Having spent several of my formative years playing Kingmaker (Gibsons), I can still recognise the heraldic symbols adopted by each of the noble families in 15th Century England. I can readily distinguish my Bourchiers from my Berkeleys and my Stanleys from my Scropes. There are, I suppose, worse signs of a misspent youth. We're still waiting for the new revised edition of Kingmaker to emerge from its long Covid-extended months of playtesting so when I saw the array of heraldic shields in Strategos Games' Glory: A Game of Knights, I was immediately ready to mount my steed!
It was the heraldry that first caught my eye, and all of it still relatively new to me because it represents not the barons of England but the flower of European nobility from a broadly similar Medieval period. However, despite the visual and thematic similarities, Glory is a very different game to Kingmaker.
For starters, Glory isn't a war game and players aren't setting out to seize control of the kingdom. The knights in this game are seeking Glory not through battle but through its Medieval proxy, the sport of jousting. It's a worker placement game where the 1-4 players are placing out their pawns (mounted horses, but for thematic immersion we preferred to refer to them as our squires) at various locations on the board in order to better equip themselves to participate in the tournament.
You'll start off by choosing a character - either all the same (recommended on a first play) or asymmetric. The character card sets out a player's starting equipment and resources as well as the income (coin, strength and faith) you'll collect each round. You'll start off with a basic mount and armour but you'll want to level these up. Coins are spent in the market. Players can also train, pray, recruit supporters and even travel to pay homage to their lady: the game is, after all, set in the period of courtly love. Romance may be another way of winning a boon. Ultimately, you'll be competing in a Tournament against the pre-set knights (stratified according to their attributes and prowess) and/or against other players.
When you do enter the lists for the Tournament, you'll be rolling custom six-sided dice as determined by your equipment and strength. The dice come in three colours: white (0*, 0, 1, 1, 2, 3), black (0*, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4) and red (1*, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Strength can be used to upgrade dice to red and to activate the special symbol on one face of each of the dice so that it flips to score its maximum instead of the minimum otherwise indicated. The pre-set knights all have their own indicated attack value which you'll need to best in order to win. Ties are resolved by comparing 'prestige'. Any prayer tokens you've collected can be used for re-rolls.
You'll earn Glory points for victory at the Tournament but you'll also be able to earn Glory by completing the objectives on Title cards; both those that are face up and open to all and those that you add to your hand as secret individual objectives.
With Glory: A Game of Knights, Dominik 'Lir' Mucha and Marcin 'Wis' Wisthal have created an engaging worker placement and dice chucking game that maintains a satisfying balance between strategy and luck. The artwork from Tymoteusz Chliszcz, Sandra Guja, Milek Jakubiec, Radoslaw Jaszczuk and Jarek Nocon give the game a strong table presence, and the production quality from Strategos Games is high. Tho' there's nothing wrong with the cardboard coins in the base game, you should certainly consider upgrading to the metal coins as these are among the best we've ever seen.
If you want to make a thematic night of it, Glory: A Game of Knights pairs exceptionally well with Brian Helgeland's A Knight's Tale (2001) which starred Heath Ledger and Rufus Sewell, albeit that purists will mither that that movie is set around a century earlier than this game. :-)
(Review by Selwyn Ward)