KS artifacts and secondary powers

Here’s part of a Discord discussion on the topic of artifacts and secondary powers in KS, especially ones that have the secondary power which allows the wielder to cast Curses:

"Some players like the “wild card” aspect of Table F, but I’d bet new KS players and many experienced ones don’t even know that the Table F option for random artifacts can get you one or more of those very powerful artifacts. In a team game, they are especially impactful because everything can be transferred/shared. If you don’t like leaving it to Lady Luck to determine who could start with Curses artifacts, it seems like the best way to go is a custom game where all players agree beforehand that either 1.) no Table F, option 6 is allowed (no extra work for Clint); 2.) the Dagger of Green Wisdom, Shield of Fell Blows, and Talembrel are taken OFF Table F.

[ 7:22 AM ]

Table F, option 6: A specified Character gains two random low-level Artifacts that their nation can use (similar in power to a 500 –750 Combat Item or a 10 Skill Item).

[ 7:26 AM ]

Question: Who/What determines what a “low-level Artifact” is? I’d think that ANY artifact with a secondary power allowing the character to cast Curses is not low-level. Compared to a 1750 weapon, like the Blade of the Ranger, the Dagger of Green Wisdom is MUCH more powerful. It’s the SECONDARY POWERS of KS artifacts which should determine their “power level”, not the often small combat bonus they provide.

After some discussion with Clint and others, I think a solution to the above would be a rewording of Table F, option 6:

Something like: “ALL 500-750 point combat artifacts and +5, +10 skill artifacts are available from this option.”

Then players will have enough info to do their homework and make an informed decision. Or, you could just randomize the secondary powers of every Table F, option artifact in every KS game. But that might have unforeseen drawbacks to it.

Here’s a really radical thought. Stop ruining a great scenario like KS with curses in the first place…

You don’t think they (Curses casters) provide a decent counterbalance to agents in KS? Is it just Curses you object to, or all spirit mastery spells?

You could do a military variant of Kin-strife to accomplish this, but you may not get enough players to sign up. Many people seem to want killer Agents and Curse Squads to be nerfed, and then when variants are offered up that address those issues, those games don’t fill up or they take a long time to fill. I just played a 4th Age military variant that took a long time to fill, and then the game ended in five turns because the Evil side didn’t like that all four Neutrals joined the Good team.

Speaking only for myself, if Agents and Mages were nerfed in this game, I don’t think I would play anymore. I don’t want MEPBM turned into an Avalon Hill wargame. I think variants are the way to solve this for the players who would rather play a purely (or mostly) military game. Fans of this style just need to get more players to sign up.

I really dislike that the game degenerates (and I use that term deliberately) into a character assassination game. I never thought I’d say anything positive about agents but at least you can guard against assassination and even if that doesn’t work you have a chance to find out who did it so you can be on your guard and hunt down that character if needed.

Curses? You can’t guard against it. You don’t know who’s cast it. And you don’t even know what damn hex they were in when they did it. Just an appalling lazy mechanic. And, obviously just speaking only for myself, I will never play in another variant of MEPBM where they exist.

It is particularly odious in KS as it’s pure luck as to whether or not you manage to locate an appropriate artifact. Pure luck that can have a huge impact on the game. And that’s not why I play a game for months - even years - at great expense - only to find out that we may as well have rolled dice at the beginning to settle it.

I am not in favour of a military only variant - I turned down an invitation to join that game as I felt it was too 2 dimensional and the game is deeper than that. But as it stands - and in my opinion - the game is busted. You should not be able to destroy months of recruitment/training/movement at the flick of a finger. Or what’s the point? And that’s what the game turns into. It doesn’t need a variant. It needs fixing. There’s numerous suggestions floating around how to do it and they need to be taken seriously.

On the specific issue - Weakness feels fair - requires more effort (higher mage rank) and the characters at least have to be in the same hex so there’s at least a chance something might interfere. If there’s an army involved it shouldn’t just disappear though. That’s what chains of command are for and there are numerous ways of replicating that in game.

So fourth age for me…


Rob, you were in the recently completed g679, right? I played Castamir/Elendin and started well, then got stymied by Eldacar/Rebels. They played well, did a lot of damage in the later turns (around turns 16-17), and I felt I had no chance to come back. What nations did you play?

As I’ve said before, I like variant games such as purely military but I also quite like curse squads. As the game develops nations are more able to have back up commanders to counter curse squads and agents. What I object to is curse squads being available very early before nations have much chance to get back ups organised.

I’ll say this again, a curse squad on turn 3 is just ridiculous and, apparently, it’s possible to have a curse squad in place even earlier. Going back to the good old 1650 version, the highest rank agent at game start is 40 and it takes a good while to build up a curse squad. I think KS has strayed too far from the 1650 model.

Curses and Agents in game 679 made my WKA nigh unplayable. I was down to single figure pop centres early on and any recruiting base I had was under threat.

Agents of the Rebels turning up at KoA MT and assasinating Hoarmuruth and Murazor on the same turn were particularly annoying.

I was finally getting a curse squad when we resigned but the Loyalists had at least 2

My first full KS game and it seemed USU were all first timers too at the start.

In discussions on Discord, Clint made it sound normal/feasible that SM kills could be pulled off earlier than turn 4. That’s not palatable to me either, Cohen. Some of what makes that possible: a mage could randomly start with weakness, sickness, or curses; set up options could grant weakness (Quendi) or, to a very limited number (like Elrond and Murazor) even Curses. But chances of getting a very early SM go up A LOT when you add those artifacts with the secondary power to “Cast Curses.” Every other mage has to deal with the issue of casting proficiency. Sure, your 60 mage might start with Sickness. But are you going to feel comfortable going for it, and potentially wasting orders, trying to cast it with a 57% casting proficiency?

I think the problem is solved by removing “Cast Curses” artifacts from KS. But others will disagree and it creates a lot of noisy back-and-forth discussions. Therefore, the really EASY solution is just to set up games with players of like mind. No more team games for me, unless every team player agrees to x, y, z. No more grudge matches unless every player agrees to x, y, z.

I don’t think SM kills or any of the problems highlighted above and in this thread occur in gunboat games. Total resources are spread too widely among the nations for these kinds of miraculously early events to occur.

Now that Game 679 is finished, I have a lot to say about it. I lost fair and square and want to mention a few mistakes I recognize making. Going to start a new thread for it tho.

Movan - yep, I played Southrons and Hithlum in G679. Had a whale of a time but it was my 1st KS game and it showed - I was way too timid about getting the SK involved early on focussing on building up the nation into the utter powerhouse it was by the end.

Still, powerhouse or not, if it turns into 6v2 (as it did) you’ve got no choice but to quit.

I’ll probably add more detail and comments on your G679 thread.


have to say that that’s a new one on me, that only agents should be able to kill characters. “yes, agents are OP, we should let them be OP on their own, there should be no adequate counter”

c’mon, any veteran knows you can’t guard against a real agent. buff those guys enough and countermeasures are laughable. even the good ol’ double-agent hasn’t been working well recently. and here is another guy, saying “getting three high level mages together and letting them kill one guy is too broken, even though getting one mid level agent and letting him kill one guy is not broken at all”

disagreement with this assessment, obvs. if you couldn’t kill people with agents by turn 3 or 4 in most games in most scenarios, I might agree. since you can, it seems only fair to give positions who can have more of other classes a chance to fight back. no matter how you slice it, using 3 orders to kill 1 guy is inferior than having to use 1 order to kill 1 guy.

I also saw mentioned that “the highest rank agent starts at A40 in 1650”, sure, but the DS also start with what, 60 points of agent artifacts and some huge amount of stealth artifacts? (not to mention the +20 K/A that the CL starts with!) we’ve all seen din ohtar and ji indur pull off some very early kills in 1650 games, especially grudge. it confounds me that people think this doesn’t happen in those games.

tl;dr: agents have been out of control in every scenario as long as I’ve been playing the game - nearly 30 years, now that I think about it. any talk of how “nerfing character ability to kill other characters” absolutely has to start there as far as I’m concerned, or what is even the point.

I don’t have any complaints about g679 (I lost fair and square), and I don’t think mepbm is “broken” in any way. I still really like the game in general and KS in particular. In my very humble opinion, a lot of grievances about the state of the game, the power of agents and Curse squads, or what have you, comes from TEAM games in 1650 or 2950 where there is more of a ‘scripted’ aspect to play. It can seem like experienced players have it all figured out–the dos and don’ts–and casual players can just feel like they are being “robbed” of a fun game experience. Personally, I don’t like mepbm games where resources can be shared/transferred. It can definitely create some “Why is this even possible in mepbm?” moments. Even in KS, if you transfer other nations’ stealth and agent artifacts to characters like Murabeth (who starts with a 50 agent rank), they can go out and kill some army commanders real quick–forcing those armies to disband. If Rhovanion is supposed to be somewhat balanced with Castamir, what’s the point of going for balance when Castamir can overcome Rhovanion’s armies via assassination, but Rhovanion CAN’T return the favor?

In Gunboat, it’s just not possible for agents like Murabeth to be that effective. They have to grow ON THEIR OWN, develop, eventually take some risks, and hope they can become a major force later. I’m bringing this up because it’s something I learned the hard way in g679. Remember, I was playing Castamir. Murabeth got up to become a 66 agent relatively early, like turn 7. I remember thinking, ok, she’s a 66 agent who is going to target a 33 commander for assassination. I chose to send her after a 30ish rank Rhovanion army commander at their capital (3213), who was leading an “army”. Murabeth failed due to tight security and was killed in the attempt.

My best agent killed in a blink. Lesson learned–I didn’t know much about the relative difficulties of “agent missions.” (I thought, they all say “Hard” difficulty, right?) Now I know it’s WAY more likely to kill a target who is alone, out in the “wilderness” than it is to go after an army commander at an enemy pop center! Live and learn.