As dawn broke over the encampment, the first rays of sun found a place bustling with activity. Men were garbing themselves in the bright colours of their homelands, dragging the vibrant silks and satins out of their packs where they had been packed away for weeks in anticipation of the day.

Armourers adjusted straps on breastplates as they helped their colleagues into their armour, cutlers made a last pass with their whetstones over blades of their neighbours. Squires helped their heavily armoured lords into the saddles of their fine chargers, while black-clad gunners checked their powder and aligned their sights.

And in amongst them all walked the man they still called the Captain, despite it being 20 years since he last ran a mercenary company. Here, his armoured form could be seen in and amongst his troops as he smiled, joked and reassured the men that the day would be theirs. It was good to be back,
thought the Captain, it was good to be back.

On Saturday past (the 10th of February ), I took part in my first campaign day for Kings Of War, my first wargaming tournament in nearly 10 years.

I’d forgotten the aching calves and sore feet, but more importantly, I’d forgotten the joys of dedicating a day to tactics and decision-making, to meeting and playing new people, and the despair of losing narrowly and the joys of scraping a win.

To be honest, I’ve probably only been out of wargaming for a year or two in the past decade, mostly due to overseas commitments. For the last 4 years, I’ve been part of a small group playing historical wargames on the 6mm scale, and for the last year or so I’ve been slowly getting involved with the Cabal (which I can blame on Erasmus, my PhD student, and friend for nearly a decade). Still, getting back into more regular, mainstream gaming is still a new thing to me.

The Captain examined the aftermath of battle. The goblin hordes had tried their best to wrest the ancient artefact from the army of men, but had come up short. Indeed, most of his units still stood, and the bodies of the small greenskins were everywhere. The heavily armoured forms of the Teutogen Guard stood triumphant, their shiny carapaces almost blood-free, so majestic had been their skill in battle. Still, there were casualties, and no battle was ever without loss. However, they needed to regroup fast- there was another army approaching.

Kings of War (KoW) is probably best known as a replacement game for the old Warhammer Fantasy Battles (WFB), ingloriously killed by its parent GW in 2014. However, KoW existed before Warhammer Fantasy died, and, now in its 3rd edition, it is a unique game of rank and file warfare.

Most importantly, the system has rules for many factions from the old Warhammer Fantasy, and people are encouraged to play with the models they have. As many people know, I’m not particularly fond of painting, but I definitely do collect a lot of models.

I collected WFB Empire figurines for years, picking up discount boxes here and there. The collection probably runs to 4000 to 5000 pts of metal and plastic, which is slowly getting unearthed and stuck on bases to play. KoW has provided the impetus for me to get back into the swing of things. Why?

Because it’s a good game.

The Captain stared over the desolate plain. His horse had been killed under him, and he had barely survived the attack of the Vampire Lord. His small force had contested the objectives with the undead to the end, and only a few units still lived. They had taken one objective each on the corners of the
battlefield, but the undead horde in the middle of the field had survived a barrage of fire to secure their 3rd objective.

The battle was lost, narrowly, but the Captain could not stick around to see what the victors did with their prizes. He and his troops were already off and moving, hoping to rejoin the main force they were chasing before they were sidetracked by the necromancers and their unholy forces.

KoW is not random. Yes, there are dice involved, but there are no “winds of magic” or extraneous factors involved. Your units are reliable, and success in the game comes down to player skill. Yes, there are always bad dice rolls (and I’m a master at those), but the probabilities normally work out and by carefully maneuvering your troops to maximize their efficiency, you can fight off the bad dice woes. Or nearly- I lost my second game to a single dice roll at the end of the game when a 6+ on 2d6 would have resulted in a draw…

Still, it was fun getting there. I really enjoy a balanced system like KoW, where you don’t have to worry about being completely outclassed by the newest and brightest releases and those players with the money to keep up with the rat race. In fact, I noted that my army wasn’t the most ancient on display at the tournament day- there were some venerable models on display!

And display is right. KoW uses bases, not individual figures, and encourages the use of scenic “multibases”. Rather than tight movement trays crammed with models, which have to be removed as damage occurs, in KoW the base remains and wounds are simply counted as taken. So you can stick your men down firmly and position them for maximum effect. Anja and I are still coming to grips with this for my army, but already my units look really good. And some of the bases on display at the weekend were quite striking.

The ogres and the humans stared at each other across the battlefield. Both sides had pushed forward on their right flank, and now the bulk of the two forces faced each other. The humans had taken a few more losses, but the battlefield was finely poised. Heaving himself up from under another dead horse, the Captain signaled his men to retreat in good order. The ogres had the slight weight of numbers, and the armies of men would not hinder their forward progress any more.

On Saturday the 10th , we played a global campaign day. Locally organized by the redoubtable Saul, the global campaign split games into 3 time zones- Aussie time, GMT, and then US time. Each time zone had 4 games allocated, and the results from each time zone were correlated and perks awarded to the winning side. So, there were time pressures to finish, but the chance to play 4 games on a day was great. I really encourage people to play tournaments or days like this- the sheer number of games means you get the rules down pat, and then you can concentrate on tactics.

I played all the games the Cabal took part in on the day. At 9am Saul and I played in the last game in the Aussie time zone, then I played Brandon, Louis, and Duane in the GMT time zone. The different scenarios meant that the purpose of each game was different. I had to defend an object from Saul’s goblins in the first, then in the second Brandon’s undead and my men raced to control objectives. In the third, I contested with Louis’ Ogres over who had most many in his opponent’s half. Win, loss, loss, which meant I went into the last game against Duane’s ratkin a little behind. It was the big game, 2000 pts a side. Did the result matter? No, because I had already had a lot of fun. Yes, because I’m a wargamer and I like winning!

The field was theirs! The horrible ratkin had swarmed the troops, and their terrifying flying monster had attacked everywhere in the rear, but the field was theirs. After a long battle, the numbers of ratkin had suddenly dwindled, and then the opposing force had disintegrated. The forces of men held the field in force, and the Captain and his men raised their weapons and bellowed a shout of triumph.

“Yes, indeed it is good to be back,” thought the Captain. “Yes, it is good to be back”.