Nearly nine years ago, I decided to embark on the journey of creating The City of Kings board game. Back then, I had no idea what the future held. Initially, it started as a hobby project, but as time progressed, the game evolved and became more serious. It eventually launched on Kickstarter in 2017 and was released in 2018. Since then, I have consistently listened to the community, designed new games, and never stopped learning.
The City of Kings Refreshed Edition
With The City of Kings going out of stock a while back I thought its 5th anniversary would be the perfect time to take the lessons learned and bring it back with a little refresh.
The goal of these updates is to provide players with greater control over the game, to empower some previously weaker options, and to make the game more approachable for those looking for a slightly less challenging game.
It was important to not takeaway from the existing experience or to change what the game is. Additionally, I did not want to change any artwork and wanted to keep component changes as minimal as possible so existing game owners could still enjoy the game.
Let’s talk about the 4 changes.
When you gather or scavenge for resources in The City of Kings you roll dice to determine how much you get. Sometimes you gain attention tokens and when you get your 4th token a creature will spawn.
This risk element to collecting resources is important to the game experience. It stops you collecting unlimited resources and forces you to choose between close dangerous resource locations, and distant but safer resource locations.
As you level up your resource collecting skills, you start to roll more dice and with that comes both the chance to collect more resources but also gain more attention tokens. The intent of the original design was to make it more efficient to gather more resources as you can get more per action, without changing the risk factor.
However, I have notice a lot of players choose not to upgrade their resource collecting stats as they don’t want to risk rolling 2, 3, or 4 attention tokens in a single action.
For example, if you roll 2 dice on a location with 1 attention token then you could increase it to 3 tokens. But if it already had 2 tokens, you now risk spawning a creature which makes using a “semi-safe” space dangerous.
In the Refreshed Edition you can now only ever get a maximum of 1 attention token per work action, regardless of how many attention symbols you roll. You will either get 1 or 0 attention tokens, thus making upgrading these stats more powerful and less risky.
I love open world games and how different options can change in value depending on the current game state and I also like having the ability to work towards something.
To achieve this I designed some systems, including the equipment system, where sometimes they will be the immediate answer to your problems and sometimes they won’t. More specifically, giving you the chance to get items you don’t need now, which you can then plan how to use later, rather than always just giving you what you needed.
The benefit of this system is having to look into options, for example:
“In this situation the equipment we have found is not useful, perhaps we should work towards making some temporary structures or complete a couple of quests. Once we’ve done that we’ll be able to come back and use the equipment we just found and defeat the boss.”
However, not everyone experienced this in the way that I had hoped and some players felt frustrated they didn’t get what they wanted immediately.
The equipment cards have now been split into 2 decks and whenever you get to draw an equipment card you may choose which deck you take it from. The first deck only contains equipment anyone can use immediately (legs and body slots). The second deck contains a mixture of all types of equipment, weighted towards head and arms.
From killing creatures, gathering resources, travelling to locations, stacking wood, or simply gambling, quests should add variety to an adventure and introduce you to the world. When I started writing the quests for The City of Kings I wanted as much variety as possible and worked hard to make the quests interesting and varied.
I am happy with how the quest deck turned out, and what the expansions add to it. There is a lot of variation and it really does shake up your game.
However, some quests spawn creatures and creatures in The City of Kings are very different to most games in that they are extremely hard. You’re only going to fight 5-7 creatures in most sessions and each will make you have to stop and think about how to overcome it.
With quests offering a chance at spawning an extra creature many players see them as too dangerous, especially when they are already struggling and need a solution. This is particularly problematic as quests should be one of the options to overcome difficult situations.
Quests are now optional and when you first read a quest you will immediately decide whether it is something you want to deal with or not. If you choose to not do the quest, you simply continue on your way and ignore the quest that was described. This means if you draw a creature spawning quest at a time that it would be problematic, you may opt not to spawn the creature. You will not get a replacement quest, which may be punishing enough, but it keeps the option open for future turns.
I love hard games and there is nothing that I enjoy more than trying to overcome an extremely challenging situation. This was a big part of why I designed The City of Kings how I did, I wanted a series of tough decisions that you could carefully plan your way through, and for each success to feel well earned.
I think I achieved this as the most common feedback I see is one of two things:
- I love how challenging the game is, it ticks a box no other game does.
- The game is too hard which isn’t fun.
Back in 2015 this was an expected outcome and I was happy for the game to be seen in this way, after all it was the game I wanted to play.
However, these days my other games are played by hundreds of thousands of people from all around the world and not all of them share my tastes for punishing games. I thought long and hard about how to approach this and whether The City of Kings should always fill a niche, or whether it should be more accessible and finally came to a decision.
The creature stat bars have now been replaced with creature stat cards. These work exactly the same way as the creature stat bars, but there are now 2 options. The advanced option is exactly the same as the original game, the other option has easier creatures reducing the overall difficulty.
It should be noted that this does not suddenly make the game easy, the easier option is still challenging and will require you to think out your options. It does however give you more flexibility and alongside all the new rules you’ll find you have many more options available to you.
I have spent over a year playtesting these updated rules and the new creature stat bars and believe they provide a gaming experience that is more accessible, less punishing, but still just as challenging as the original game was intended to be.
I hope this allows many new people to enjoy the game, and perhaps give those who found the game too hard a reason to try once again.
The City of Kings Refreshed will be available from November 21st and you can sign up for a launch notification here.