Tobold's Blog
Saturday, January 29, 2022
Watching Kingdom Death: Monster

I watch a lot of board game content on YouTube. Some of it is just people talking about board games, reviewing them, discussing the latest crowdfunding projects, and the like. Other channels offer playthroughs of board games, which is often much more helpful than just a review. If you see a game played, you get a much more immediate idea of whether that sort of gameplay would be fun to you or not. However, it turns out that board games are a lot harder to film than video games. I have a couple of favorites, like Rob's Gaming Table or BoardGameGeek's Game Night. But if the game you want to know about hasn't been covered by your favorite channels, you end up looking at other channels. And many of them have a problem of getting the game clearly visible on camera, and explaining well what is actually going on.

Due to recent discussions in the board game community I follow, I wanted to have another look at Kingdom Death: Monster. It is a bit of the elephant in the room for serious board gamers. The 2017 Kickstarter had a $2,500 all-in pledge, and just buying the core game from their website is currently $420. As I said previously, I am not tempted, mostly because the high price is caused by the game having a lot of miniatures, and these miniatures are *not* yet assembled. The Dice Tower made a recent video on Kingdom Death: Monster in which they inserted a "6 months later" slide at the point where the manual says "assemble the miniatures". Well, the whole video was mostly making fun of the game, but to me miniature assembly and painting is just stuff I can't do well and don't enjoy, so this is not for me.

However, the question was whether Kingdom Death: Monster is actually a good board game. So after some discussion with people who thought it was, I got advised to watch the Beasts of War Kingdom Death: Monster videos on YouTube, which I did. This is a 3-player playthrough of the core campaign, with a mix of people who know the game and newbies, and competent camera management and game explanation. So it gives you a very good idea of the game, if you are interested.

After understanding a lot more about the various game systems of Kingdom Death: Monster I am even less interested in buying this game. What people like about KDM is the experience of having a lot of shocking things happen. You generally arrive at these things happening by either rolling dice or drawing cards, and then rolling a d10 to determine whether the outcome is good or bad. Higher rolls get you more favorable results. On a 1 generally something very bad happens, and on a 10 something very good. The general theme of the game is one of gore and nudity (there are several "Pinups of Death" expansions). So the "great experiences" you can have in KDM include things like cutting of the big monsters genitals and using them as a resource for your settlement. The English language has this strange disparity that things that are labeled "adult" and "mature" are most likely to be childish and immature.

If you don't mind the theme, I still can't recommend the game. You see, cutting of the White Lion's "ding dong" and gaining the lion testes is a completely random act. It can happen while you attack the lion face-to-face. You draw the same hit location card regardless of your relative position to the lion. A few games into the campaign you might have some options to manipulate the hit locations deck, but it still doesn't correlate with positional combat. Overall both combat and the rest of the game feels very random. It is a lot of rolling dice and drawing cards that result in unexpected and often horrible things. Luck plays a big roll, while tactical options are few and far between.

I presume that if you went all-in and bought the $2,500 pledge with everything, you will have a decent variety of monster fights. I haven't found a video series showing this. In the base game, your first fight is against the White Lion, and sometimes later you'll fight the Screaming Antelope. And over a campaign there will be a *lot* of fights that either are against the lion or the antelope. If a fight is not against those, it usually is because of a fixed event in the timeline sends you against a nemesis monster, e.g. The Butcher in year 5, but these are designed to crush you, and you are very likely to lose several characters in these fights and survive only barely, if at all. One needs to be a bit masochistic to enjoy Kingdom Death: Monster.

There are some really interesting game mechanics in KDM in the settlement phase. The core game loop is one of going out to hunt a monster, coming back with a bunch of random monster parts, and turning those monster parts into weapons and armor, making your characters stronger for the next hunt. There is potential there, if you wouldn't constantly lose characters due to random events. There are a number of official and inofficiel variants of KDM that make the game easier, and probably more enjoyable.

In the end, I don't think this is worth it. The already expensive core game in unbalanced, random, and repetitive, so you need the overpriced expansions and house rules to turn this into a game with more variety and better balance. I'd recommend a $50 alternative, Aftermath, if you are looking for a tactical combat campaign game with a settlement phase.


Interesting video. I can't get over how horrible that, presumably expensive, gaming table looks to play on. It's not big enough for some games, especially since absolutely nothing can hang over the lip. Heaven forbid you are playing PnP or something where you want to write a lot. Even for that game with tiny character sheets it looks awckward.

I have exactly the same reaction to gaming tables. I simply can’t understand how they would make board games better, to me they seem to make them worse. Seems very uncomfortable to play over the lid. And all that just to avoid dice going over the edge? I use a small dice tray anyway!
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