Saturday, January 10, 2015


Part 4 of the retrospective series on the games that most influenced me.

Not only did my friend Pat introduce me to D&D, he had a large collection of modern (i.e. published in the 1970s) Avalon Hill board games. We played quite a few of his games, like Jutland and Starship Troopers. At the time, my favorite was Kingmaker. I enjoyed it so much that went out and bought my own copy! I proceeded to play it time and again, by myself.

Kingmaker is a strategic game of dynastic conflict during England’s Wars of the Roses (by the way, this game was a history lesson for me. As an American, I was not exposed to much medieval English history, other than the Magna Carta). Each player runs a faction and tries to control the throne. Play is very random; there are event cards and your faction is made up of nobles drawn from another deck of cards.
Kingmaker's components.
Beside the board I see 3 piles of cards that appear to be 3 factions.

This randomness made it easy to play alone. More often, it seemed you were playing against the system (My most powerful noble is being sent to the Northern marches?! That leaves the rest of my force vulnerable to attack!) rather than the “enemy.” Yet there were still glorious battles and epic sieges (not to mention plague), which captured my imagination.

With Kingmaker, I entered a new era of boardgaming. I eschewed the old-fashioned 1960s games of my father in favor of newer games. Most significantly, however, it taught me that solo gaming is a viable source of entertainment. Over the past 30 years (after I stopped being part of a D&D group), most of my gaming has been solo, and I actually enjoy it. I can choose rules that I prefer; I can experiment with different rules and campaign systems; I have free reign for my imagination; I can create scenarios that may be unbalanced and unfair, but are interesting to me. Solo gaming provides extensive mental stimulation and entertainment. Without Kingmaker, I may never have known that going solo is a possible option.

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