Articles written by players to share their experience and wisdom with all.
Designing Nations in Kin Strife
By Gavin Kenny
The Kin Strife module falls somewhere between the very fixed start-ups for the 1650 and 2950 modules and the extremely freeform start-ups in Fourth Age games. Kin Strife only has fourteen nations instead of the twenty-five in the other modules, but uses the same map size. This gives the game much more space and has implications when playing the game. The game has two teams of six players each known as the Loyalists (Good) and the Usurpers (Evil) and two neutral nations. The game is set around the civil war in Gondor around 1450. The Usurper Castimir and his allies have seized control of Gondor who are being opposed by the Loyalist realms supporting the true King Eldacar. The Khazad (Dwarves) and Line of Tirkhor (Men) are two neutral nations that are heavily encouraged to join a side early via means of various early turning bribes.
Unlike the other modules (even Fourth Age), the game has a fairly complicated offering of set-up options for each nations that allow you to customise your nation (within certain parameters). To be able to work out what effects the options have on your nation, a setup spreadsheet is provided to both ensure that you are under the various spending limits as well as show you what your characters and pop centre setups will look like once you are done. Due to the variety of options, the same nation can come out looking pretty different from game to game making the Fog of War aspect all the greater. To aid beginning players each sheet has three viable default start-up options that can be selected to avoid having to worry about all the points or even give pointers to some ideas of other players.
There are a number of concepts that you will need to consider when designing your nation and I will go into each below.
Short Term versus Long Term Needs
The first concept that you need to think about is balancing the extremely short term needs of the first few turns against the longer term things that you need to make the nation viable. Short term needs include defending your nations against enemy armies. Many nations start with vulnerable pop centres that enemy nations can pounce upon and capture. However within the set-up spreadsheets there are ways of protecting them, whether it be making the pop centre larger (to stop the enemy successfully taking it) or even putting a fortification on it.
Secondly you need to start thinking about recruiting more characters. Kin Strife has two ways of doing this. The first is the normal orders for recruiting more characters that are available in all the other modules. Since many starting characters start off relatively weak (and not necessarily at the capital) you can use options in the spreadsheet to not only make them better, but also move them to your capital so that you can recruit new characters on turn 1. The other way of recruiting characters is unique to Kin Strife. In this game the NPCs that you meet can be recruited as characters. For instance Gandalf and Saruman can be recruited by the Loyalists and the Nazgul can be recruited by the Usurpers.
These NPCs usually come with better than starting statistics as well as several artefacts. Therefore a longer term strategy is to track down these NPCs, encounter them and recruit them. Even more intriguingly, some of these NPCs are Champion characters who have three orders rather than the usual two, making them even more enticing to recruit. Several spreadsheet options allow you to know the SNAs and artefacts held by an NPC whilst will give you a leg up in tracking down these characters. This is also one of the many reasons in Kin Strife that give mages more value in the game.
Having a level 30 point or greater emissary in the capital at game start can mean that you can recruit more emissaries and go building camps in the initial camp rush much quicker and cheaper (than wasting a 725 order on this). In my limited experience the camp limit is reached about turn 4 or 5, so it is important to try and grab your share of the real estate whilst you can.
Most of the nations will start with about 3 or 4 turns’ worth of money given their default burn rate of money at 40%. Now this does not include tax rate hikes, bonus gold from mountains, any successful steal orders or sell orders. Options to improve characters and fortifications will make that debt worse, whereas options to improve pop centre sizes will improve that debt state. There are also options to downgrade and upgrade close nations as well (on some nations) to change the tax rate. This will some on precious command orders early on, but long term could be seen as a waste of points.
Boosting the Individual versus Boosting the Team
All Middle Earth Games have a balance between helping yourself and helping the team overall. Team play is essential to get you into a winning position and therefore helping other members of the team early is probably a successful strategy. The Table N and Table V options all only boost your nation via making your characters better (Table N) or your SNAs better (Table V). There are however options on Table F and Table R that can boost and help the team as a whole. As a neutral, you may not think that this advice applies to you, but it does, even if it is not as immediately relevant. There are options in these tables that give you IDs for artefacts, SNAs for NPCs and even (for some nations) the ability to double friendly characters. All these abilities will not seem like a good cost to spend ratio for your nation, but will be excellent things for the team as a whole.
There are two nations that take this concept even further. The Line of Castimir and the Line of Eldacar has a series of options called Castimir’s bribes and Eldacar’s Gifts that allow the leader nations to spend their option points to boost other nations in the team. These can be a little chancy if you are not part of a grudge team, but a clever player should be able to work out the best places for these to go to boost the team. For instance, the Line of Morlean (on the Usurpers) is that side’s best agent nation. The Line of Castimir can give a boost to an agent through these options and it may well be best placed with one of this nation’s confirmed agents. Similarly Rhovanion for the Loyalists is set up as an emissary based nation with good market sales similar to the Northmen, so an emissary bonus would be good to send to one of their characters.
In addition to giving away bonuses to characters, the leader nations can give away free pop centres and gold. The Rebels on the Loyalist side could really benefit from this (as well as a cash bonus). On the Usurper side the Hithlum is fairly strapped with economy at game start and could benefit from the additional population centre or gold.
One of the crucial aspects of setups in Kin Strife is the ability to make the Fog of War a little foggier. The best ability in this regard also tends to be the costliest and that is to hide population centres. The Hithlum are the Kings of hiding pop centres and make them really difficult for the Loyalists to take apart. However other nations can also hide a pop centre (option 48 on Table F), effectively making a potential backup capital hidden.
It is however an expensive option and it might be better to move some of your population centres instead to prevent early attacks and make the opposition find out where you have dug in. It’s always worth knowing the area that the opponent’s maps can see. Ensuring that you move a pop centre so that it’s not visible on an opponent’s map is something to really keep in mind.
Table J has a number of options for your nation to boost your starting armies at the game start. Given that you have decisions here to make, just need to look at where you can use these excess troops to their maximum use. Can you take a pop centre that you couldn’t previously by adding those 400 HI? Can you change HI into LC and thereby have a complete cavalry army that can move that much further?
These are just some of the general things to consider when building your nation. There are individual things that each nation individually needs to consider given their position and role in the game, and I may look at these in a later article.