Settlers of Catan Meets Risk in "War of Kings"
What would happen if Settlers of Catan met Risk? That is basically the question that my brother, Seth, and I pondered when we were designing our first boardgame together. We played a lot of Settlers of Catan back when it was all the rage, but, like so many of you, we really wanted to be able to send an army across the island to raze someone’s town, especially when they built in exactly the spot that you needed. Likewise, we used to play Risk quite a bit, especially when we were younger. But, one of the problems with that game is that there was not a resource or construction element to it, just the mechanics of getting reinforcement armies. We wanted to blend those concepts together in a game, because we wanted to design the kind of game that we wanted to play.
So, that is what we did, we took the combat and conquest part of Risk and we blended it with a resource management and construction mechanic inspired by Settlers of Catan. We called it, War of Kings. That’s why, whenever I go to explain War of Kings to someone in the quickest way possible, the easiest way to do that is to say “Settlers of Catan Meet’s Risk”.
For the resources, we divided the whole board up into territories and gave each territory a primary and a secondary resource. Our resources were wheat, cattle, timber, and stone. Then we also had gold, but gold is generated by settlements (like towns and cities when they are connected by the road network to your capital city). The gold is represents economic productivity and commerce of the kingdom. The resources are your raw materials. Each territory got a primary resource and a secondary resource. The number of units of each one of the resources the territory generates is dependent upon the level of settlement in the territory. Just controlling it gets you one unit of the primary resource, having a village in it get you 2 units of the primary resource, a town gets you three units of the primary resource as well as 1 unit of the secondary resource, and a city gets you four units of a primary resource and two units of the secondary resource.
But, not every territory generates resources each turn. Each territory also has a color. We developed the resource dice which are rolled at the start of each round. Only the territories of the colors rolled generate resources that round, but every player at the table generates resources with the same dice roll. Every player has a different assortment of color and resource combinations around their starting domain which gives you plenty of opportunity to wheel and deal and trade among players.
With your resources you can build and upgrade settlements, build and upgrade fortifications from walls to fortress to castles, and, of course, recruit armies. You can also build roads which not only help out your kingdom economically by generating commerce and gold but they also allow your armies to move more quickly around your kingdom. The construction phase of the game is simultaneously played by all the players at the table. We thought that was a great innovation, because in early playtest we had each player build on his or her turn, and that just took too long waiting for everyone to build their stuff on their turn. Simultaneous play was the way to go. That just left everyone to move their armies, explore and fight on their individual turns.
So, we did have an exploration element of the game because when you send an army out into a territory which has not been previously explored by some other army, there is a table you roll on to see what is in the territory. It could be empty, you could get free resources, you could encounter a plague, or there could be enemy marauders in the territory. We introduced this idea of a barbarian horde into the game which are out there in unexplored territories. Sometimes you have to fight them off and other times, on your turn you can take control of the marauders and use them to attack your enemies.
Then, of course, there is combat. We designed this combat system by building a script in Python and then simulating the battles thousands of times. That would also allow us to adjust certain parameters, rerun the simulations and then see what happened with those changes. We wanted each army to be very significant. So having one army in a territory is a big deal. Having more than one is an even bigger deal. We used different attack dice, defend dice, and then bonus dice for more armies in a territory and then also bonus defense dice for the defender if he or she was defending a territory with some kind of fortification in it. And of course higher levels of fortifications provided more defense.
Creating War of Kings was the first creatively entrepreneurial project that I ever did. So, not only did we learn everything about game design and boardgame prototyping, but then my brother and I had a baptism by fire in running a Kickstarter campaign to get the game funded. Then we also had a baptism by fire when we learned how to get the game manufactured overseas and freighted to us. Then we learned all about packing and shipping the games ourselves and how much storage space 1,000 War of Kings games took up! Seth was kind enough to dedicate a room in his basement for game storage and company operations at that time.
So, War of Kings really was what started it all. That is what got me started down the path of being a creative entrepreneur in the tabletop space and everything that has gone along with that. It was a wonderful experience.
If you would like to learn more about the game, I have all of the original videos we shot from behind the scenes development of the game, the game trailer, and how to play and strategy videos all on Heath's YouTube channel, so you can click over and learn a whole lot more about the game. There is also a digital copy of the rulebook available online if you want to open that up and read through it to see what we did with the game. Then you can figure out how we did. Did we achieve our goal of blending together Settlers of Catan and Risk? Let us know in the comments section.
I still have a few copies of War of Kings left, and I do mean a very few. They are right here on the online store and I can only ship them to the United States. So, if you want one, that is the place to go.