Z-man is putting out an updated version, a direct reprint mind you, of Tom Wham’s Kings and Things. The rules are available here. If you’ve played this game with me, first you must know I am a huge Tom Wham fan (I’ve only met him once personally and I became a fan of his beard as well) and try to pull out his stuff whenever I can get it to the table because even if people hate the games (I had some players absolutely despise The Great Khan Game by turn 2 when I busted it out) we have a lot of fun. I’ll be the first to admit that his games are not the greatest games in the entire world–but for my personal taste, they are favorites. What Wham games are the best at doing for me and for many, many others is sparking ideas about making games. I am absolutely convinced that without Wham, and especially his best game from Dragon Magazine, King of the Tabletop, we would not have Magic the Gathering, Settlers of Catan, and certainly no Nexus Ops (which I see as a direct decedent of KOTT) and ultimately, no Shadowfist.
While I advise anyone that likes a good ameritrash sluggathon ala Nexus Ops to pick up Kings and Things, I’ve always felt that the little innocuous magazine game version (King of the Tabletop) was more elegant and ultimately more playable. What Kings and Things has that King of the Tabletop does not is a big map made up of Hexes (yes like Catan). You can move armies around this map to explore and control these hexes, turning the game into area control. What King of the Tabletop has is a big mess of Chits that represent land. When you acquire it, either through conquest or exploration, you bring it in front of you. When someone wants to attack, they just pick their player and line their forces up on the land they want to attack. This simplifies the fact that most of the rest of the game consists of piles of different THING chits with numbers on them, and these are big upside-down stacks that get, well, real messy–and very messy if you try to place them all (upside down) on a hex board. What’s more, because in Kings & Things your dealing with a map and not some abstract set of ‘lands’, some players can stay out of the action if they corner themselves up or shield themselves with another player in an Australia/Risk type maneuver — in King of the Tabletop, any player can attack any other player whenever it’s her turn because it abstracts movement. This makes, in my humble opinion, for a more dynamic game for the whole table.
And the art– sadly, with Dave Trampier leaving the gaming industry many many years ago, we are not going to be blessed with his artwork in this new edition (a few of the chits look very similar though), but overall it looks good and I expect the production values will be top-drawer.
That said, I hope this is just the beginning of Z-man putting out Tom Wham’s games as from what I’ve seen on his site, he’s got quite a few up his sleeve. Bring us a new version of THE GREAT KHAN GAME with some cards that won’t be destroyed in 3 plays!