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Krieg und Frieden
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Krieg und Frieden

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Ages Play Time Players
12+ 60-90 minutes 3-4

Designer(s): Gerard Mulder

Manufacturer(s): TM Spiele

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Product Description

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.

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Gerard Mulder

  • Manufacturer(s): TM Spiele

  • Year: 1999

  • Players: 3 - 4

  • Time: 60 - 90 minutes

  • Ages: 12 and up

  • Weight: 1,190 grams

  • Language Requirements: Game components are language-independent. An English translation of the rules is provided.

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 3 in 6 reviews

Shorter than the book (War & Peace)
August 08, 2000

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.

A beautiful game of bidding, backbiting and resource mgmt.
July 09, 1999

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!

by Noel
3 stars, but better with the following variant
April 05, 2000

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.

Show all 6 reviews >
Gerard Mulder
October 01, 1999

The History of Krieg und Frieden and Charlemagne
by Gerard Mulder

Holland is culturally speaking much more Anglo Saxon than German. The Dutch speak better English than German and we listen to English music and watch American films. We also play American and English Games. To me the Anglo Saxon Games tradition is one that aims to create a realistic game atmosphere. It all starts with Monopoly and Risk: You want to get rich, so you buy and rent out real estate; you want to conquer the world, so you build armies and attack the other guys. This approach to designing games is essentially followed by companies like Avalon Hill. The desire for 'realism' has spawned ever more complex games where every possible historical detail is covered by an ad hoc rule. Some brilliant examples of this kind of game are Republic of Rome and Empire at Arms. The massive number of war games should also be placed under the same heading. Abstract mechanisms are usually not very important in these games. It is clear what you are doing but the way it works out in the game is fairly coincidental. While I grew up in this tradition of games I noticed that some games stood out. Diplomacy, Civilisation, Acquire and some other titles offered something more than realism. They felt good. They had somehow captured the spirit of what you were actually doing.

More recently people in the Netherlands (like most of the English speaking world) are discovering the German school of games design. In German games the mechanism comes first. Later some realism is added on. Some games capture the real world quite well: Siedler, Euphrat und Tigris, El Grande. Others are rather soul-less: they may have a clever mechanism but the theme is 'dragged in by the hair'. This is especially so in many cardgames, but it is also true of some very good boardgames such as Ra and Tikal.

Designing games theme first or mechanism first that is the real difference between the Anglo Saxon and German traditions. Naturally in practice people always combine the two. I would even go so far as to say that the best games from both schools are all combinations of strong mechanisms and strong themes. The only notable exception to this rule is to my mind Reiner Knizia. He seems to be a designer who always works from the mechanism, though even when the theme is far fetched he manages to compensate for that with the sheer power of his mechanisms.

I am a player that values atmosphere and realism very highly in a game. For me the mechanism alone usually does not provide enough incentive to play and replay a game. For the atmosphere to be good the game must feel right. For a game to feel right everything you do must make sense in the role you are currently playing. If you score points I want to know what they mean in the story of the game. If you get income, where does it come from? If you spend something, where does it go? This does not mean you are not allowed to use clever mechanisms to achieve your goal of 'living the game'.

With this in mind I designed Charlemagne. In Charlemagne you are a medieval noble competing for the king's favours (what else did nobles do in those feudal days?). I designed the game starting with the mechanism. This sounds a bit contradictory but it really isn't. The mechanism I thought of first is a model for a primitive economy not driven solely by money. This economy could then be placed anywhere suitable in history and the rest of the story added to it. The idea is that there were (are) economies where money is not dominant over all other goods and services. When this is the case you cannot focus all your efforts on one commodity. Depending on the circumstances you must have access to different goods and favours. How exactly you divide the power continuum into chunks depends on the theme you choose. In a medieval setting it would have to be something like it is in Charlemagne:

  • Food = barley -- important when there is a shortage of food
  • People who fight for you = knights -- important in conflicts
  • People who work for you = Loyal peasants
  • Money = valuables -- wealth that is easy to transport

The economic system is the heart of Charlemagne but it is not of itself a game. For a game you need conflicts of interest and in a medieval setting the conflict of interest is clear. In the hierarchy of nobles there is only one one goal: Be as close to the top as you can be. Sure, there were nobles that were busier doing nice things for their peasants but they are not represented in this game. A conflict of interest provides enough material for a game. However in real life it is not always obvious what to do to achieve your goals. Therefore we also want to pose a dilemma for the players. Dilemmas are usually a trade off between short and long term gains. The short term gains are usually more secure, the long term gains are usually bigger (otherwise it would not be a dilemma, would it). In the case of medieval nobles it is again simple. Do I use the means that I have to improve my estate or do I invest in my relations with the king? If I improve my position I might have a better chance in the future. On the other hand the other nobles might get jealous and the king might even think I am not being a loyal servant. Perhaps it is better to please the king now and secure my position at the court.

All the above ideas are knitted together in a compact game mechanism in Charlemagne (Krieg und Frieden). The economic system together with the problem cards sets the stage the economy. In case of a war your knights are most valuable. In case of a famine your barley is worth much more than your knights, etcetera. Bidding resources for solving the problems provides the interaction between players. The nobles offer the king means to deal with the problems. The king is most grateful to the noble that offers most help. That noble receives honour and privileges for his work.

The resources must be spent sparingly because they are also needed to build your own estate. Your estate is the source of your wealth. Giving food to your people allows you to build more farmsteads and for the population of your lands to grow. Your knights provide protection and can go out to plunder rival nobles. Your gold can be used to bribe your opponent's warriors and to gain information on his position. Using your labour force you can create craftsmen to provide the king with better service.

Income depends on the number of farmsteads on your estate. On your land you only have limited space. You must choose between building huts for craftsmen and farmsteads. This poses you with another dilemma. Is your economy strong enough to support a force of builders?

Two more mechanisms need to be added to finish the game. One is a timer element. When does the game end? The easy way out is to say the game ends when the king is dead. This can be some random factor. Random factors are realistic but not much fun. In Charlemagne I opted for something that is more related to what people do in the game. The game ends when the Cathedral is finished (was a Castle originally). When a problem is solved the country sometimes rejoices by making an addition to the Cathedral. The person that paid most to solve the problem is also credited for building the latest addition to the Cathedral. You can enhance the beauty of your addition by training some of your peasants as builders.

The second element is the way to set the agenda for which problem to solve. Again a random drawing of event cards is the easy and seemingly realistic option, you never know when disaster strikes. When you think about it, it does not work like that in real life. The priorities at the court for which problem to address are as much set preferences of the king and his advisers. as by what actually happens.

In Charlemagne I assume that all problems are going on at the same time. It is just a matter of priority which problem will be tackled first. Each player controls a number of problem cards. The king's adviser, namely the player that solved the last crisis, is the one who decides which problem will be tackled during the next year. Other players can influence this choice by returning their privileges to the king. By giving up privileges and thus convincing the king of changing the agenda, the nobles try to make sure they will be the one that can solve this year's problem.

Lastly there are some rules to keep strong players in check and help weak players to stay in the game. These rules also follow naturally from the theme. The king has no interest in allowing one of the nobles to dominate or go under. He must divide and conquer.

Even though Charlemagne models all these aspects of feudal life, the rules are still very compact. The game is easy to learn even by 10 year olds. The mechanisms are elegant and the play is realistic. This is my design philosophy and I intend to make many more games like this.

reprinted from Counter Magazine with kind permission of the Editors and the Author

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.

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