On Monday I talked about Kingdom Death: Monster, a board game which is finally hitting Kickstarter backers’ hands after a very long journey, and that I thought was one of the more amazing experiences put to tabletop lately. But it’s one thing to tell you how it could play, and another to show you an example of exactly how it does play.
While I’d love to stream a session, recording a board game is logistically difficult. Aside from the slower nature of play, and the all the rulechecking/decision making that happens inbetween dice rolls not being particularly exciting to watch, I feel it would require multiple camera angles to capture everything.
So instead, last night I sat down and started a fresh solo campaign, and over the course of three hours played and journaled the events of two Lantern Years worth of play from Kingdom Death. That playthrough is retold here to show you how an actual game plays out, and even if you aren’t all that into boardgaming yourself, hopefully it provides you with some fun reading material. I took more pictures of the action towards the beginning so you could get an idea of what things look like, which I thought was less necessary during the later stages.
(If you right click on the images and open them in a new tab, you can view them fullsize.)
[paraphrased from the prologue:]
My survivors woke from a dreamless sleep into a world of total darkness. Rubbing the ink from their eyes, they had but moments to survey their shadowy surroundings before a cruel beast emerged from the darkness. The frail humans were no match for the monster, and as they tried to flee, it chased them down, rending flesh, snapping bone, and devouring them.
One man, overcome with terror and despair, collapsed to the ground. The beast was too quick, and there was no escape. Yet he did not want to die. Grasping at the stone floor, he found a crack, and tore at it with all of his might. A piece broke free, a shard of stone.
Brandishing his crude weapon, he rose, and screamed into the darkness. A group of survivors prepare to fight for their lives…
KD:M always starts off your campaign with the First Story, a prologue and tutorial of sorts, designed to teach/refresh the core gameplay elements.
I set up the showdown board as instructed, with the White Lion in the center, and my survivors six spaces away.
I named my survivors, gaining them each one survival (a finite resource that can be used for certain abilities, such as dodging an attack). Clockwise from the top, Gaius, Cullen, Saoirse and Ayana. I set Cullen out in front of the lion to act as the recipient of the first attack, because the White Lion gets to go first.
Each survivor is equipped with naught but a meager loincloth for protection, and a shard of stone.
The Lion attacks, drawing the top card from its AI deck. Claw, a fairly straightforward but vicious attack.
Speed is the number of attacks made by Claw, so in this case, 2 dice rolled. Accuracy is the number each roll needs in order to hit, and damage is the amount of damage each hit causes. The lion advances on Cullen, and lashes out, with two direct hits, causing two damage.
I then roll two hit location dice to find out where Cullen has been struck. He takes a wound to his body and head.
(Note: I made an error on this playthrough, forgetting that when a survivor takes heavy damage (the thick outlined boxes) they are knocked down. Cullen should have been knocked down from the hit to his noggin.)
With the Lion’s turn complete, it was time for my survivors to see what they could do! Saoirse runs up behind the Lion into its blind spot, needing 6’s on two dice and wonderfully failing to connect with either hit. We’re off to a great start!
Cullen (who should have been knocked down, unable to act, but oh well), also moves around behind the Lion, making his two attacks and connecting with one of them! I draw a card from the Lion hit location deck to see where Cullen has landed his attack… it’s the creature’s Strange Hand! I roll a die attempting to wound the location (the strength of my character and/or weapon + the die roll vs the monster’s toughness ) and roll a Lantern 10! A critical wound!
By critically wounding the Lion’s hand, Cullen not only avoided the Reaction (the Lion would have turned around and attacked me if I had failed to wound), but he severed the creature’s paw! I had Cullen spend his lone survival point to treasure the moment, gaining him +1 strength permanently. (It didn’t come into play this time, but the Lion is now unable to make certain attacks using that hand. Some of the AI cards would be negated.)
Inspired by their fellow human, both Gaius and Ayana charge in stabbing at the Lion with their sharp stones. They are both roll incredibly poorly, and are unable to land a single hit between them.
The Lion, bleeding from the fresh stump where his hand used to be, is furious. It draws the Power Swat card, and turns to Gaius who is the closest survivor in range. With a mighty swing, he sends Gaius flying back towards the board edge, along with damage to his head and body.
Cullen acts first, inspired by his previous success. He manages to roll a hit on the beast’s heel, wounding it. Another AI card is removed from the Lion’s AI deck and placed in the wound pile. Only 6HP left! Satisfied, Cullen moves away from the snarling beast, unwilling to risk further damage.
Ayana is unable to connect with any attacks, but Saoirse moves around in front of the Lion, prepared to take the brunt of the attack on the Lion’s next turn. She succeeds in wounding the Lion’s Paw, to make sure it’s good and angry at her.
Gaius moves forward, but does not get in range for an attack.
The Lion viciously Chomps on Saoirse’s head, dealing one wound.
With a snarl, Ayana lashes out with her stone, rolling a Lantern Ten (perfect/automatic hit) on the Lion’s Tail. She wounds it… but the beast is startled! It charges forward, grabbing poor Saoirse in its mighty jaws and dragging her off into the corner of the board! She suffers damage to her chest in the process and is knocked down.
Gaius is able to reach the Lion’s new location, where it stands growling over a wounded and prone Saoirse. He manages one hit!
The successful hit translates into a wound against the Beast’s Ribs. 3HP left!
At this point Cullen and Ayana are too far away from the Lion to attack this round. Saiorse is in danger of being severely injured or even killed. I hate to lose it, but I decide Cullen will use his founding stone’s special ability.
Cullen hurls his shard of stone at the Lion for a guaranteed hit and automatic crit… I draw a Lion hit location to see where I’ve wounded the beast…
Right in the chest! The hit gains me one random White Lion resource (in this case, I draw Sinew, an organ piece). Cullen then rolls his D10…
…and miraculously pulls a Lantern Ten! The stone shard has punctured the Lion’s heart, killing it instantly!
It easily one of the best First Story showdown outcomes I’ve had. And while I hate to be down one Founding Stone weapon, I consider it more than fair a tradeoff for keeping Saoirse alive. In celebration, my four survivors tear into the Lion’s carcass for resources, walking away with an assortment of hides and organs and bones (and one giant ballsack).
Having survived the immediate threat, and exhausted from their trial, my small band of humans wander to the lone beacon on the horizon; a pile of glowing lanterns. There, they encounter other survivors. I name my small settlement Arcadia, and roll to find out how many people have been drawn to our new home, coming up with a measly 1 on the die. Six new nameless survivors are added to my settlement.
Cullen, the undisputed champion of the Lion showdown, is nominated to utter the tribe’s first words, gaining them the Language innovation. With the power of language, my survivors find they can now Encourage eachother. Spending survival points allows them to shout bolstering comments at knocked down comrades, helping them stand up.
With the four Endeavor I gained from having four survivors return from the hunt, I choose to build the Organ Grinder, Bone Smith and Skinnery settlement locations.
Using some of the various materials I gathered from the Lion hunt, I decide to craft a Bone Axe to replace the Founding Stone Cullen had hurled into the beast’s chest cavity. I also turn to the Skinnery to make two rawhide vests for body protection (though in hindsight, I should have focused on helmets. The head is a far more fragile location).
I have one Endeavor left, and so I decide to spend it at the Organ Grinder for Augury (an omen). I rolled a 10, triggering the intimacy event!
I nominate Gaius and Saoirse to roll on the intimacy table, hoping to add new life to my colony, but the die comes up with a three! Saoirse and her child die in childbirth. Gaius is so distraught he gains +3 Insanity (insanity is like Armor for the brain location), and develops the Prey disorder, under which believes he is destined to die, and unable to spend survival unless he is officially insane (Insanity at 3 or higher).
Saoirse’s death triggers the Principle: Death event, in which my fledgeling society must decide how they wish to deal with death and the bodies of the dead.
I choose traditional graves and burial over cannabilism, and my settlement is rewarded with the Graves principle. As Saoirse was Gaius’ chosen mate, he rolls on the First Grave table, coming up with a 6 and gaining +1 permanant Luck (luck counts towards crit rolls. Now a 9 or a 10 is a crit for Gaius, instead of just a 10).
Cullen, having been nominated to speak the first words, is busy pondering the meaning of existence and unable to depart on the next hunt. Saoirse has perished, so I pull two new survivors from my population to join the hunting party. Enter Johan and Jennissa.
The group heads off to hunt another White Lion, for the food and resources necessary to survive.
The Hunt Track is set up according the prey and level I’ve chosen. The hunting party will advance towards their prey, encountering random events in the darkness along the way. They step forward, and I flip over the first card.
As we hunt him, the Lion is hunting something else, and moves one space further away from us. He will also start the fight with the Ground Fighting ability, a nasty little manuever in which the Lion lies down and waits for a survivor to draw near. When one does, it unleashes a devastating attack.
The party moves forward another space, and discovers a Lion’s sculpture.
The survivors gain their +1 understanding and insanity, and then roll on the random hunt event table to discover the nightmares that await them.
Fortunately, all of my survivors’ insanity is relatively low (Gaius’ being the highest at 4), and all of them manage to roll above their insanity, gaining understanding. Johan now has 3 understanding, which triggers the Insight event.
He rolls a 7, gaining +3 survival (all of which is lost because his survival cap is currently 1) and +3 insanity. My survivors are slowly going mad out in this realm of darkness. But the group presses on, moving to the next space on the Hunt Track. I roll random event number twelve…
Destiny-Bound! Everyone gains a courage, but moreso, allows them to skip the next Hunt Track space… landing them right in top of the Lion and ambushing him!
Normally, I set up the showdown placement according to the book diagrams shown, and the prey goes first. But because we were now ambushing our prey, I was allowed to set up the starting locations however I wanted and the survivors got to go first!
I put the Lion in the center, surrounded by the assigned terrain spaced out for my survivors to use as cover. Due to the Hunt Track event, the Lion was starting with this awful little ability:
A normal basic action for the Lion is 2 speed, meaning 2 attacks. If one of my survivors stepped foot into the “Zone of Death” (ie, melee range), they’d now be taking 4 attacks, each only needing to roll a 2+ to hit, and each dealing 2 damage points per location rolled! That had the chance to outright kill any of my survivors, so I knew I had to get rid of it immediately. The card specifies that when the Lion is wounded, Ground Fighting is discarded.
After setting up my survivors around the Lion, I decided to open with a surefire wound. Johan threw his Founding stone at the Lion, critically wounding its Tail. This not only cancelled the reflex (which would have caused him to grab a survivor and charge away), but also succeeded in removing Ground Fighting, giving the Lion -1 Accuracy, and carving off a Lion Tail resource for himself. Not bad!
Johan, now weaponless, retreats to some nearby tall grass to hide.
Gaius, now wielding the shiny new bone axe I crafted, manages to miss all of his attacks from the Lion’s blindspot. Jennissa scores one hit, but is unable to wound its ribs. Finally, Ayana, attacking from behind, wounds the Lion’s flank. The Lion is angry, and Ayana gains the priority target token (meaning the Lion will attack her above anyone else), but she retreats into some tall grass which removes the token.
The Lion Claws at Jennissa, hitting her in the chest and the head. Her new rawhide chest armor saves her from the body damage, but her skull is not so lucky.
Jennissa retaliates, hitting the Lion, but on an impervious location (its mane). She doesn’t roll the 10 needed to score a resource, so she retreats back into the safety of the grass.
Gaius moves closer, and bloodies his new axe. He wounds the Beast’s Brow, but the giant cat retaliates, dealing a damage to Gaius’ waist (blocked by his loincloth) and one brain damage (lowers his insanity by 1).
An unarmed Johan bravely charges forth from his hiding spot in the grass, determined to fight the Lion with his Fists and teeth (a survivor’s most basic weapons). With a Lantern 10, he lands an impossible hit, but does not have the strength to wound the creature (rolling a 7 when he needed an 8). The Lion roars in defiance, dealing one brain damage to Johan and sending him sprawling.
Ayana is too far away to reach the Lion, so she sets herself up to attack next turn by moving out of the grass.
The Lion draws the Alert card, daring the humans to move. Johan stands up at the end of the monster’s turn.
Gaius swings his mightly bone axe again, dealing a hit to the Lion’s temple, but unable to cause a wound. The Lion retaliates, slashing Gaius’ rawhide tunic to ribbons and landing a blow to his head.
Jennissa moves, triggering the Lion’s alert card. The cat pounces with a basic attack, dealing wounds to Jennissa’s chest and head. The alert card is discarded.
Ayana manages to just barely wound the monster’s ear (a roll of 7+ the 1 strength from the stone shard matches the Lion’s toughness of 8). Johan steps around behind the Lion, and scores a hit but is unable to wound. The failed attempt causes the Lion to run away, grabbing Jennissa in its jaws as it does so. She suffers a wound to her arm as she is dragged off into the darkness.
On the Lion’s turn, it draws Bloodthirsty, a card that gains a token each time a survivor suffers damage for any reason. It also calls for another AI card to be pulled, and this time is pulls Revenge.
Poor Jennissa, lying bloody and prone at the monster’s feet, was the last survivor the Lion wounded. And so the Lion savages her again, dealing a wound to her waist, and a severe wound to her head. She loses an eye in the attack, forever reducing her accuracy by 1. The beast then grabs her again, and drags her off even further from the other survivors. The grab causes 1 damage to Jennissa’s chest.
Hopelessly outdistanced, Johan, Gaius and Ayana run to catch up to the Lion mauling their tribesmate.
[Now, I’m not entirely certain if I played this next part right, but the Rule of Death states that all rule ambiguities must be decided against the favor of the survivors. So, with Jennissa taking one damage to her waist, 1 to her head from Revenge, and a third damage from the Grab, I placed 3 tokens on Bloodthirsty. At the start of the Lion’s turn, I removed the three tokens to perform a basic attack]
The Lion began its next turn by unleaching two attacks on Jennissa, one to her waist and another severe blow to her head, which caused an Intercranial Hemorrhage and one bleeding token. The Lion then drew its AI card, Grasp! I thought for sure Jennissa was done for, but the Lion rolled a 1, missing her! Jennissa manages to stand at the end of the Lion’s turn.
Ayana reaches the Lion, hitting but not wounding it. Gaius gets as close as he can, and Johan manages a hit and a critical wound on the beast’s back with naught but his fists! The White Lion now has 5HP left and another -1 Accuracy token!
The Lion’s AI deck is reshuffled, and it draws Alert again, poised ready to strike.
Ayana, already adjacent to her prey, attacks, but misses for the second turn in a row. Johan attacks, again landing one amazing hit with his furious fists…. but it was a trap! The Lion was baiting him!
Johan pays for his carelessness with a wound to his arm and body.
Gaius hefts his axe and moves in, triggering Alert. He becomes the Lion’s priority target, and the recipient of wounds to his arm and body, but is undeterred. He swings his weapon, scoring two hits! The beast’s tail and ribs are drawn.
Gaius chooses to try and wound the Ribs first, as wounding the tail would cause the Lion to run out of range before applying a second wound. He rolls a critical on the Ribs, and the sweet sound of crunching bone echoes through the darkness! The Lion receives -1 toughness, making him slightly easier to wound now!
Gaius also lands another wound on the tail, but since he has unfortunately situated himself right in front of the beast, he is quickly snapped up in the Lion’s jaws and dragged away. His hand is injured in the process.
Jennissa runs to try and catch up, following the trail of Gaius’ blood.
The Lion draws the only card left in its AI deck: Revenge. It looms over Gaius, helpless at its feet. With a mighty blow, the Lion’s paw connects with Gaius’ head, causing severe damage. His skull erupts into a shower of brain matter and blood, and he is killed instantly.
The three remaining survivors recoil in horror at the sight, each losing 1 survival point.
The survivors know that the Lion is out of range to attack them, and the only card it has left to draw is Revenge, so they stand their ground, and let the beast come to them. On its turn, the Lion draws revenge and stalks closer to Jennissa.
Jennissa welcomes the challenge, and moves to engage the Lion. She scores a hit and a wound on the cat’s flank, making her its new priority target. The Lion has no cards left in its AI deck. The next wound will kill it.
Ayana runs up to hit, but cannot get past the Lion’s toughness to wound it. Johan, hoping to finish off their prey, charges forward, and hits but also cannot surpass the toughness of the beast’s hide. Angered, the Lion charges forward, grabbing both Johan and Ayana in its powerful jaws and dragging them to the board edge. Johan weathers a hit to his body, but poor Ayana’s battered body cannot shrug off the severe damage to her head. She is decapitated by gnashing teeth, and dies in the Lion’s maw.
The Lion turns to Jennissa, still his priority target, and lands a basic attack on her legs. Johan stands up.
Jennissa limps into the Lion’s blindspot, hoping to negate the -1 accuracy caused by her missing eye, but still rolls a 5 to hit when she needs a 6.
Johan, still weaponless, manages 2 direct hits, one to the Lion’s Back and one to its Elbow. Failing to wound on either location will cause the Lion to run away, and negating the second wound. Johan decides to attack the beast’s Back, and rolls his die…
…For a Lantern 10! Critical Wound! The White Lion has been slain!
Battered and bloody, and surrounded by the ruined corpses of their friends, Johan and Jennissa carve the beast into pieces and begin the trek back to their settlement.
At this point the survivors would return to the settlement with their spoils, and I would have the opportunity to craft, develop buildings, innovate new ideas and principles etc, before setting off on another hunt. But this gives you a look at the brutal and varied world of KD: M, and I hope you’ve enjoyed the playthrough journal!