February 28, 2014
A Look At The Crunch Of Iron Kingdoms
Iron Kingdoms is a steam-punk fantasy game where the players are given an opportunity to play the part of characters living during a time of war and industrial revolution. Based on the miniatures game Warmachine, Iron Kingdoms provides a very unique take on the more traditional tropes of fantasy role-playing games.
The game is a two dice game, where the base roll for everything is two six-sided dice. You can, however, gain abilities and features that allow you to add more dice to that roll. If a trait is “boosted,” that means you get to add a third dice. Other abilities will simply add more dice and add them, or roll additional dice and take out ignore the result of the lowest one. The result you get on the roll is then added to a modifier to determine the final result. There is some debate on which is better for your character, gaining more dice or having a higher modifier, though there are benefits to both.
Character generation, as shown in my “Build a Character” review, is very simple. Select race, select archetype, select two careers, buy gear, and done. Rather than rolling or buying your attributes, a character’s starting attributes are determined by their race, which act as a character’s minimum scores. Each race also provides the maximum a character’s attribute can be at various tiers of play. During character creation, the only influence a player has over the attributes comes from adding a total of three points to them near the end. Initial character creation is somewhat purposefully limited, but via advancement the characters become more fleshed out.
Combat is fast paced and brutal. Roll vs. a static defense, if hit roll damage and subtract armor, then apply remaining damage to the health spiral, which is incredibly finite. If all three tiers of the health spiral run out, then roll for critical injury and hope you have a friend nearby to treat you so your character does not bleed to death. Now, I would love to talk about the health spiral and the merits and flaws of it, but that would be a whole article in-and-of itself, so I am going to have to overlook it for now. Armor, though, is a very big deal. Characters (can) have a lot of armor in this game. My lightly armored archer had 10 points of armor, while some steam-punk automatons had as much as 18-22. This is where I saw some problems with the game, as many damage bonuses were only within the 8-12 range. Adding a two-six sided dice roll to that could hardly overcome that armor rating, meaning most characters got to see a lot of their attacks harmlessly clank off their opponent’s bodies. Sure, there is some merit to this. I cannot see a kid’s slingshot doing too much damage to an Abrams tank, but in terms of a game it made combat very unforgiving. Many times, I found my character facing opponents she could not miss (save rolling an auto-miss of two one’s) but also could not hurt, which was incredibly frustrating. Not frustrating enough to dislike the game overall, as other characters who were built for higher damage did not suffer this problem and there is nothing wrong with characters having to rely on one another, but enough that it did make me question my choice of build at times.
Overall, I would recommend this game. It has a lot of carry over from its miniatures gaming roots, which is not really a problem in-and-of itself, but I could see some players finding it somewhat distracting. If you are looking for something new, then I highly recommend giving it a try.
As always, thanks for reading and I wish you all good gaming.
Image Credit: Privateer Press