The Campaigns of King David – Boardgame Review
The Campaigns of King David. Clash of Arms Games. Designed by Rob Markham.
Passed Inspection: Solid components, strong replay value and uncomplicated rules; the inclusion of a counter tray is much appreciated.
Failed Basic: Luck plays a strong role.
The goal is to capture other cities to expand the holdings of your nation.
There have been very few treatments of Biblical-era warfare in the Middle East, which is surprising. The area has been fraught with strife for centuries, and tales abound of small, pre- or early Iron Age armies overcoming great odds to claim victory. The recently released The Campaigns of King David from Clash of Arms Games and designer Rob Markham brings the political and military struggle of the region in the time of King David – roughly 1,000 BC to 976 BC – to vivid, Technicolor life.
Designed for two to five players, The Campaigns of King David uses a series of randomly determined phases as the driving force behind the game. Each turn consists of 12 phases, which may consist of Action (e.g. battles), Collect Resources, Harvest, Build, or an Event phase. At the beginning of each turn, players can attempt alliances with each other, then roll dice to determine initiative. The forces of Judah, blessed by God as they apparently are in this game, roll an eight-sided die; other players roll six-siders for initiative.
Players then draw the phase chits at random from a suitable opaque container. The first six chits are placed face up on the board and the second six face down. This means players will be aware of the order of resolution for only half the phases; the other half remain a mystery until the time they are revealed. Players always have the option to not attack in any given Action phase that comes up, though they may still wish to move their troop markers.
Build phases require all players to pay upkeep on their forces but also offer the option to rebuild battle-weary units or strengthen fortifications. Because this tends to be an expensive undertaking, in the first turn only one Build marker is allowed to come into play. Subsequent Build markers are returned to the cup and replaced by another Phase chit. The Resource and Harvest chits allow players to collect income from the territories under their control, to use later during Build phases and to pay for combat and siege actions.
Event phases allow players to draw an event from another random pool of chits. The events are generally useful, ranging from Act of God—which forces the target player to reroll the current round of combat—to Vassillating (yes, it’s misspelled in the game) Force, which effectively freezes all units in one area for the current action phase. Events such as Hand of Fate—which negates any Event marker just played—are powerful, whereas Troop Revolt—which allows the player to exclude one opposing unit from the current round of combat—are relatively weak. Not all events are combat-related, and the Random Events Chart has a column when events may be used.
The phase cycle tends to help the game move along by reducing distractions. This is not to say that players have no choices available to them in each given phase, but the choice between major activities is restricted to the random phase draw, e.g., the harvest will be early, late, or not come at all. The Events tend to serve as an “ace up the sleeve,” though in practical terms the potential opponent likely has one or more such aces to call upon as well.
Luck does play a strong role in this game but not at the expense of overall strategy. The goal is to capture other cities to expand the holdings of your nation. Some nations are well placed to take advantage of numerous close, accessible targets; others must struggle to reach even one city capable of being conquered easily. In recognition of this, a chart provides multipliers that differ for each faction. Judah is graced with excellent location for accessing most cities, so its multiplier is a straight-up x1. Moab, on the other hand, only has easy access to a couple of cities, so it gets a 2.5 multiplier for victory points. Players are thus rewarded for making the most of what they have to work with.
Battle utilizes a separate playing area on the main map, where players line up their respective units and deal damage to each other. Each type of unit is worth a certain number of points, listed on one of the few charts in the game; that many hits must be inflicted before the unit flips to its half strength side, and again as many to remove it from the board. Damage is applied across the player’s units equally; i.e. all units in a force must be damaged before any can be eliminated.
Units are represented by different types of dice: players roll a d10 for a chariot in open ground but only roll a d8 in hilly country where chariots are less effective. Players add up the total number of hits scored and apply it to the opposing force. The player receiving the damage decides how to parcel it out and must take damage as close to the total as possible. Any remaining points are noted on the battle area Hit Track and applied to the following turn of battle, if there is one.
The Campaigns of King David is an enjoyable, fast-moving game, and while there’s a great deal to keep one occupied in any given turn, the number of turns tends to be low, and players always have the option of quitting after a set time period and comparing victory points to determine the winner. The challenges for each nation in the game are quite different; players can play a different faction each time, providing strong reply value in a wargame of, ah, Biblical proportions.
Bill Bodden has worked in the hobby game industry for over twenty-three years, including stints in the retail, distribution and publishing sectors. His humorous, short fiction was nominated for an Origins Award in 2003. He currently serves as sales manager for Green Ronin Publishing, and is a part-time freelance writer. A complete goober for miniatures, he paints them on rare occasions when he has spare time. Bill lives in Wisconsin with his wife, their four cats, and a whole lot of games, books and miniatures.