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Video Game / King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame

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King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame is a 2009 PC release by Neocore Games based on the exploits of King Arthur, chronicling his rise to power in a Britain divided among bickering kingdoms.

The game itself is a mix of strategy (in the vein of the Total War series) and role-playing. It also features hero characters that lead the armies and level up in a manner similar to RPGs. The gameplay of the main campaign more strongly favors the real-time battles with its units' varied capabilities and heroes' magic compared to Total War's empire management, with the gameplay following hardcoded plot quests that your armies undergo rather than players going about their conquering goals entirely of their own accord. However, the 2 DLC campaigns (featuring the Saxons and the Welsh, respectively) offer a sandbox experience, along with some gameplay changes as compared to the main campaign. The first game also offers multiplayer skirmishes, where 2 players can craft their own armies and fight against each other. The Fallen Champions stand-alone expansion is essentially a skirmish pack (with fixed armies for both sides), which serves as the bridge between the original and the sequel.

While obviously based on Arthurian mythology, it diverges rather widely from versions of the myths. It also features a morality axis that tracks the player's decisions and whether they tend toward Rightful or Tyrant and Christianity or The Old Faith, unlocking new units, hero spells and passive benefits based on these leanings.

It has a 2011 sequel, which has Arthur becoming gravely wounded in a magical attack, and his son-cum-heir has to re-unite the kingdoms and deal with supernatural threats, the Fomorians. The sequel also has a DLC ("Prologue") campaign featuring a version of a Roman colony left behind after the Roman retreat from the province. Compared to the original, II no longer offers multiplayer skirmishes, and greatly simplifies kingdom management, thus skewing the focus greatly towards "role playing".

In April 2022 Neocore released King Arthur: Knight's Tale, a tactical RPG that borrows many themes and plot elements from this game, this time featuring Mordred as the protagonist, taking place this time after Arthur's death.

The game makes use of the following tropes:

  • A Commander Is You: The Religion and Morality trees, outside of actual role-playing implications, provide different benefits to certain strategies to tailor your style.
    • Christian favors Brute Force and gives knights and heavy infantry along with defensive abilities to aid them.
    • Old Faith helps out Guerilla with archers and infantry units that tend to be good in the woods or difficult weather as well as tricky spells.
    • Rightful provides Generalist benefits with a variety of infantry units and various benefits to use as you will.
    • Tyrant provides more Brute Force with lots of damage or melee bonuses - even its archers are better in melee.
  • Action Girl: There are a few female knights that can be potentially recruited depending on your choices. Funnily, none of them can work with cavalry units and are all forced to fight dismounted.
  • Anachronism Stew: Good grief, yes. Apart from the usual Arthurian tradition of medieval equipment, terms and attitudes in just-post Roman Britain, we have units called "Crusaders" centuries before the First Crusade (although the name does make a cool shorthand for "Christian warriors"), Irish gods being worshiped in Britain, Christian Saxons long before their widespread conversion and Viking raiders.
  • Annoying Arrows: Averted, other than heroes and Giants, nothing matches the hitting power of the various archer classes. Both nonhuman archers are especially devastating and can wipe out even the most heavily armoured armies off the map without much effort. An tickbox to weaken archers was patched into the first game. It is also very possible to have the majority of your force's casualties be caused by friendly archers who fire into the melee.
  • Armor-Piercing Attack: Magical damage ignores the regular defensive statistics and just considers magical resistance as they damage health. The Dragon's Breath skill has flavour text implying the trope to it working.
    "When a dragon breathes on you, it doesn't matter who you are."
    • Then there's physical attacks that bypass armour, such as weapons from Crossbowmen and Axemen.
  • Armor As Hit Points: The only reason why low-end troops can harm a Knight of the Round Table, is that armour for your Knight only increases their hit points (though usually by a huge amount), unlike regular units that treat armour as damage reduction. On the other hand, this means that an Armor-Piercing Attack is worthless against a Knight of the Round Table as it doesn't negate the health increase.
  • BFS: Many of the knights use them. Also the Golden Griffins, Springborn, Autumnbreed and Sidhe melee units.
  • Black Knight: A few, especially those who lean heavily towards Tyrant on the morality scale.
  • Blood Knight: Sir Caradoc. Lancelot too - he has a trait that causes him to lose some loyalty if he doesn't fight in a year, but gains some if he fights multiple times in a year.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: As usual, the Sidhe follow this trope. The Seelie regards knowledge as highly as skill in arms, and would gladly honour bargains made if the other party matches or exceeds their expectations.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: Can happen when a hero becomes vastly more powerful than the troop unit assigned as his/her guards.
  • Body Horror: Formorians in the sequel.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: Downplayed, but there is a DLC for the Arthurian campaign of the first game which allows you to recruit additional troop types (including otherwise unavailable cavalry) and heroes once you reach certain thresholds. Another grants artifacts as rewards if you clear the associated optional quests.
  • Celtic Mythology: Oddly, the Irish variety despite the game being set entirely in Britain.
  • Call That a Formation?: Played straight by a small few Orkney units that only have the spread-out-blob formation of "Horde". Everyone else however, at least has the "Close-Order" formation for close-combat and withstanding charges, with a large degree of units having a variety of other formations available to them (the next most common being the spread-out-line "Shield Wall" to defensively cover as much area as possible against infantry, and the "Wedge" formation to cut through an enemy unit).
    • Unfortunately, Knights are only reliable in the front and therefore immediately in combat of Wedge formations. For the other sure to take a close look at your knight's unit to make sure they'll be fighting whenever you activate skills that are based around themselves.
  • Changeling Tale: Both courts of Sidhe take children, though the Seelie seem to treat them better. Those kids then return, all grown up and equipped with magical weapons (or iron as Sidhe cannot handle iron themselves) to fight for their Sidhe masters.
  • Command & Conquer Economy: Played with for the first game. While you have to order construction of buildings at strongholds, and initiate research, your provinces automatically contribute Gold and Food according to their economic output. note 
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: More powerful units tend to be lower in total manpower compared to other comparable units in the same class.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Unlike other games, you can only allocate skill points for heroes and troops during one season (winter). Winter is also the only season where you can start construction of buildings and research (although queued up buildings and research will continue to progress throughout the seasons).
  • Damsel in Distress: More than a few. Once rescued, they can be married to your heroes, and their traits can either benefit or weaken their husbands, along with the fiefdoms they govern.
  • Darker and Edgier: The sequel, where the campaign often throws malicious supernatural beings (named Fomorians) at Arthur's court.
  • Dark Fantasy: The sequel descends wholeheartedly into this at times. The first game was both Lighter and Softer as well as slightly more toned-down concerning the fantasy elements (e.g. no air units).
  • Death of the Old Gods: If you like. Whether the Old Faith or Christianity triumphs depends on the player's choice.
  • Druid: Present and accounted for, in the form of heroes and quests.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: For I, the Arthurian campaign plays nothing like the Saxons and Welsh campaigns, with its railroading and overwhelming advantages to Arthur's various enemies. II takes this further, as kingdom management is nothing like the first game's (no passive income for starters).
  • Easy Logistics: While there are no supply lines in the games, armies in the first game have a seasonal upkeep. In the Saxon and Welsh campaigns, army upkeep is doubled when marching through hostile territory, and marching through neutral territory without a "military access" agreement is an automatic declaration of war. After a province has been conquered, the double upkeep continues for 1 year and the new ruler cannot recruit units during the year. In addition, powerful units more often than not are rather expensive to maintain. Played with in the second game; while armies no longer have a seasonal upkeep, there are no passive sources of gold income (gold is earned by winning battles).
  • Excalibur in the Stone: Yep. It's a King Arthur game after all.
  • The Fair Folk: Lots of them, acting as antagonists, allies or recruitable troops at various points and depending on the player's choices.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: Your Knights fall under this categorization with Champion, Sage and Warlord. Champions are the kings of melee battle, having stats and powers designed to smash foes in battle. Sages are the wizards of the game and are your most powerful spellcasters. Warlords are useful generalists designed around improving the governing of a realm, surviving adventures and improving your armies rather than directly wreak havok themselves.
  • Fisher King: Not the original, despite the Arthurian setting. Arthur himself becomes the Maimed King in the sequel which causes his kingdom to decay and the Formorians to return.
  • Foe-Tossing Charge: Cavalry can gain momentum as they gallop to a location. Momentum is consumed as they reach an enemy unit; the cavalry then tries to trample the enemy, immediately causing damage (though also to themselves) and potentially killing lighter infantry. However, momentum is lost from veering off-course or moving up a hill, and dense formations will be more able to hold against the trampling charge more effectively.
  • Forced Tutorial: The Arthurian campaign of the first game has this; you cannot even recruit troops and collect income until you meet the Lady of the Lake and restore Excalibur, and you cannot build structures, conduct research or set tax rates until you conquer a Stronghold.
  • Geo Effects: Anything aside from flat ground affect the troops standing on them. Difficult terrain like forests or water slow units down, consume more stamina to run through, and decrease their combat stats (although this affects heavy infantry and cavalry more than light infantry). The usual logic of what happens when you run up or down a hill applies, with cavalry gaining momentum faster from going down a hill and losing from going up one. If hidden in a forest for at least a minute, units will gain an ambush bonus when the enemy sees them (and the units hopefully start to attack).
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Morguase.
  • The Good King: Arthur, obviously, but only if the player wants him to be.
  • Grim Up North: In the first game, all land from the Midlands to Hadrian's Wall is covered with the forest of Bedegraine, the dangerous home of the Sidhe. In the sequel, we find out what's above the Wall and it is not pretty...
  • Guide Dang It!: The main campaign of the first game has this; nowhere in-game are you pre-warned that you can only recruit troops after you meet the Lady of the Lake and restore Excalibur; the quest itself does indicate this reward, and woe betides those who missed reading the quest. In addition, you can only build new structures or conduct research until you establish a stronghold, which also turns the AI kingdoms aggressive, increasing the challenge drastically. May the Lord / Old Gods help you if you rush to establish the stronghold without grabbing more land to support a larger army, and/or parking your armies on locations to increase their experience levels.
  • Happily Adopted: Arthur by Sir Ector, as in the myth. Ector himself acts as your advisor throughout the Arthurian campaign and Arthur's foster brother Kay is Arthur's first hero.
  • Hell Gate: The Samhain gate. Also the Formorians' gates.
  • I Am a Humanitarian: Giants eat human flesh. This act means that honourable Knights of the Round Table will take a hit in their morale if they're forced to work with Giants.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: The attitude of most Tyrant-leaning knights and possibly Arthur himself if you go that way.
  • Instant-Win Condition: An army's morale dropping to nothing causes it to immediately lose, no matter how much they outnumber their adversaries. A player can kite an enemy's army or distract them from the victory points to win a battle they'd otherwise have no chance at.
  • Kill It with Fire: Plenty of spells along this line, and they can often hurt your own troops as well.
  • Knight Errant: The Knights of the Round Table spend the time they're not leading armies into battle behaving like this.
    • In the Saxon and Welsh DLC campaigns, knights who have no liege are outright this, and referred to as "hedge knights".
  • Knight Templar: Some heroes are over zealous, and may cause problems if they rule over fiefdoms which are not of their religious alignment.
  • The Legions of Hell: The Formorians are technically not demons, but you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference.
  • Losing the Team Spirit: Rather than individual unit morale (which is the system used in the sequel), an army's morale in the first game provides an alternate victory condition aside from killing all of them. Both armies have morale bars which, much like the ticket system in the Battlefield series, go down if one side is holding more points and as they take losses. An army's reaching zero causes them to immediately lose.
  • The Lost Woods: Bedegraine, home to the Sidhe in-game, and a place where human armies are not exactly welcomed.
  • The Magic Comes Back: What happened when Arthur pulled the sword from the stone, which caused the Sidhe to come back, and various weird stuff happens all over Britain. This is partly why things are so chaotic.
  • Magic Staff: Most of the magic-centred heros carry one.
  • The Maze: The quest in Dagonet's castle.
  • Nemean Skinning: Sir Caradoc wears a wolf's skin in this manner.
  • No "Arc" in "Archery": Averted. The archer units fire in realistic arcs.
  • Non-Entity General: Sort of. The armies are supposedly led by whichever knight is in command. However, overall command belongs to Arthur, who never appears in person in any battle.
    • The Saxon and Welsh campaigns exaggerate this. While Arthur at least has his portrait at the Round Table, the Saxon and Welsh kings don't even have that.
    • Averted in the sequel. If William Pendragon is leading an army, he leads from the front.
  • Opposites Attract: No, they do not. Troop types that have an opposing morality in the same army will lower that army's morale rating and thus make it easier to defeat.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Only in story backgrounds for the first game, but showing up in person in the sequel.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: Mostly appear as enemies but several occasions allow you to recruit them.
  • Plant Person: The Green Knight.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The game's writers seem to have done their research on Arthurian characters and events but many are heavily adapted to serve as in-game quests.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: In the Saxon and Welsh campaigns, 3 out of the 4 neutral factions can become this once you've bribed them enough times. You can pay them for protection, and even hire them to invade a province, allowing you to occupy locations after they have done so, and killing them once they have outlived their usefulness.
  • Rags to Royalty: Part of the Arthurian legend, but the original campaign of the first game hammers it home by portraying Arthur's forces as the constant underdogs, with many other kings being more powerful than he is (at the beginning). The tutorial even has his forces clearing his inheritance of rebels, and his people only truly submitted to him (by paying taxes and agreeing to be drafted into his armies) after the Lady of the Lake blesses Exaclibur..
  • Railroading: Happens in the original campaigns of the two games. In I, this is aggravated by the superiority of one choice over another when it comes to certain quests. When deciding to ally with either Somerset or Dorset, an alliance with Somerset is more favorable as Dorset has a camp which enables troops to gain experience per season. When choosing the site to establish Camelot, Logres is a better choice as there are more provinces surrounding it, and it is possible to occupy most of these provinces before attacking Logres.
  • "Risk"-Style Map: Both games uses this. However, this factor is more significant in the first game, as Strongholds can house buildings which benefit surrounding counties, making such counties rather valuable.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Not so much Arthur, who mostly just hands out orders via the player's decisions, but King Mark, one of the earliest recruitable heroes, is a reliable leader and combatant.
  • Savage Wolves: Wargs are not an uncommon troop type to fight against while facing the Orkney/Viking armies.
  • Screw You, Elves!: Whichever ending you reach, you'll be defeating at least one of the Courts of the Sidhe, possibly both.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: In the sequel, the Formorians in general and particularly Balor.
  • Sealed Good in a Can: Percivale, though possibly with a good reason for the sealing. Depends how you feel about the old faith.
  • Situational Sword: The Excalibur. It can't be used as a weapon and its main power is to bless a site of arcane power and allow you to build a base for government there. There's less than a handful of these sites, but empowering the Excalibur enables Arthur to begin recruiting troops and collecting income from the lands under his control.
  • Spikes of Villainy: Many of the Tyrant leaning knights have them to some degree, but Mordred takes the cake.
  • Storming the Castle: Attacking Strongholds is this. While there are no gates to be battered down, the layout of the map consists of narrow winding streets, and the defender can (and probably will) position their units near all 3 victory points, while attacking units have to run to the points and then try to dislodge the defenders.
  • Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors: Archers beat light infantry and spearmen (well, with "Weaken archers" on at least), spearmen counter heavy infantry and cavalry, light infantry counter spearmen, heavy infantry and knights rather conflate to counter light infantry, archers and light cavalry (with heavy infantry being more effective against lighter forms of infantry while knights are faster and better at catching archers but lose terribly against spearmen), and light cavalry counters archers but is most useful for their speed to capture victory points or provide sight as needed.
    • This is also significantly affected by how lighter units are less affected by difficult or rough terrain while heavier units' sheer stats do best in open terrain (The scale goes from light infantry, spearmen, light cavalry, heavy infantry, knights by the degree they get hampered by terrain). Scrubland or forests provide cover against archers' fire, making them places where archers do not want to be around.
  • Take Your Time: Other than quests with an explicit time limit, the first game has this. The Arthurian campaign even encourages the player to do this as once Camelot is established, things heat up as the other kings realise that Arthur means business.
  • Touched by Vorlons: A couple of occasions allow you to solve issues with the Sidhe and other magical types by sending one of your knights to serve them for a set number of turns. Such knights are unavailable for that time but often return with new powers.
    • Actually all the Knights are this trope. In the logbook, it explains that all the Knights were normal people, but either by prayer, studying magic, finding a magical item or creature, they have been touched by the supernatural and empowered according to their talents. That's why the Knights have such incredible stats and powers; there is no Charles Atlas Superpower for them.
  • The Unfought: Queen Morguase, at least in the original.
  • Variable Player Goals: The Saxon and Welsh DLC campaigns allow the player to set their victory conditions, such as conquering provinces, and accumulating a huge amount of Gold and Food.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: The Rightful morality options.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: The Tyrant morality options.
  • The Virus: Formorian corruption in the sequel.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Morale for an army plummets if the units have incompatible alignment and religion. If you mix enough of these units, your morale can fall so low that the death of a single soldier will cause your army to break.
  • Weather of War: Weather can be changed by skills, creating fog, storms, night, or a clear day. Fog reduces sight, benefits Unseelie units and hampers archers; storms benefit seelie units and greatly hampers archers, knights and heavy infantry; night reduces sight and benefits Unseelie units, and a clear day hampers Unseelie units.
    • The seasons themselves affect strategy, as armies can march further during summer and cannot move at all in winter.