18 December 2017

Review: The Men Who Would Be Kings

To play with my recently unearthed Anglo Zulu War armies we picked up Osprey's The Men Who Would Be Kings, by Dan Mersey - the same author as our much played Lion and Dragon Rampant.

While the rules are definitely in the same family tree, they are not just a carbon copy but a definite development with adjustments for the period and which reflect not just the improved technologies but the way in which armies were put together and used.

Bottom Line up Front: A lot of Fun, we had a blast.  Highly recommended.

The system will be very familiar to Lion/Dragon Rampant players but there are some key nuances which you will likely miss on the first swing (as we did).  One of these is that charge moves are not double your normal move, but now the addition of d6 inches. I like the uncertainty this presents as a Commander's decision point.

The moral effects are interesting and disrupting the enemy is all about pins.  Pinning the enemy really stops them in their tracks and if you can set up a crossfire to inflict multiple pins they will likely take another turn or two to recover.  Of course, if you focus all your firepower on one enemy units to do that, the other enemy units will close in with impunity...

The rules are definitely a simpler system to achieve speed so there are a few abstractions which players need to adjust to - for example, there is no reaction fire, so if your dapper redcoats get caught in the wrong spot they wont be getting a chance to fire a volley from their Martini-Henrys before those Zulus crash into them with those sharp assegais!

To achieve of intent of big battle vice a skirmish game, we adjusted the rules so that units are 3/4 strength from those in the book. Thus, Regular Infantry units are 8 points not 12, Tribal Infantry 12 vice 16 etc.  As the ratios remain the same, I do not believe this made any significant impact. We also used one stand (of 3 x 15mm figures) per unit strength vice 1 x 28mm Figure, and thus we were able to achieve a satisfying massed battle look vice it feeling like a skirmish game.
Under our adjusted unit sizes, this is a Regular Infantry unit at full strength with 8 stands of troops plus its Leader
There are also some neat rules for your tribal opponents to play on automatic rules, allowing the humans to play cooperatively and try to survive together; my very favourite way to play colonial games.

Finally, you get 30 different suggestions for different Colonial armies and their foes.
These include the usual Sons of Empire type lists, plus the French in Africa and the Italians in Ethiopia.

Dan Mersey has also published some additional rules on his blog which will be of interest to TMWWBK players: TMWWBK extra rules  you may also find this of interest: A little bit about Command & Control in my games

Another cracking and inexpensive offering from Osprey and which deliver a heck of a lot of fun. TMWWBK is the fourth of Dan Mersey's games now on my shelf and I'm sure it will not be my last.

Now I'm thinking about how I might combine TMWWBK and Dragon Rampant to play some VSF colonial gaming on Barsoom Mars...


  1. I really enjoy these rules as well, great fun.

  2. Sounds like an interesting set. Not having any reaction fire must make life hard for the imperials given the nature of their opponents!

    1. I guess its factored into the CC value for the troops anyway, and you can see exactly what is coming. Its the variable charge move that makes it interesting. Great when the natives' charge doesn't quite get home and invites a devastating close range "Present - Fire!"

  3. Interesting. I presume there’s less of a learning curve coming from other Rampant games. What nuances did you miss on first approach?

    1. Indeed so! Morale has some difference in detail but not overall mechanics. Variable charge move is nice for a bit of the unknown. Multiple pins was the thing we didn't read properly, and plays out quite differently from the Rampant series

  4. I like the rules but found that terrain was the key. Too much terrain and te Natives usually won . Too little terrain and the Colonial forces tended to win as they could bring devastating fire to bear.

    A fun and enjoyable set of rule though. Easy to use and understand and very playable.

    1. Agree with all your points Clint, and if you can your Imperials behind some sort of cover they take quite a bit of digging out. Caught on the move in the open however... So I suppose the rules are quite historically accurate