'Kingdom Death

Monster' and the Allure of Knowing that "You Really Shouldn't..."

by G. Christopher Williams

14 December 2016

In an age when I can I have nearly anything shipped to me in three to five days by Amazon, Kingdom Death: Monster's exclusivity is its chief lure.
 
cover art

Kingdom Death: Monster

US: 2015

I have found myself obsessed for the past several weeks by Kingdom Death: Monster. I’ve been reading reviews, Googling images of its miniatures and artwork, and watching playthrough videos.

I really shouldn’t be, though. It’s a tactical-battle miniatures game, and while I am an avid board gamer with faiy eclectic tastes, that’s simply not a genre that appeals to me generally speaking.
  
Yeah, I get excited looking at big boxes for games like Descent or Super Dungeon Explore because the miniatures look so neat, but in terms of gameplay, meh. I have better things to do than count hexes and figure out line-of-sight over hours and hours of long gameplay sessions.

So, yeah, I really shouldn’t…

And to make matters worse, Kingdom Death: Monster is sort of out of print, and getting a hold of copy of a first printing costs an arm and a leg. Copies of the game go for at least $400.00 on eBay—at least.

The game was the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign resulting in a 2015 release described as a “boutique” dark fantasy game—“boutique” because of its exceptionally high quality figurines. And when I say exceptionally high quality, what I mean is: exceptionally high quality. It is the miniatures, designed by some of the most talented sculptors in the business, that are driving up the price tag.

A second Kickstarter has begun for what is more or less a reprinting of the game and to get a hold of that version will still cost you $250.00 for the most basic core set up. Oh, and you won’t be seeing that printing until much later in 2017 (maybe summer), after production details are finalized.

So, yeah, I really, really shouldn’t…

But it isn’t just its lack of availability and high price of entry that seemingly should evoke a sense of alienation in potential players like me. Like I said, Kingdom Death: Monster is a dark fantasy game. It’s the only board game that I have ever heard of that has a Mature rating on its box. It’s a horror game that is truly committed to horror, full of twisted monstrosities and excessive sexual and violent imagery. There’s some really sick, weird stuff in it.

So, yeah, well, I guess I really shouldn’t…

Plus, the game is supposed to be brutally difficult. Something of a Dark Souls for the board gaming set. I mentioned that the game was a tactical battle miniatures game, and the combat is supposed to be especially difficult and unforgiving. In other words, one should expect characters that you have developed over long agonzining hours to die eventually in horrible ways.

However, it is more than that. The game is about survival more broadly, the survival of a community of humans in a dark, twisted fantasy world that takes place over a 25 session campaign (assuming your settlement makes it through those 25 games). Players take on the role of a ragtag group of survivors in a malovolent universe who hunt monsters, and following each hunt, return to a camp and use the organs and limbs of their prey as resources to build a settlement and a community.

Basically, in addition to being a game about tactical battle (that is, in this context, monster hunting), Kingdom Death: Monster is also a resource management game. However, instead of farming resources and producing goods as you might in more traditional games about managing an economy like Agricola or Puerto Rico, you are “farming” the bodies of monsters to maintain your economy, an economy based on hunting, not gathering.

And at this point, while I know that I really shouldn’t, I can almost feel myself reaching for my credit card, fingers ready to key my account number into a PayPal window.

Everything about Kingdom Death: Monster is shouldn’t, shouldn’t, shouldn’t. From its themes, to its level of challenge, to the price tag on its box, to its genre, to its limited availability, all of this seems designed to repulse and alienate—which makes me want it all the more.

It is almost as if in an age when I can I have nearly anything shipped in three to five days by Amazon, Kingdom Death: Monster‘s exclusivity is its chief lure. Exclusivity seems so rare in a cut-and-paste culture, and the craftsmanship of its materials and overall design featuring an ever changing campaign based on emergent storytelling devices seems like anything but cut-and-paste.

If you are interested in the game, I have provided the first episode of a series of Let’s Plays of Kingdom Death: Monster from The Beasts of War YouTube channel below. But, take it from me, you really shouldn’t…

//related
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work. We are a wholly independent, women-owned, small company. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing, challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. PopMatters needs your help to keep publishing. Thank you.


//comments
//Mixed media
//Blogs

NYFF 2017: 'Mudbound'

// Notes from the Road

"Dee Rees’ churning and melodramatic epic follows two families in 1940s Mississippi, one black and one white, and the wars they fight abroad and at home.

READ the article