James Graham will be holding demonstrations of Kingdom at Leisure Games on Sunday 26 January, holding two sessions from 11am and 2pm. If you would like to give it a try, please turn up early to ensure you get a slot.
The follow up to Ben Robbins’ acclaimed Microscope, in Kingdom, you and a group of friends get to tell the story of a community, its trials and tribulations and how people change it – and how people are changed by it. The size of the community can range from a small village or company of about 20-30 people up to a galactic space empire. Like Microscope, there is no game master or moderator, and no dice are needed. Unlike Microscope, in which you work together to tell a fictional history, the story you tell is fairly linear and you each get to play a character.
In Kingdom you tell a story by examining how the community responds to a series of major decisions it has to take, or “crossroads” to use the game terminology. The game works by assigning each player character a specific role: either “power” (you get to make the decisions), “perspective” (you get to accurately predict what the consequences of every decision will be) or “touchstone” (you get to decide how the masses in the community respond to decisions). This dynamic mechanism means that while each player has significant authorial power, no-one gets to steal the show. To mix things up, multiple player characters can have the same role, and disagree – in the case of multiple “power” characters disagreeing this can be very dangerous indeed – and characters can change their roles or have their roles taken from them throughout the game. The story can continue indefinitely over a series of crossroads up until an agreed time limit (it can be played over multiple sessions if you want), or until the community is sent into a crisis and destroys itself.
What this results in is a very satisfying way of collectively telling stories, typically with a fairly political edge. How does the president react when all the options available to her are bad? Will the baying mob avoid descend into anarchy or listen to reason? Kingdom is actually one of a number of recent games which explore the nature of how communities work, including The Quiet Year by Joe Mcdaldno, Durance by Jason Morningstar and Dog Eat Dog by Liam Burke. All of these are great and unique games (you should try them all!), but Kingdom is perhaps the most flexible and open ended. The rulebook includes instructions for setting up your own setting as well as more than 20 playsets for a quicker start. The book also contains advice for combining Kingdom with Microscope.