The King's Will Review

The King's Will Review

Writing this review of the King’s Will, from Blackfire, feels like wading through treacle. It’s not the King’s Will is a bad game, it’s nothing of the sort, it’s full of that all-important ‘meaningful decision’ and has plenty in the box to keep your brain ticking over nicely. The problem is, King’s Will is just, well, bland.

The King’s Will is all about building up your little town. You’ll claim resources, build fancy buildings, upgrade your production and encourage population growth. As the title suggests, you will also be attempting to curry favour with your monarch, and every round of the game there is a set of requirements that the King wishes all of his loyal subject to complete, dishing out points to those who complete the task and punishing those that can’t.

Central to the King’s Will is the action selection track, which is one of its two Clever ThingsTM. Actions are selected from a track in the centre of the board, and the action’s location on the track determines if the action can be selected and if there is an additional bonus available. Once selected, the player who chose said tile will get to take a big juicy version of the action, while the other players will take a slightly limper more dehydrated version.

The King's Will board game review - town.jpg

The real Clever ThingTM is that this track determines the length of the round; if the round end token ever reaches the end of the track then it’s time to pay the King’s his dues. It means that players have a lot of control over how long each round is and, in theory, could mean that the game could last forever, if no player takes the action that triggers the round end. In reality of course, this never happens.

The other Clever ThingTM that King’s Will has in its favour is the end game scoring. There will be a series of cards placed face down on the board, and throughout the game players will bid on which of these cards are to be used for scoring at the end of the game. There are, of course, ways you can peek at these cards throughout the game, but it’s impossible to see them all, which either means you need to pick and see one and concentrate on that goal, or just hope for the best. It does lead to a nice little bluff opportunity as you can try and keep an eye what cards your opponents have bid on and what they seem to be blowing all their actions on achieving.

The King's Will board game review - final scoring

Even as I’m describing this game, I’m convincing myself that King’s Will is a great game that needs to be played more. And there’s no doubt that it is a solid game, for a game of the euro slant there are a surprising amount of ways you can affect your opponents; selecting the actions they want and bidding on the game end scoring.

But there’s a big problem with the King’s will; it’s dull.

It’s difficult to quite get at the nub at what’s wrong, but the simple truth is that King’s Will just isn’t interesting. I don’t know whether it’s the lacklustre theme or the lovely wooden pieces sitting on drab artwork that suck the fun out of the game, but I think the real reason is that it’s far too leisurely. There’s simply no pressure in the game. With the exception of the one action tile holding up the end of the round, you can take your time taking actions, just waiting patiently for the option to come around again.

The King's Will board game review - starting town

However, it’s the King’s Will, the aspect that should be central to the game, which just isn’t meaty enough to give the game heft. The penalty for not meeting the King’s requirements are too slight, the objective too easy and the reward for going above and beyond is often not as good as using the same resources for other parts of the game. There was an opportunity here to add some real pressure to the game, but it feels like it’s been pared back to its fundamentals and the result is distinctly lacking. Even the end game scoring, which should be a big reveal that every player is waiting for in eager anticipation, feels a bit limp as you’ve no doubt chosen one or two cards to concentrate on and the entire thing either evens out or one person storms into the lead making the entire game feel a bit pointless.

The King’s Will is a game where you finish, look up around the table, and everyone nods vaguely and says ‘yeah, it was good’, but then King’s Will gets packed in its box, placed on the shelf and gets forgotten about simply because there are games much more interesting than it. If you are a connoisseur of the euro game, then there may be something in King’s Will to pique your interest. It’s a solidly designed game with plenty to think about. It’s just dull, very very dull.

This review is based on a full retail copy of the game provided by the publisher. 
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