According to Team 17, the publisher of the game, King of the Castle is a “multiplayer fantasy game of shifting power dynamics and intrigue where narrative is driven by its players.” This could not be truer. King of the Castle is a party game where being King/Queen/Monarch will not save you from your nobles. In our initial testing playthroughs, I was overthrown and/or killed by my nobles in a variety of interesting and hilarious ways. For the purpose of this review, we played a Party Game on Discord with version 0.10.1 and a group of eight people.
Upon starting King of the Castle, the player is presented with a variety of customisation options, which add definite flavour to the game. The visual customisations of your characters are nicely designed and inclusive. Additionally, the option to use the title “Monarch” rather than just King or Queen ensures all players can feel comfortable playing.
After creating your characters and starting a new dynasty, the host of the game will have two gameplay choices – “Party Game” or “Play on Twitch”:
Party Game is the classic party format, where you play a private game with 4 - 24 players. Only the host must own the game and all other players “dial-in” on a website, which is also accessible on mobile phone. The game, however, does require that the host share their screen, and ideally, some form of voice chat for a truly functional gameplay. Just playing in the app would not allow a player to have all required context to make the decisions presented in the player screens.
Play on Twitch is a special game mode, whereby the host can play on Twitch and include 3 - 4000 players. Players can play by simply typing into the host’s twitch chat, removing the requirement for a login on the website. This allows the host to more easily include as many players as possible, whilst removing much of the hassle associated with other party games.
Once the initial dynasty had been established, and the game mode selected, I was offered a variety of regions and had to select three for the playthrough. This determined which nobles would be included in the round. Each region boasts its own particular nobles, quests, storylines, and endings. The various regions feel rich in their lore and their storylines stay consistent to their descriptions.
For a first playthrough, a tutorial is shown via pop-up windows with basic guidelines. The tutorial for how the nobles should play is included here and is not visible in the website view where the players login to play. To win the game, the monarch must wed and produce or select an heir, while the nobles battle to each complete a house-specific goal, which is chosen at the start of play.
The game is played over multiple seasons, with each season presenting three events to play. The Monarch can select and play these events in whichever order they choose. Events are individual to the regions the host has selected to include in play. Depending on the event, there could be a decision to be made by the Monarch or a vote to be made by the Nobles.
Events are presented, usually, as conversations between various characters and the Monarch. Named nobles (i.e. players) are chosen at random to be the speaker in the story. In the case of a “Play on Twitch” game, the likelihood that a player be selected is increased if they own the game. Notably, though the game is very text-heavy, there is no narrator for the events or dialogue. We found this in testing to be somewhat dry if the host alone had to read everything aloud. Unless the host is very willing to commit to acting out the characters with voice, the game is not very exciting for the rest of the party. In our case, we decided that, as each player was inserted into a scene, they would voice their own character. This was much more interesting and held everybody’s attention much better, but the level of entertainment was still dependent on that individual’s willingness to commit to the role. In the case of a “Play on Twitch” game, this could be very tedious without narration.
At the end of each season, the host can view how the stats have changed over the course of the season and how each region of nobles has progressed on their goals. An auction will also take place, whereby nobles can use their personally gathered wealth to select buildings to be built which may further their own goal or hinder the goal of a different region. This is where the strategy play kicks in. Whilst the monarch attempts to wed and produce an heir, the nobles scheme, plot, and vote to advance their own goals while simultaneously ruining the plans of the other houses.
Overall, our group found King of the Castle to be an interesting new entry to the party game genre. The addition of noble voting and the possibility of including up to 4000 players over Twitch makes this strategy game challenging and fun for both host and players/viewers. However, the lack of narration leaves something to be desired. I would highly recommend this game if you (i) have a very enthusiastic and committed group to play with or (ii) have a talent for voice acting and drama to entertain your players/viewers.
Anna’s rating: 3 out of 5.
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