Kingmaker, Avalon Hill, British Civil War, War of the Roses, strategy game, alternate rules, combat rules, movement rules, nobles, Being your own King, variant

Kingmaker Alternate Rules

Rules Variant and suggestions for the classic Avalon Hill game

by Dave McAwesome

If you have no idea what Kingmaker is, it's best to head outta here. Kingmaker is an out-of-print board game from Avalon Hill covering the violent War of the Roses period in English history. It's a cool, fairly simple game (even for non-history-buffs). There are, however, a few flaws. What follows is an attempt to correct these flaws in the most unobtrusive way while retaining the original flavor of the game.

All the rules below are optional. I've made an effort to implement a systemic change to Kingmaker so that all the rules together fit nicely. However, if you wish to pick and choose, I'm sure you can find some cool minor variants. Wherever possible, I've tried to adhere to the spirit of the original rules. Wherever possible, the result percentages in the dice tables below are based on actual card statistics or an attempt to mimic card stats. The goal of these rules is to (a) make the game run smoother during the midgame and endgame portions (where previously huge stacks of counters pretended to avoid each other), (b) close loopholes in the original rules, (c) increase the number of combats per game without resorting to the tiresome "advanced combat rules" in the original rulebook.

Alternate Combat Rules

(sorry, I use percentile dice (2d10: first is tens digit, second is singles digit) instead of 2d6. It's more flexible when building tables and more accurately reflects percentages.)

As normal with the following exception: A minority force (with at least 1/2 the numbers of the defending force) MAY lay siege without attacking. At the end of the second turn of the siege, flip a card from the Event deck. Look at the bottom noble name on the card. If he is involved on either side of the siege, he is killed (stray arrow or some such). If the siege holds for three consecutive turns, then the garrison counts as 1/4 of its original strength (presumably starvation, sickness, etc.). A siege is now resolved as usual, per the original rules. A player may attempt to capture the castle at any point, but only receives the diminished garrison bonus after at least three consecutive turns at siege.

Breaking the siege
Defenders may sally forth in an attempt to break the siege. In this case, both forces are fighting in the open and follow the combat rules below. Any "victory" result breaks the siege.

There are only three situations when attacking a defending force in the open. (1) The attacker has double the number of defending forces or better. (2) The attacker has a simple majority in numbers. (3) The attack has a minority of forces (with at least 1/2 the numbers of the defending force). If the attacker has less than 1/2 the defending forces, he/she may ONLY ambush. First flip an event card. If the result is "Bad Weather," then the attack fails as usual. Otherwise, roll on table below.

Dbl or better
01-29 Attacker Loses
30-43 Minor Victory
44-57 Normal Victory
58-00 Total Victory
01-65 Attacker Loses
66-90 Minor Victory
91-00 Normal Victory
01-90 Attacker Loses
91-00 Minor Victory

Who's captured? Consult the following table. Roll for each noble. If a result within the given range is rolled, that noble is captured. Attackers are not captured, but killed outright.

Previous result
Attacker Loses
Minor Victory
Simple Victory
Total Victory
Attacking noble
Defending noble
31-00 (any king/heirs are surrendered to attacker)
16-00 (any king/heirs are surrendered to attacker)
all captured (any king/heirs surrendered to attacker)

Note: In the original rules, a noble in battle has an 8.5 percent chance of dying. In this system, you roll for each noble. Each noble, therefore, is in greater peril. Accordingly, Iíve adjusted their rate of death down for a Simple or Total Victory. Iíve also provided survivability for defeated nobles. Attacks across the board, however, are now deadlier. Between the new siege rules and new combat rules, Iíve managed to close the "my giant army will hide out in London" problem which can bog down the game. Smaller forces now have an incentive to attack comparable or bigger forces with a fair chance of inflicting damage. More nobles die. The Crown deck is more frequently replenished with nobles and mercenaries. Power shifts more quickly. A big force now has greater incentive to throw its muscle around because the player knows power will shift at any moment. Better to attack and eliminate heirs than to hide in London.

Flip event card, if "bad weather" then ambush does not take place. Otherwise, roll below for each noble. Ambushing noble is automatically captured. Ambushing noble may NOT be saved by the King's Pardon card.
95-00 Noble is killed

Bonus to knights
When attacking, +10 to any stacked force that (1) does not contain any mercenaries and (2) is attacking in the open and (3) is attacking a force that contains mercenaries. Hopefully this will encourage merc forces to attack before they are attacked by knights.

The new combat rules emphasize combat enough so that alliances may be forbidden from the game. I recommend this. It's a lot more brutal.

copyright 2005

Plantagenet cards and counters

Preferred alternate rule
Do away with the counters. Plantagenet cards are merely king's guard and do NOT have titles and do NOT act as individual nobles. They MUST move with the king. A player only receives the card if his/her heir is crowned king. Place the counter on the noble with whom the king is attached.

Alternate 2
Do away with the counters. Plantagenet cards are merely kingís guard and do NOT have titles and do NOT act as individual nobles. They MUST move with the king/heir. A player receives the card if he/she has the 1st in line to the throne from Lancastrians or Yorkists. The heir does not need to be crowned king in order to receive the card.


These alternate king rules are not exactly historical. Theyíre a gameplay device to add to the frantic pace of Kingmaker. In this particular variant, the lines of succession are largely ignored. We assume Richard of York is already dead, and the Yorkists are trying to crown any Yorkist heir king.

Henry starts as the sole king. Remove Richard of York, reducing the Yorkists to 4. Players may race to crown any Yorkist king. After Henry is killed, Margaret or Edward may be crowned. There is no more direct line. Players rush to crown their own heir king. There may never be more than two (one Yorkist and one Lancastrian). Beaufort may never be crowned unless the other Lancastrians are dead.


This optional rule is mentioned in the rulebook. I only have a slight tweak for it. After Parliament, all nobles return to their respective castles. Now we have another race for consolidation and an opportunity for a shift in power. If this rule is used, Parliament is compulsory for all nobles. This is to prevent one player from skipping Parliament in order to pick off the scattered attending nobles. Moreover, the player who is the sole king may not call Parliament on consecutive turns (this closes a potential loophole in which the sole king repeatedly calls Parliament in order to prevent other players from moving into position to crown a second king).

If "Parliament may be summoned by Chancellor" card is drawn and (a) there is no sole king and (b) there is no Chancellor, Parliament is immediately called by player who drew the card.

copyright 2005

Card changes

Added Event Cards
When I set out to revise the rules to Kingmaker, I wanted to do so by adding as few new cards as possible. I wanted as "neat" a revision as possible. Nevertheless, I think the following few cards are worth adding. (In case you don't have blank cards or a boss printer with thick card stock paper, toss all the event cards into a bag or bowl. Players may not look for or root around for their card, they must pick one at the ready. This way, you canít tell the difference between a real card and a homemade card until it's picked. Cards are discarded as usual. Shake the bowl in between players' turns. Add salt. Maybe a pinch of pepper.) Too many new cards upsets the balance of "Bad Weather" cards and the deaths of nobles. Here are six worth considering.

Plague in: Ireland, Douglas, Caris Brooke, Beaumaris (this is a single card)

Assassination in Ireland, Douglas: Any royal heirs present are killed. If a royal heir is not present but the Lt. of Ireland is (and he's in Ireland), he is killed.

Assassination in Calais, Caris Brooke, Beaumaris: Any royal heirs present are killed. If a royal heir is not present but the Captain of Calais is (and he's in Calais), he is killed.

Siege Engines: may be held until needed. Halves the current garrison during a siege. Used once then returned to Event discard pile.

Excommunication: my version of this is a little less drastic. The player simply places all his/her town cards into the Crown deck. His/her bishop cards go to the Chancery.

Royal Heir Death: this is an old variant card. You roll on a table to see who dies and then discard the card from the game after use. Since Iíve introduced d10s to the game, Iíll adjust the Royal Death Table accordingly. If the roll results in a royal who is already dead, do not roll again, and remove the card from the game.

Royal Death Table
Henry VI
Richard of York
Edward of March
Margaret of Anjou
George of Clarence
Edmund of Rutland
Richard of Gloucester
Edward of Lancaster

Seafaring, refuge and islands

Storms at Sea
For each ship not at port, roll.
96-00 Ship sunk and all passengers dead.

From a design standpoint, I have fundamental problems with the idea of refuge in this type of game. Problems can arise if one player has a great deal of ships (probably due to the Admiral/Warden cards) and goes to Ireland or Calais. There are not enough ships to bring over a sufficient attacking force. The player can then remain here indefinitely. Plague in Calais, you say? A savvy (or abusive, depending on your point of view) player will camp outside the city. This won't do. This is the War of the Roses, not the running of the roses (which, as we all know, is the Kentucky Derby).

These are power-gaming tactics. They are an attempt to twist the spirit of the rules and use them to the great advantage of one player with (in this case) a particular combination of cards. It's bad hoodoo. Now that more cards are headed to the Chancery (see above), these refuge/hiding tactics are going to become a strategy in Parliament. A player could try to grab a particular combo of cards (Admiral, Warden of Cinque Ports, Lt. of Ireland or Admiral, Warden, Captain of Calais) and dash off with a King or taking refuge on a continent that cannot be reached due to the dearth of remaining ships. I wouldn't enjoy it if, late in a game of Monopoly, someone decided "hey, Iím gonna hang out in jail for the rest of the game so I don't have to land on your properties and pay you." Not possible. Monopoly closes this loophole because you have a three-turn limit in jail.

So, let's limit the time not only in Ireland or Calais, but all islands so that these time-sucking situations donít occur. Each time a player (whether voluntarily or unvoluntarily) goes anywhere off England (Ireland, Calais, any island) he rolls a d6 and hides it under a cup. Only he may look at it. (You can use d6s or d10s on the following table. D10s are preferable if you've got enough to spare.)

d6 table

two turns
three turns
four turns
d10 table

This is the number of turns he has to return to England. If he doesn't by that time, those forces and heirs are lost.

Consider Calais and the Continent ONE single territory. If the Plague in Calais card is drawn, all units in Calais and the Continent are lost.

Crown cards on islands
While in Calais, the Continent or Ireland a player may not receive any Crown cards if he meets either of the following conditions (1) all the player's nobles are out of England (if he/she has no controlled heirs), or (2) all his controlled heirs are out of England. The exception will be at the beginning of the game when an heir (or occasionally a noble) starts out of the English mainland. This does NOT apply to the other islands. There, the player may collect Crown cards as usual.

Raid/revolt cards and nobles on Calais/islands
Any noble or king/heir on an island or Calais/continent must respond to raids and revolts as long as there is an available ship, friendly or no. Capacity of the ship is ignored. The noble/king/heir responds immediately to the crisis point.

copyright 2005

The noble families variant

This is a variant in and of itself which can be played in conjunction with or without the above rules.

Each player takes charge of one of the following noble families:
(Percy should probably be left off this list. With 100 troops, he gives an unbalanced advantage to the player if he would be held exclusively. This way, he can pop up with any faction. Stanley, although with 50 troops, should also be left off this list because he is untitled and begins on an island.)

This noble is the player's for the entire game. If the noble is killed, he is returned to the player minus any attendant cards (titles, offices, etc. are lost and returned to the Chancery deck). This isn't reincarnation, it's his son or brother or cousin or whoever.

The player with Neville moves last. The player with Mowbray moves second to last. Roll a die to determine the remaining order of players.

Remaining cards are dealt as usual (as noted above, Constable of London card should be removed from the initial deal).

Being your own King, revised

Okay, this is where I make a variant of a variant. Or will, once we try it. I'd like to try it by giving everyone a more even starting position. The first person to crown their heir king is the first king of the game (rather than starting with Henry and all the attendant power). It's not very historical, but it could be fun.

The original "Being your own King" variant is by Gabriel Gonzalez and was originally published in The General.

Rule clarifications

Rule clarifications:

copyright 2005

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