Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Khan of Khans play test

Who rules in Prax?
I bought Khan of Khans a couple of weeks ago largely because I was intrigued by the game's setting in Glorantha, itself a very rich and diverse world that has evolved over the decades as the setting for the RuneQuest roleplaying game and more latterly HeroQuest. Khan of Khans is Chaosium's first venture back into the board gaming market in what has been a very long time indeed. It matches board games ace designer Reiner Knizia with the Glorantha IP which Chaosium currently controls.

KoK is a nice little card game with cartoonish art which will readily appeal to the kids. It can be played fairly quickly and once you get the hang of it, moves along at a fair clip. Each player takes on the role of one of the nomadic tribes of Prax, distinguished by the different mounts they ride - e.g. buffaloes, antelopes, heck even rhinos. Each tribe also has a unique special ability, some of which are active - they need you to consume your action that turn to use, and some of which are passive, normally in force all the time, and generally there to stop bad things happening to your tribe.

Each turn a player can choose to either raid one of the iconic Gloranthan locations, which are each represented by its own deck of cards, use magic in the form of Waha's Blessing, or corral cows. This last action is very important. The game is won by the player who steals the most cattle from those effete civilized peoples (e.g. the Mostali/Dwarves, the Ducks, the Sun Dome temple, the Grazelanders and so forth). However, bad things can happen to your herds unless you corral them - e.g. they can stampede. Putting your cows in a corral effectively locks them safely away and you can be confident you can score those at the end of the game.

As you pull cards from locations, you generally end up with cows. Sometimes a player can draw bad events, like the aforementioned stampede, or defensive magic which can also mess up your precious herds. At other times they can draw a tribal champion, who is useful for defending against magical attacks. Generally you don't want more than one tribal champion, as they have a tendency to fight and go off in a huff, taking cattle with them.

The tactical bit


Dragon Pass and the various targets for nomad raids.
Let's talk a little bit about tactics now. I've only played two games but it quickly became obvious that as each location has only one stampede (actually not correct - one of them has two, but that is because the second one is a special event), once a stampede and enemy magic cards have emerged from a location, you will want to raid it, heavily, as the other cards will generally be cows and maybe the tribal champion. It is therefore worth keeping an eye on which cards are coming from which decks.

Secondly, you only have a limited number of corrals, which is dictated by the number of players. Once you use them, they are gone. Hence you have to balance the appeals of getting your herds into a corral against risking them on the open plains. When is a herd big enough to take into your corral? That's down to you.

Each location also has a unique card. This can be extra cattle, or an extra stampede, for example. Veterans of the game WILL have a slight edge here, at least in the first couple of games, if they are more familiar with the locations. BUT, this is a short game. I'm always sceptical when a game claims to be playable in 30 minutes (my experience with the monster that is Serenity has imbued me with a high degree of caution). However, in the case of Khan of Khans this is pretty realistic and it can be quickly played, which makes it IDEAL for taking on vacation.

In conclusion


The game is not too difficult to grasp and most players will be able to get their heads around the basics pretty quickly. It may be that there are still hidden tactical subtleties in KoK that I may have missed. If so, that will have to wait until I've played it a little more. I'm definitely planning on taking this on holiday with me in July.

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