We played a short three-player game of The King is Dead yesterday. It's a very interesting game, and absolutely remarkable in the way it gets you playing right away with a minimum of effort and very little required from the players.
With a group who becomes familiar with the procedures, I can imagine it being a much more fluent and in-depth experience. (For our group, the game had too much detail for our short playtime - about an hour and a half - but all those things would feed into a longer game nicely.)
However, there were a few things which tripped us up, and I'm hoping someone who's played can help clear them up. Here are some various comments and concerns:
1. This is a game which could REALLY use a list of names. (The names used in the game are very particular, and you're expected to come up with many more in play.)
There is a list of location names which is tremendously helpful. Why not personal names, as well?
2. Since it's a Vincent Baker game as well as a fantasy epic, I suggested that we start drawing a map. This was a nice aid - I recommend it.
3. The biggest challenge was trying to figure out how Muster works. I'm still not sure how it's supposed to go.
The text implies, but never states outright, that two Houses can't have the same Muster. Is that the case? It's the only way I can explain how someone losing Muster can "displace" another person.
If that's the case, then it would make sense (and be easier) to track everyone's Muster on the SAME sheet instead of having each player so it in their booklet and shouting out their old position and new position, as the rules suggest. That would simplify and clarify things at the table.
Now, someone moving down and "displacing" someone in that position upwards makes sense. (If I'm reading that right!) It also means the notes on the order of operations here are crucial (and useful).
But what does it mean to "surpass" "everyone"? That doesn't make sense to me. Do I literally bump everyone below me down the ladder? That sounds... like everyone would end up with 3 Muster pretty quick.
Not sure what to do here. Fortunately, in our game no one ever increased their Muster.
4. We had one Skirmish, and it was suitably and delightfully Bloody. The choices we made created some memorable events and provided fuel for future developments.
Two things we stumbled on:
What are good objectives to declare? Our players wanted to declare larger-scale objectives, and I had the feeling more immediate objectives would work better.
In any case, it wasn't clear if and when they were achieved. Is it just Colour to declare them, does the winner get theirs, or something else? (Perhaps "submitting" means the other party gets their objective in the fight.)
The "submit or else I will begin my retreat" choice seemed hard to parse. In a way, it makes sense, but it's not clear why the fight would continue once that happens (in our scene, the attackers withdrew to their boat). It would have been nice to transition into a Chase here, but we weren't sure how to do that by the rules.)
It's an odd choice: "withdraw or I will start to withdraw myself!" If we look at even partially through an in-character lens, it sounds very bizarre. From a pure director stance, however, its fine, of course.
Is there a best practice here which would make this smoother?
5. We ended with a War, just before the Coronation.
It turns out that War is a bit awkward for the low Muster factions. We were three houses with Muster 3, 4, and 5.
First of all, a House which drops to Muster 3 loses the war. Does that mean that a house with Muster 3 can't fight at all? What about as an ally?
It's not much better for a House with Muster 4. Many/most choices come down to "surrender or lose 1 Muster", which were utterly uninteresting. We struggled a bit here.
Finally, if we're reading the Muster rules right (which I'm not sure of at all), you can get a situation where the two houses just keep switching Muster positions with each other. That's not a huge deal, but it make me wonder if we understood Muster correctly.
6. The Coronation was surprisingly bare-bones. We should have led into it more clearly - I felt like it came out of nowhere. (Not a huge deal; we will just do it differently next time.)
Any thoughts or comments welcome!