Nov 192013

In Kingdom, players take on the roles of the movers and shakers in a community facing a crisis, whether it be a village fending off an Orc incursion, a corporation resisting a hostile takeover, a starship lost in space, a platoon of soldiers trapped behind enemy lines, or a city whose mayor is on an unbelievable bender.

Once we’ve decided on a Kingdom that’s interesting to everyone, we create characters who have a stake in the Kingdom’s wellbeing and a chance at affecting it.  Depending on the role you adopt, you can have Power and boss the Kingdom around, have Perspective and  and predict the future, or be a touchstone and decide what the people think of all this nonsense.  Then we play out the politicking, dramatic revelations, back-room dealing and general excitement of finding out what happens to our Kingdom as it hurtles towards the crisis we set for it.

It promises to be an interesting time.

Our Game

Our Kingdom was set on a space station at one of Earth’s Lagrange Points (which we actually put in the wrong place–but we got the other details right!). Drawing heavily on some of the more Marxist 20th century science fiction, we had to deal with the harsh environment, oppressive bosses from Corporate back on Earth, and a drug problem with the station’s youth.  Our cast of characters included the station’s Chief Technical Officer, the Magistrate, the technician in charge of life support, the Quartermaster, and some punk kid who ended up leading a violent revolution.

The Crossroads facing the Kingdom was an piece of anti-drug policy. Lines were quickly drawn between players in favour (’cause spaaaaace!) and those against. The rules never explicitly account for alliances, gathering support, making preparations, and the like.  Nevertheless, we found ourselves doing so; the struggle for power is a story that each of us is familiar with, and we slipped into playing it out effortlessly. Reading the rulebook, one gets an inkling of the tension, the assay and riposte that we came to at the climax, but it was much more vivid than expected in our game.

The setting was fairly vivid (at least in this player’s experience). Making a Kingdom together is a good opportunity to get everyone invested at the outset, and the book stresses how important this is. Though the rules are fairly simple (though the large number of special cases that need dealing with might tip the scales against “elegant”), they’re more of a scaffold than the actual game you’re playing.

All in all, HIGS recommends. This game was expected to be good, but we were surprised at just how engaging it was.

 Posted by at 10:11 pm

  9 Responses to “Kingdom at The Board Room – Review”

  1. What’s on this week?

  2. I’m gonna run a game of Dogs in the Vineyard.

  3. Thanks Sam. I typed up what I remember for the specific story, if that helps.

  4. Okay, here is what I remember.

    Our kingdom was a mining space station in the asteroid belt
    between Mars and Jupiter called Lagrange 4. It had been built from nothing by
    the tough 1st generations who ran the station, but the second generation
    (called spacers) were just now coming of age. The company controlling the
    station had headquarters on Earth, and they didn’t care much about us. They
    charged unfair prices for the materials we mined (platinum?) in exchange for
    stuff we really need, like oxygen, food and water. Lagrange 4 is not self sufficient.
    There are limited shipments of these supplies and they come in by the tanker
    ship load. We must always survive until the next shipment and only so many
    supplies can fit on the tanker. To make matters worse, Earth has been
    controlling the population by sending them copious amounts of “stardust” (a
    calming narcotic similar to dope). This is to keep the citizens from rebelling
    against what they know are unfair conditions. However, the spacers; having
    lived their whole lives in space; are physiologically different from the first
    gens (taller, thinner weaker, more brittle bones, used to lower gravity and
    less sunlight etc.) and the drug effects them differently. To a spacer the stardust
    is a powerful trouble causing stimulant like cocaine. This is causing all sorts
    of problems and Earth doesn’t seem to realize it. The spacers have never seen
    Earth and feel no loyalty to it or to the dirt side humans. They are getting
    more and more fed up with the conditions and want independence. Most of them
    are also far more addicted to stardust than the 1st gens.

    Unfortunately I can only remember my character’s name,
    although I recall being very impressed with the quality of all the names and
    characters. Nat’s character was the chief commanding officer of the space
    station, trying his best to keep things under control and secretly worrying the
    station could fall apart. This was a power position. Sebastian’s (very well
    done) character was the magistrate (more like a sheriff). He was a very complex
    character, very conservative and concerned with preserving the order of things
    and resisting change, but also corrupts. While genuinely concerned for the
    station, it was all too easy for him to give in to his weak nature and accept a
    bribe. (I really liked the complex realistic characters that came out in this).
    This is also a power position. My character (named Mary Atlantar) was the chief
    engineer of life support. She was also concerned the struggling space station
    might not make it; principally she was concerned about the lack of necessary
    replenishment supplies and replacement life support equipment. She also has a
    son that is a spacer hooked on stardust, and she’s worried about him. This is a
    perspective position. Sam’s character was the quartermaster at the company
    store; in charge of dispensing most of the station vital supplies like
    clothing, equipment, medicine, etc. He also is in charge of dispensing
    stardust, which is classed as a medicine by the company. He was also concerned
    about the space station and hoped it would thrive. (I have a feeling there is
    something here I forgot.) He wanted things to go well in the space station and
    would work to make that happen, but only so far if the powers that be didn’t
    back him up. This was another nice complex character; also a perspective position.
    Josh represented the will of the people, the spacers who were fed up and didn’t
    want to depend on Earth (and were hooked on stardust) He was the touchstone.

    The first scene involved a spacer coming to the
    quartermaster with an obviously faked prescription for more stardust. The
    quartermaster knew what was going on and didn’t want to give it to him, but
    then the magistrate showed up. The spacer bribed him and he validated the prescription.
    The quartermaster felt he had no choice (wasn’t supported) and gave him the
    stardust (plus extra when the spacer pushed more). The next scene took place in
    the local bar (the Hephenston?) where the spacers were getting high and drunk
    and breaking things causing too much of a scene. The magistrate was called in.
    The bartender stalled for time and then bribed him with his favourite whisky.
    It was pretty obvious what was going on but magistrate accepted the bribe and
    stayed at the bar getting drunk while the spacers had escaped through the back
    door and continued on a rampage breaking things. In the background things were
    also getting worse as the spacers were now getting high on the job while
    operating dangerous equipment. This was causing problems and delays which
    pissed off the bigwigs on Earth even more. After that Nat’s character called a
    meeting in the main boardroom to address the stardust problem. He also asked
    for updates and Mary (my character) spoke of the need for more supplies; most
    importantly, more supplementary oxygen to augment the old and inefficient
    oxygen converter coil. The coil needed to be replaced as soon as possible (if
    it blows we all die) and in the meantime it’s not working well enough to fully
    supply the station, so we are using oxygen shipped from Earth. However, Earth
    hasn’t been sending enough because they can only fit so many supplies on the
    tankers, and they are too busy filling them with stardust. The working
    conditions were also getting worse due to high workers, and we were all afraid
    of accidents, even fatalities. The CCO (Nat’s character) pushed for a ban on
    stardust to calm things down, and the board mostly agreed, but the magistrate
    did not agree (because then he couldn’t get bribes) and he prevented the
    motion. The magistrate wound up increasing the spread of stardust somehow. The
    quartermaster didn’t agree with it in principle but they tell him to sell more,
    he’ll sell more. The CCO comes to Mary in private and asks her to help with a
    coup against the magistrate if the situation deteriorates farther. She would do
    this by lowering the fire doors and sealing off areas of the station. Mary is
    reluctant but open to the idea. Later the chief engineer and the quarter master
    meet in the company store and try to come up with a way to fix problems despite
    the failings of the men in power. Mary is also worried her son; a heavy
    stardust user; could overdose or get hurt in the ever increasing violence. She
    recently fought with him and found stardust hidden in his room (which she
    destroyed). The quartermaster suggested using the life support controls to
    cause explosions, but Mary didn’t want to risk lives or her precious equipment;
    She can’t get replacement parts as it is. They finally settled on trying to
    bribe the magistrate with stardust to keep him mellow. Unfortunately he
    overhears the plan so it doesn’t work, so he arrests Mary’s son and puts him in
    jail. The chief engineer is angry but she reasons that jail is actually the
    best place for her son; he is safe from the violence and he can’t die of an
    overdose if he can’t get stardust. However, she throws her full support behind the
    CCO in the event of a coup.

    Things continue to get worse and tension rises. There is a
    scene in a high powered laser room that is used for mining; it’s class and the
    CCO (who is also a teacher) is explaining how the laser works to a spacer. He
    asks why we even need Earth and why should we depend on them? (I can’t remember
    exactly). Nat’s character answers that the station isn’t self sufficient but it
    doesn’t satisfy the spacer and he leaves the class angry. This illustrates the
    disconnect between generations and the disconnect between the station and
    Earth. The spacers start having meetings and talking about a revolution.

    Another crisis happens but I can’t remember what it is.
    Something to do with more violence and it stops mining. (Is this when the bomb
    went off?) Also Earth has been shipping in more stardust instead of supplies
    and the station is getting dangerously low on reserve oxygen. Nat’s character
    asks Mary to help with the coup now and she does it; sealing off the space station.
    The CCO’s forces storm the police station and engage in a deadly shootout with those
    loyal to the magistrate. There is a heavy loss of life and the magistrate is
    wounded and winds up in the hospital bay clinging to life. (Also without
    antibiotics as those are low too; thanks to the supplies of stardust). He falls
    from power to perspective. However, it’s too little too late. The spacers storm
    head office and there is more loss of life. They win against the station’s
    weakened forces and put Nat’s character in a jail cell. He falls from power and
    is now kind of a touchstone? Head office is now under the control of the
    spacers. Meanwhile the oxygen coil is about to blow. The chief engineer has no
    one to report at this point, and it doesn’t matter. Oxygen reserves are too low
    to run the station, and if the converter
    blows they all will die. Mary lowers the oxygen levels throughout the station;
    keeping it at normal levels only in life support command and the hospital bay
    (possibly the quartermaster’s store? I can’t remember). Everywhere else, the
    level of oxygen drops dramatically to levels that will still maintain life, but
    barely. People throughout the station are experiencing the effects of the
    depravation, most are passing out. Those who are conscious are too sick to
    move. This controls most of the spacers but not all of them. The engineer flips
    to a power role and has taken control of the whole station. At this point there
    is no contact with Earth and they have no idea what’s going on. In his prison cell the former commanding officer is still conscious and sitting calmly on his bed, unlike the spacers
    passed out around him. Mary simply walks into the police station with one of
    the few remaining oxygen tanks and masks, stepping over the bodies of passed
    out spacers. She reaches the officer and gives him oxygen; the first thing he
    does is express scorn for the weak spacers who all succumbed to the low oxygen
    and passed out. After all, this is nothing compared to the oxygen shortage of
    2227. In this way the chief engineer busts the chief commanding officer out of
    jail and returns him to power, but the situation is too critical to celebrate.
    The two of them discover a way to convert the mined minerals to oxygen using
    the high powered laser, and they do that to restore the oxygen reserves. The
    Quartermaster does something here to help this process and changes to a
    position of power, but I can’t remember the details. The former magistrate
    survives his injuries and wakes up in hospital with perspective, regretting the
    way things turned out and worried the spacers will cause more loss of life. He
    can’t do anything about it because he is too injured to leave the hospital
    wing. This brings the station to a crisis as the spacers muster their strength
    and fight to take over the station once and for all. (At some point a bomb goes
    off but I can’t remember if it happened at this point or before the original
    coup). There is a huge struggle and more loss of life. The population on the
    station has been decimated, but the current power holders hang on to control
    and the space station survives… barely. The coil holds, although it could
    blow at any time, and the station must produce everything it needs, there is no
    shipment from Earth. Does the station become self-sufficient? … will Earth
    try to take over? … will the coil
    continue to hold? … to be continued?

  5. Final correction: Josh=Jake. Sorry it was late when I wrote some of this.

  6. I meant to thank you before for this detailed play report. Please feel free to write more a long these lines. I find it very difficult myself to write such detailed accounts although I love to read them.

  7. ahah just read this part of Nat’s intro to the game “or a city whose mayor is on an unbelievable bender” I totally want to play this game… or else create a Fiasco playset based on Toronto City Hall.

  8. Great writeup! My character was Clarence Abernathy 🙂
    One detail I remember is that the spacer generation had to process the stardust in order to create their own more potent version of the drug.

  9. Thanks! thanks for reminding me of your character’s name. Clarence Abernathy, I still love that name.

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