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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.

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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

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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.

by Dr Jay
The Cathedral Takes Too Long to Build!
November 20, 1999

Krieg und Frieden interested me and the gaming friends because of its original name, Charlemagne, and the appeal of that historical period. We soon learned the rules took at least an hour to shake clear. We had to learn the meaning of resource points.

The battling knights for war, the begging individual for famine, the receiving of goods for taxation, and the castle attacking card for unrest became quite important as agenda cards in the game. Each player receives four agenda cards at the beginning. We had to rely on the Internet printouts of rules summaries to discover each of the three players should receive eight resource points to start the game. That should have been clarified in the original rules printed.

Once we had our cards, we found the extra cross on one of the agenda cards for the starting player. The starting player bid heavily with shields (knights) as 4 points under 'war' agenda and won the bid. It soon became apparent we could place a peasant hut (building) for free (in the Summer Phase) near where the cathedral would eventually be built. For each barley card (in the Summer Phase) you could build one peasant hut on your estate. The wooden blocks for the huts and different sized blocks for building the cathedral provided a pleasant diversion.

After much discussion, we decided (as a house rule) each player was entitled to one turn to constitute the round of Winter and every other season (Spring-Summer-Fall). The third player immediately played a goblet (riches designation) in the Summer Round on my estate. That meant I had to give up a knight. I should have suspected early that player knew I held considerable knights. That bribery ploy as part of the turn can wreck your knights in your hand. In addition, a knight threatening another player's knights means both knights are lost. I lost three knights in that manner.

That round ended, and we were ready for Spring. In Fall we collected taxes and received one resource card for each two buildings. Because my resource card for War indicated a cathedral, I was able to place one point for a piece of the cathedral base. It pays, though, to place the last three building blocks of the Cathedral for three points apiece. In time, all the pieces of the cathedral (when built) look like a Gothic masterpiece.

The victory points had now accumulated to two on my board, and I felt too flushed with possible victory points or the most fame. Also, most of my knight cards had been used, threatening the player who originally played the first goblet. The second play went to me, and the card became the Unrest. Again, having the pitchforks (representing the peasants and worth four points apiece) proved lucrative in the bidding for the Unrest agenda card. The resource listing card of each player gives you bidding points (4-3-2-1) under a certain agenda for the Spring Round. However, I was now reduced by the Spring and Summer Rounds to three cards from the original eight. I was ready to plead the King's Mercy with four or fewer cards, but two victory points or fame prevented me from asking. Also, the rules state you must give up the remainder of cards if your hand holds more than 10 cards.

When the game ended, the second player had a fistful of cards (about 10) and was proceeding to outbid the other two players. It was evident with two remaining cards I might as well forget about becoming the first player to determine Taxation or Famine agenda as the last two outcomes. This frustration in play suggests the game needs a clearer definition of the rules. These questions were raised during play:

  1. What happens to the huts after they are destroyed by a knight who cannot be challenged? Are they played again after being put back in the player's stockpile?
  2. Does the counter mix determine the number of huts?

The game possesses potential. It was called a gamer's game by some other reviewer. The strategy factor appears high. That may be true, but games should not have to take part of the evening to clarify confusing rules that hamper playing ability.

by Mark U
Not quite up to snuff
February 22, 2000

I have to agree with the other reviews on this page that point out that the last round (and the second to the last round) are the most crucial in the game. I would also like to add that somehow I sense something else missing. The simple fact that the board is laid out with so much gameboard area and rule mechanisms devoted to huts (90% of board area and the rules mechanisms of hut building, hut upgrading, and hut destruction), you would think that the hut building process would be very crucial to winning. That is hardly the case... as the winner of our game won easily by very fortunate card draws in the last 2 rounds, without ever having managed to keep a single hut on the board during the entire game. I believe the hut building should give the player more advantages than it currently does. I managed to build up basic huts, and even upgraded many of them, and was positioning myself for a big castle building round to win the game when I suddenly found myself drawing unlucky low point cards in the second to the last round. My opponent burned down all my huts in one turn as a result, and won the game on the very next turn. This game is flawed, but I'm sure that some creative gamers out there can find a solution.

A promising design that is, sadly, flawed.
November 18, 1999

While attending the Alan Moon's Gathering of Friends in April, my good buddies Ted Cheatham and Ty Douds ran up to me, both excitedly claiming that I just had to try Krieg und Frieden. They both said I would love the game and it was 'right up my alley'. Of course, I immediately joined in the next game I could find.

After an incredibly horrendous beginning which saw one player draw an inordinate amount of knights and proceed to continually decimate us, the game finally settled down and became mildly enjoyable.

Still, it became apparent that, as in many NBA basketball games, the first three quarters don't matter much. The game boils down to the final bid; up until then it is simply a matter of positioning oneself so you have enough resource cards and at least one privilege marker to make a grab at winning the last bid and, likely, the game. Thus, the game left me shaking my head and wondering what all the fuss was about.

Still, I was interested in giving the game another try. Thanks to the generosity of my wife who presented me with K&F as part of my Father's Day gift, I had the opportunity. Thanks to an excellent editing and formatting of the english rules by Steve 'K-ban' Kurzban, the game flowed much smoother this time around. In spite of the easy flow of the game this time, however, the game is still lacking. And that's a shame, because the mechanism is fairly unique. There really should be a great game in here ... it simply isn't happening, though. After yet a third playing, with equally disappointing results, I am ready to declare the end game broken.

Each player represents a noble who is attempting to gain the most favor from the king. Each turn, a problem faces the realm (represented by the playing of an 'agenda' card) which must be dealt with by the nobles. These 'problems' come in one of four forms: war, unrest, taxes and disasters. The noble who proposes the best solution to the problem wins the king's favor and gets to execute the special power conveyed by the agenda card.

'Solutions' are proposed by players bidding resource cards. Each of the four resource cards carries a different value depending upon the problem being faced. Thus, a 'knight' card is very valuable (4 points) in dealing with a war, but is virtually worthless in times of famine (1 point). Players take turns openly bidding resource cards for the right to 'solve' the problem. The interesting bidding mechanism is that during each subsequent round of the bidding, if a player increases his bid, he must set the new resource cards in a row below those previously bid. If a player passes, he may only reclaim his most recent row of resource cards. Any card bid prior are lost. This makes for some interesting bidding.

The ultimate high bidder pays the resources bid and then becomes the 'King's Advisor'. This allows him to set the agenda for the following round. Plus, the player has 'solved' the problem facing the realm and gets to exercise the special privileges granted by the agenda card. There are two powers, depending upon the agenda card solved:

  1. Privilege: The victorious noble earns one victory point and chooses one of the four 'privilege' scrolls (knight, barley, serfs or riches). This will allow that player to get a free resource card of that type during the Fall harvest. Plus, any player who possesses a privilege has the opportunity to change the proposed agenda by surrendering his privilege and substituting an agenda of his choice from his hand.
  2. Cathedral: The victorious noble gets to add a piece to the central cathedral, which earns him victory points. The first three pieces added are worth 1 VP apiece, the following two pieces are worth 2 VPs, while the final piece is worth a whopping 3 VP. To this is added the number of 'builders' the noble has working on the cathedral. Thus, if a player has two builders huts and adds a piece worth 2 VPs, he earns a total of 4 VPs for constructing that piece of the cathedral.

Following the execution of the special privilege granted by the agenda, each player then may utilize his remaining resource cards to perform various tasks:

  1. Barley - each 'barley' card played allows the construction of a new farmstead. For each two farmsteads, a player receives a resource card during the Fall season.
  2. Serfs: For each serf card played, a player may 'promote' one of his existing farmstead huts to the 'builder's huts' spaces. As described, these add to the victory points earned when constructing a piece of the cathedral.
  3. Knight: A knight card is played on an opponents in attempts to burn and loot one of his huts. If successful, the opponents removes a hut of his choice from the board and the victorious player receives two resource cards to represent the ensuing looting and pillaging. An opponent can nullify a knight played upon him by playing a knight card from his hand.
  4. Riches: By playing a 'riches' card on an opponents, it forces that opponent to discard a knight card from his hand. If the opponent does not possess a knight card, then he must show you the cards in his hand.

Finally, all players receive resource cards: one for each two 'farmstead' huts they have on the board, one for simply being in the game, plus any awarded for possessing privilege scrolls.

Players who have less than 5 resource cards and have only received one resource card that round may then petition the King for aid. The player may then select any opponent who has an equal or greater amount of victory points and take half of his resource cards, rounded down. The pillaged opponent receives a privilege scroll as compensation. This rule, as many in the game, is intended to serve as an equalizer and keep everyone in contention for victory. Finally, any players who have more than ten resource cards must discard down to ten.

The game concludes when the sixth and final piece of the cathedral is constructed. The player with the most victory points is victorious. Ties are broken in the favor of the player who has the most resource cards remaining.

Admittedly, the game sounds intriguing. Its mechanics are fairly unique and the components are all top notch. The game should work. It really should. Somehow, however, it doesn't. In my games, the same unsettling problems continue to surface, the main one being that only the final bidding round really matters. By simply playing the game reasonably, one will be in contention to win on the final bid. That doesn't sound bad and is likely what Dutch designer Gerard Mulder had in mind, but it somehow feels wrong. There doesn't seem to be a way in which to play a masterful game, manage one's resources, skillfully bid on the auctions and insure a victory. It all boils down to that final bid. As long as one plays a moderately competent game--I'd even say one could get away with below average play--he will be in contention to win at game's end. One could practically sleepwalk through the game and manage to collect a couple of victory points along the way. As long as one holds at least one petition (and that may not even be necessary due to some dumb luck which can easily occur) and hordes a nice quantity of resource cards entering the final round, he can win. Period. As my good buddy Ted Cheatham says, 'The ride is fun, but the destination disappoints.'

There are so many 'equalizers' in the game that every step forward results in one step backwards. One gets the feeling of treading water ... you just aren't going anyplace. If one wins the right to add a cathedral piece, ALL of your builder's huts are removed after constructing the piece. One has to start all over again. If one does manage to build a lead, however slight, in farmsteads and/or victory points, he will be set upon by all of his opponents by attacks and the 'King's Mercy', and likely lose huts and cards. This is even more devastating if one comes last or near last in the turn order. Finally, the progressively increasing value of the cathedral pieces also makes early constructions moot.

I've now played this game three times and this exact same problem occurred in each and every one of them. I'm not playing with dumb players here--these are smart, intelligent gamers who know how to optimize their plays and develop winning strategies. We're not geniuses, but we usually know enough to be able to play competent, skillful games. Everyone I'm playing with is spotting this flaw. It exists--I have no doubt about it. In my opinion--and the opinion of the vast majority of those I've played with--the game is broken.

As with Rheinlander, I really, really want to like this game. It has most of the elements which should make it a great game. However, it simply doesn't transcend beyond the level of mediocrity.

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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