Expanded Thoughts: Kingdoms

city of shakar

“The City of Shakar” by Noah Bradley. (detail) His art is amazing, check it out!

I wanted to expand a bit upon the format of Kingdoms which I played for the first time just this Friday. My experiences with the format can be found in this post: Raiding Kingdoms with Gisa. Keep in mind, these are my first impressions after only a single game, and my own conclusions. I may be horribly wrong.

I want to share a run-down of all the positions’ missions and what their ultimate goal is.

Nomad-Outpost-MtG-ArtThe Bandit(s): In theory, the bandits at the table could reveal themselves to each other and work together to kill the king, at which point they both win. However, this is hardened by the fact that neither bandit can be sure that the other is truthful, perhaps the other bandit is the Usurper, trying to fool you into helping his cause? Further, it is in the interest of not only the King to stay alive, but also in the interest of the Knight, since he wins through winning with an alive King. Therefore, it is not a 2 vs. 1 situation at the table, it is at best a 2 vs. 2. It is also in the interest of The Assassin to keep the King alive but not too healthy and stall the game to a crawl, since he will win when everyone else is dead – and the King must die after both Bandits and preferably after the Usurper. The Bandits could in theory conspire with the Usurper for a while, but it is in the Bandits’ interest to kill the King before the Usurper does, because then they have to start over from the beginning.

On paper, the Bandits have a very straightforward and advantageous position right from the get-go, but if they are too open with their roles, they will find themselves in more trouble than it’s worth eventually (as is what happened with Surrak Dragonclaw in our game this Friday).

the knightThe Knight: The Knight shares victory with the King, and thus wants to make the King believe who he is, without the rest of the table catching up. This isn’t an easy role to play either, but it is eased with six players, since there are also chances that the Knight could or indeed would want to side with the Usurper – i.e. in cases where you’re the Knight and you’re facing down a strong Usurper and perhaps strong Bandits.

The Knight’s worst enemy, on paper, are the Bandits, since their victory condition is in complete opposite with the Knight’s own. However, there are certainly games where the Knight might even want to side with the Bandits for a while, in order to support the Usurper.

throne-of-empiresThe King: The King is the only publicly known role, meaning that the King is at the disadvantage that he has no opportunity to masquerade as another role, unlike all the others. That said, the King starts at 50 life instead of 40, and will always go first, both boons in a multiplayer game. I can’t say that I know for sure, but the King’s primary goal must be to correctly identify the Knight without the rest of the group finding out a) the Knight’s identity, and b) that you know the Knight’s identity, and preferably also c) that the Knight knows that you know who he is.

Priority number one is on paper to defend oneself from Bandits, but since both the Usurper and the Assassin will benefit from a long grindy game, sniffing out these players is also important. Knowledge is power, even more-so when you have a huge bull’s eye painted on your back.

Cloak_and_Dagger_640The Assassin: Perhaps the most difficult of the win conditions, the Assassin wins when everyone else is dead, just like in a regular EDH game. The long-term goal of the Assassin is to get into a heads-up situation with the King, possibly by masquerading as the Knight.

On paper, the biggest threats to the Assassin are the Bandits, followed by the Usurper. All three of these roles benefit from a short game with a dead King, meaning these must be dealt with first. For sure one of the trickier roles to play.

marchesaThe Usurper: The Usurper is the one who is in it for the longest haul of them all. She wins through dealing the killing blow to the King, at which point her life total becomes 50, the King’s life total becomes 1, and they switch roles. As the new King, her mission is to win through the same means as the King, meaning everyone else needs to be dead aside the Knight.

On paper, this is the most difficult of the positions to play, but on the other hand, the game has a “refill your life” mechanic installed for you to make use of. Conspiring with the Bandits initially and then stealing their win is a way to go, as is conspiring with the Knight. I’m not sure how I would handle this role, but hopefully I’ll be able to get lots more games of Kingdoms in in the future, so eventually I’m bound to play it.


In closing, I think I’ve demonstrated above that Kingdoms is a very nuanced and complex format to play, and it will offer a lot of replayability for groups tired of standard EDH play. These are my impressions, as I said, after only a single game, meaning I might be dead wrong. But then again, that’s what’s exciting.


Leave a comment


  1. Grim Lavamancer

     /  July 1, 2015

    Good article! And a rather accurate analysis (though I’ve just played a few games more than you, so there could be alot of stuff that I’ve missed as well).

    Another thing to consider about the knight is that while his victory or defeat is indeed dependant on another person, he starts of in a rather good position – since the king is the only publicly know position and his mission is to destroy everyone except himself and his knight (the same goal as the knight himself shares) he is free to immediately pursue his goal. A fast aggro knight could probably accomplish a lot before the other players can mount any meaningful resistance.

    Apart from the person the knight attacks, he has little to fear from his opponents initially. Since the other players can’t be sure who he is (attacking someone right of the bat could also be the move of an aggressive assassin, trying to weed out the bandits before they have a chance to kill the king) few are willing to commit resources to taking out someone who might not be on your list of people to kill. The knight faces no such problems, in fact he is the only one who has no doubt about who his enemies are.

    The only real problem that the knight faces in the beginning of the game is that the king does not catch on who he is and starts a very destructive civil war between the two.

    Liked by 1 person


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