking out for number one (themselves!). There are a few German games where the flavor of the specific game varies with the intensity of the participants. For example, Die Handler can be a rather vicious game when played 'all out' with all manner of negotiations and broken promises as part of the game. K & F can deliver similar entertainment if the players wish to 'get down and dirty' and focus on every conceivable way to get ahead.
The scoring mechanism, which has received much criticism, is just part of the entire gaming experience. You as the noble already have a strong idea of what you need to do to win; you just have to find a way to do it. It would not surprise me to learn that nobles around Europe had plenty of unusual circumstances to cope with while trying to succeed financially and keep in the King's good graces. You can relive this challenge in K & F.
Krieg und Frieden is a game based on medieval nobles vying for the favor of the king. The king's favor is won by solving problems in the realm, and awarded with priviliges or the opportunity to build a part of the Cathedral. Victory points are awarded for favors. When the last piece of the Cathedral is built the game is over, and the player with the most victory points wins. The theme follows through very well, with every aspect of play relating accurately to historical fact.
You start as 1 of 2-4 landowners (nobles) in service to the king (a nonplayer presence throughout the game). The game proceeds in turns broken into four phases, which correspond to the seasons. Players start with 6 resources, of which there are four types: Grain, Riches, Knights and Serf Craftsmen. You also have Agenda cards depicting various problems the kingdom has during the game, which you as a noble must try to resolve. You own a piece of land, for which you get one randomly-drawn resource each turn.
In winter, the first phase, the gathering of the nobles takes place in order to decide which of the kingdom's problems will be tackled this year. The agendas consist of War, Famine, Civil Unrest and Taxation. Each problem (agenda) is solved best by the expenditure of a particular resource; obviously knights are the most important in War, but so are Riches. Knights are next to useless during a famine, but Grain is paramount. Of course, as a noble, you will want to push forward the agenda for which you have the most effective resources! This can be done by arguing for a different agenda or changing the agenda, which is very expensive.
Once the agenda has been chosen, it is Spring, and the Campaign begins. During the Campaign, each noble in turn bids for the resolution of the problem plaguing the kingdom this turn. Bidding is done with resources, and follows the same rules as poker, except the cards are seen by all: see and raise (by at least one point), or pass (fold). The nobles who decide to pass immediately take back the resources they bid in the last round of bidding, and may not re-enter. Bidding continues around the board until only one noble is left. That noble discards all the bid resources and gains the king's favor. If the agenda was for a privilige, the player may pick a king's title scroll, which will increase the income of one of the resources per turn according to the title of property: A Mill, Toll, Armoury or Guildhall. If, however, the agenda was for the right to build an addition to the Cathedral, the player adds a piece to the Cathedral in the center of the board. Victory points are always 1 awarded for a privilige, but for the Cathedral, more points are won as more advanced pieces are added to the building.
In Summer, the nobles rule their lands, and may effect as many of the following actions as they wish by spending the appropriate resource: 1) add to their population by spending grain, resulting in huts built for peasants, which in turn increases grain production; 2) send craftsmen to work on the Cathedral, which results in an extra point for each craftsman when you build; 3)send knights to plunder neighboring nobles, which destroys one hut and nets you two free draws from the resource card pile, or spend riches to bribe enemy knights to leave their noble's lands. This is a very fun phase in the turn, and tit-for-tat raids and bribes seems to be a recurrent theme.
In the Autumn, of course, is harvest, where all nobles collect the resources due them. If a noble has four or less resources in hand and no income except his farmstead, i.e. one resource per turn, they may plead for the King's Mercy, a sort of medieval welfare. The pauper may pick another noble who has at least as many victory points as they do, and draw up to half the resources from their hand of cards. Conversely, if a player is very rich i.e. over 10 resources in their hand, they will be pressured to donate to the Church back down to ten cards.
The playing board is round, with artfully depicted roads, fields and forests showing the four landholdings, each with its own coat of arms. I'm a sucker for aesthetics and good production values, and this game has it in spades. All the cards show resources and agendas in a colorful stylization of gothic stained-glass windows. The playing peices are all of coloured hardwood, including the pieces for the Cathedral. Instructions are clear and detailed and the board and victory-point counters are sturdy cardboard. The plastic insert is cunningly designed, with a recess for every gamepiece, avoiding a mixed-up box of stuff when you open it (I hate that!). The only reason it did not get 5 stars is that it may be a gamer's game, of little interest to kids and nongamers, and thus lacks the universal appeal of Tikal or Elfenland. However, this is a good solid game with good strategy and bidding elements; a fun competition for power with plenty of social interaction, low abstraction and high aesthetic value. Nice job, Herr Mulder!
Our gaming group felt this game was potentially excellent but broken in some way, so we experimented with the following variant that fixes three problems:
The first problem is that the game encourages 'Picking on the little guy', with knights pillaging. How we fixed this is that you get 1/3 of the victim's resource cards when pillaging, rounded up. This is different than the normal two cards from the deck as called for in the original rules. In this way, a person with hardly any cards gives away 1 card, while someone with many cards can give up 2 or even 3 cards.
The second problem was the last turn being worth so much. We simply changed the scale from 1-1-1-2-2-3 to 2-2-2-3-3-4, with privileges worth 2 points each, as suggested by Stuart Dagger.
Finally, if someone ended up with very few cards for some reason, even though they may have made an income, they ended up not having any choices or chance in the later rounds. We extended the King's bounty to include anyone with less than 5 cards and a harvest of two or less cards. They then could steal from anyone else who possessed 5 or more cards. The amount they could steal is 1/2 of the victim's cards, rounded down, but the victim received a King's privilege. This one is a bit more controversial.
I'm always interested in other variants and improvements to this or other games, let me know what you think of this one as well.
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This is a historically accurate, beautifully illustrated and highly interactive representation of the turbulent Middle Ages. War, Famine, Unrest and Taxation are the problems facing the Kingdom, and resources (Knights, Grain, Serfs and Riches) fluctuate in value in each scenario. Resources are bid to decide who will solve the immediate problem. Some problems gain the winner a Victory Point and the right to extra resources. Others require adding a piece to the ongoing Cathedral and acquiring the related Victory Points. Now that some order has been restored, most players will use their remaining resources to bribe, attack, and plunder. This delightfully bitter period of selfish rage is followed by the collection of any incomes due. Then the next problem emerges, and so the cycle continues until the last Cathedral piece is added to announce the arrival of peace. Forevermore? Not likely--let's start another game...
There were a number of good games from independent producers at Essen last October, but the two that were attracting the most attention were Richard Breese's Keydom and Gerard Mulder's Charlemagne. Both were unabashed gamers' games and as good to look at as they were to play. Keydom was attracting a lot of interest from possible publishers; Charlemagne didn't need to, for it had already been snapped up by Kosmos. Krieg und Frieden (which would be a great title for a novel) is the commercial production of Charlemagne. And a very handsome job they have made of it, with the game development side being in the hands of TM Spiele (the ``gamers' game'' label that Klaus Teuber set up six years ago and which now seems to be being used by Kosmos in the way that Alea is being used by Ravensburger) and with the graphics being provided by the ubiquitous and highly talented Franz Vohwinkel. With this game even the box is beautiful.
The idea of the game is that the king of some medieval land is coming towards the end of his reign with no natural heir. His successor will be whichever of the leading nobles manages to ingratiate himself sufficiently with the old boy to get the nomination in his will. Doing this will be partly a matter of demonstrating one's fitness to rule by being the man of the hour when it comes to resolving the crises such as war and famine that afflict the kingdom and partly by taking a leading role in the completion of the king's pet project, the building of a great cathedral.
The board shows a central site, which is where the cathedral will be built, and four estates, one for each of the nobles. Each estate has nine sites for huts, of which up to six will be occupied by farmers and up to three by stonemasons. The rest of the equipment consists of some wooden huts, six wooden sections which will come together to form the cathedral, victory point markers and two sets of cards. One of these sets is the ``agenda cards'' and the other the ``resource cards''.
The game is played in ``years'' each with four seasons, beginning with Winter, when the ``king's adviser'' will attempt to set the policy agenda for the year by playing an agenda card from hand. These cards come in four types -- war, famine, taxes and civil unrest -- and each has the symbol of either the cathedral or a privilege charter in its corner. The other players then have the opportunity of changing this card to something that suits them better, but doing so will require them to surrender one of their hard-won privilege charters and this will have an adverse effect on their future income. Despite that there will be times when you will want to do it, because getting an agenda that you can `win' is the only way to gain victory points. The end of the Winter season will see the fixing both of the nature of the crisis facing the kingdom and the reward that is on offer to the noble doing the most to resolve it.
In the Spring season, players use their resource cards to bid for the position of the noble who gets the credit for dealing with the crisis. The resource cards, like the agenda ones, come in four types -- knights, food, wealth and peasant manpower -- with each being better than the others at solving particular types of crisis. So, for example, if you are faced with a war, the most useful resource you can have at your disposal is knights, but if you are in the middle of a famine, they are the last thing you want because all they seem to do is eat. A full description of the bidding procedure would take too long, but take my word for it that it is a clever and elegant piece of game design with some novel twists that force the players to think not just about their own holdings but about the likely holdings and plans of their opponents. Eventually someone will have won the bidding and they surrender the resource cards that it took them to do so and collect their reward. If the symbol in the corner of the agenda card was a charter, this is one victory point plus a ``privilege'', something that will boost their acquisition of new resource cards. If, on the other hand, it was a cathedral, they add a new piece to the partly built cathedral in the middle of the board and collect a number of victory points for doing so. The basic victory point rate for cathedral building is 1 for pieces one to three, 2 for pieces four and five and 3 for the final piece six. To this basic rate is added 1 for each stonemason's hut that the player has on the board. The player who has won the bidding also takes over as the new ``king's adviser''.
In the Summer, players use resource cards to campaign and build. Knights can be used to attack other players' estates, burning down huts and collecting loot when you are successful. Money can be used to disband opposition knights, thereby stopping them either making future attacks on you or defending against attacks that you yourself have planned. Food resources can be expended to build new huts for farmers and manpower to convert farmers into stonemasons.
Finally, in the Autumn, each player collects income in the form of resource cards. Everybody has a basic income to which is added extra from privileges and from farmer's huts. After that it is back to Winter again and the cycle continues until the cathedral is complete.
As Derek Carver remarked in his variant piece last issue, and as you have doubtless figured out for yourself from my description, this is a serious game for gamers. It is not aimed at the family market and the box makes this clear, describing it as a ``tough strategy game'' and ``not for those of a tender disposition''. It is also, it must be said, a game with an imbalance in the scoring, an intentional imbalance but one that not everybody likes. It is the result of a deliberate decision on the designer's part to skew the victory points towards the last turn, not to the extent that whoever wins the last bidding round will win the game -- despite assertions that have been made to the contrary -- but certainly to the extent of making the last turn very important. His stated reason for doing this is that he prefers games where the result is in doubt until the end, but if you think about it, it also makes sense in terms of the scenario. In this sort of succession, whoever holds the key office at the moment when the king drops off the royal twig is the one who is best placed for the succession. That being so, if the mechanics are to be true to the theme, the last turn ought to be the most important, but as I said, not everybody is happy with the idea.
There are two ways to deal with a situation like this. One, and it is the one that you should certainly try first, is to respect the designer's intention and to learn how to deal with the problem that he has set you. This means planning your game strategy not on a turn by turn basis but as a whole and with the last turn crock of gold in mind. If, after giving this a thorough trial, you decide that, as far as you are concerned, the scoring balance doesn't make for an enjoyable game, then change it. This is quite easy to do and you don't need to touch any other part of the game. Using the official rules, by the end the total number of victory points that have been split between the players will probably be in the high twenties and on average five of them will have been picked up by whoever won the last turn. If you think that that is too high a proportion, a simple way to change it is just to add one to the victory points on offer in each game year: so players now score 2 rather than 1 for winning a privilege and the basic score table for the cathedral is 2-2-2-3-3-4 rather than 1-1-1-2-2-3. The total score on offer over the game would then go up from around 28 to around 40, with the last turn being worth 6 on average rather than 5. The last turn is still the most important, but the ratios have been altered.
We played our first game without either of Derek's variant suggestions. Having made the experiment on your behalf, I'd suggest that you went along with his changes from the start. The game can be liable to a Catch 22 situation: to stand a good chance of winning one of the Spring bidding rounds it helps if you can set the agenda, but you can't set the agenda unless you have previously won one of the Spring bidding rounds. This can make it difficult to get started. The suggestion that each player should have a token that they can use instead of a privilege when changing the agenda gets round this. The other one, which enables people to build up their hands more quickly after they have been denuded by a bidding round, is also a good idea in a game which doesn't have a lot of rounds.
In summary, this is a good game with very enjoyable game play but with a slightly eccentric scoring system that not everyone will like, but which can be changed easily enough to something that suits you better should you turn out to be in the ``anti'' camp.