The King is Dead, the review of the new edition of the famous strategic title

The King is Dead, the review of the new edition of the famous strategic title

The King is Dead

The king is dead, but instead of taking this opportunity to build the utopia of a free people, the citizens of Scotland, England and Wales diverted their energies into the civil war to shout "long live the king!" . In Peer Sylvester's The King is Dead, players take on the role of pretenders to the throne, wooing different factions in an effort to win the support of the most powerful nation by the end of the game. Therefore, thanks to Supernova Studio in collaboration with Osprey Games, the second edition of this famous strategic board game of 2015 with updated graphics and a new asymmetrical game mode arrives in Italy. Here is our review.

The King is Dead: unboxing and components

The sales package has very nice and elegant graphics with prints that reflect the medieval style both in the drawings and in the font. The dimensions are generous (27.5 x 19 x 6.8 cm) and this is due to the presence of a large game board and the many game elements that still make the box quite light and easily transportable. Once opened, in fact, we are immediately invaded by a multitude of colors and small and large tokens finely preserved inside comfortable transparent plastic bags and a cloth bag neatly arranged inside special spaces obtained from a comfortable dashboard. cardboard. In any case, the game elements are as follows: 1 board, 54 cards, 54 colored cubes, 31 colored discs and 1 cloth bag.

The production quality is really of the highest level. Starting from the game box, up to the tokens, everything is studied in detail. The most popular material is the wood used for each element of the game except, of course, for the cards. Although the wooden markers are very simple in form and construction, the carving and coloring are truly impeccable. The papers, on the other hand, do not have any canvas, but as they do not need any particular shuffling, they offer good resistance even without protective covers. What stands out at first glance is, undoubtedly, the artistic style of both the cards and the board. The beautiful illustrations by Benoit Billion faithfully refer to medieval maps and the works of scribes and the glance is guaranteed.

Preparation and game mechanics

The King is Dead è a game for 2-3 or 4 team players over the age of 14. The duration is around 30 - 45 minutes on average, but having a very quick setup and very simple game mechanics to learn, most of the time is only for studying the right game strategies to win the game. The King is Dead, in fact, begins with the eight regions of the island of Great Britain randomly populated by cubes of influence. These red, yellow and blue cubes represent the armies of the Welsh, British and Scottish forces respectively. Players each take a matching set of eight identical cards for each player and two random cubes to form their starting field. Then, around the board, region cards are randomly arranged to take over the whole of Great Britain.

The most curious aspect of the gameplay is that players do not take on the role of a particular faction. Throughout the game, players manipulate warfare by using their cards to strengthen or weaken different factions in different regions, while at the same time gathering followers to their court to increase their favor with a particular faction. The actions to be performed in each turn can be two: use one of the eight action cards, perform the latter and draw a supporter from a region to put in their court or pass. If the other players decide to pass, the Power Struggle takes place. Gathering a supporter in your court means increasing your popularity as the faction's favorite candidate once the game is over, but it could also affect the outcome of power struggles in that particular region you decide to undermine.

During the Power Struggle you must observe the face up region card placed around the board next to the space numbered with the lowest number. The number of supporters present in the region is counted and if there is a majority of them, a Control Disc is placed. If, on the other hand, there are no factions present or there is a tie status, an instability disc is placed (there are 3 and they indicate the invasion of France, as well as the end of the game if all the discs are placed on the board). >
The game ends when all eight regions have successfully resolved their battles (Coronation) or when three areas have suffered a French invasion. In the first scenario, the winner is the player with the most cubes from the faction that was successful in the most regions. In the second scenario, players are crowned king (or queen) if they manage to unite nations against the French by having the most sets of all three colors in their court.

The variants of game

Finally, there are two variants of the game. The first is the four-player one which forces you to form two teams of two players (the players sitting opposite each other form a team). You are not allowed to discuss strategies with your teammate or show your teammate your action cards, but the game plays normally. The outcome of the match changes slightly because in the case of Invasion the Supporters are united from the courts of the teammates and in the case of Coronation, however, they are kept separate. In the latter case, the player with the most Supporters belonging to the most powerful faction wins and, consequently, his teammate also wins. The second variant involves the use of the Wit cards and the game mode is advanced. The Scottish Support, Welsh Support, and English Support cards are removed and replaced with three random Wit cards. The latter give an unexpected dynamism thanks to the presence of unique and very powerful effects.

Eight actions, but a lot of strategy and attention

For a game in which only eight actions take place, The King is Dead is packed with strategy and tactics. The gameplay, in its simplicity, is tight since you can play each of the cards available only once and you can make missteps at any time. The possibility of passing the turn, on the other hand, coincides exactly with that which can be defined as a Mexican stalemate between the players to see who blinks first revealing his intentions: action or Power Struggle?

It is difficult to describe a words the tension generated by this game. Basically you simply have to play an action card by shifting the balance on the territories of Great Britain or pass to start a Power Struggle. Deep down, however, The King is Dead feels a sense of "claustrophobia" hardly present in other games. Each action must be calculated meticulously as it allows to obtain momentary advantages that can be destroyed by the next player and difficult to recover if the same card is not available. The game, therefore, is based on the concept of "less is more" or few decisions, but heavy and therefore to be eyed properly. The King is Dead is, therefore, a raw strategy. A chess battle fought with cards, cubes and discs that leads players to play more games in a single evening thanks to its not excessive duration and its constant variety.

Game suitable for ...

The purists of the original 2015 title might be happy to replay the epic tactical battle with a completely revisited style of play, as well as aesthetic. At the same time novices and experts will love the new advanced variant that offers an asymmetrical game mechanics thanks to the presence of unique cards that allow you to surprise opponents with unpredictable moves. The lack of randomness could, however, alienate those who do not like excessive strategy in board games.


The King is Dead is an unexpectedly deep and strategic game. Every player needs to plan his moves as much in advance as possible, even any bluffs or heart-pounding actions. The mechanics are simple and easy to learn, but don't be fooled as the gameplay is somewhat punishing. Get ready, therefore, to change the plans in the middle of the game even if you think you have studied everything in detail. With The King is Dead you can't mess around and the risk of falling behind your opponents is just around the corner.

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