The Hand Of The King

HIGH Amazing writing.

LOW Short Campaign.

WTF Bread that can make you see the future!

For any Game Of Thrones fans that have ever wanted to be Tyrion Lannister or Ned Stark without the excessive drinking, walks around lavish parks and firebreathing dragons, The King’s Dilemma is a can’t-miss game. Top-tier writing provides opportunities and lays traps in convoluted situations, and it leads to a political game of poker that is sure to get the heart pumping with every decision made.

The King’s Dilemma is a videogame port of a legacy board game published in 2019 . In it, I was bestowed the honor and heavy responsibility of being the head of an advisory council for the king in the fictional kingdom of Ankist.

Essentially, I get to decide what does or does not get done in the kingdom, including things like who gets food or what route the army uses, and then dealing with the ramifications of said decisions. The other members of the council have their own political, ideological, and religious outlooks, with their goal being to influence the king’s decisions so that they can get outcomes favorable to their houses.

The system is simple.

Rather than relying on dice rolls as a boardgame might, The King’s Dilemma mainly functions on an “action/reaction” style table of resources. There are decisions to be made and the councils convenes to make said decisions. There is always a majority view but the resources table informs the stability of the kingdom, and if the kingdom is either too low or too high in any of its five resources ,then the King is dethroned/killed!

As the head of the council, I have the option to either follow the advice of the majority of the council, (which costs no ‘power’ points) or, I could force my will upon the rest of the members and override them, which does cost a certain amount of points.

Players start with a set number of points at the beginning of each reign. The exact amount is awarded at the start, or it depends on my performance in a previous reign and a few other factors. There is a risk to using these points, though — if I overspend my power and end up with no points remaining, then the king is dethroned or killed, and I have to restart with a new king. This soft reboot does not restart time or reset previous issues with the kingdom, which is fine, but a small gripe I have about it is how unscathed the council is until the final chapter. Regardless of how many kings are dethroned, this gaggle of incompetents maintain their lofty positions throughout.

Unfortunately, resource management is not well handled in The King’s Dilemma as it relates to individual houses. Whether you pick House Tork who are mainly focused on soldiering and raiding, or House Dualak who focus on farming and timber extraction, the resource management remains the same. Why would a nation that focuses on war and raiding care about the farming resource? Why would a House that focuses on farming care about military might? And even if we forgive this disconnect, why is it that the King is killed when any of the resources reaches max level? Is there really such a thing as too much money, too many soldiers, or too much food?! 

That issue with balance aside, the writing in The King’s Dilemma is superb, and one good example is the Ash Bread storyline.

Ash Bread is a contaminated form of bread that becomes the only option for food after a few poor harvests in the kingdom. Initially, only poor people consume it, but after a few weeks of use, the skin of those who eat it turns pale and a large black mark appears on them. Another side effect is that people who eat it can then predict the future!

After its effects are known to the council, my choices on whether to let my citizens consume it or not had widespread ramifications. Should I increase the number of soothsayers even if it creates more individuals to be discriminated against? On the other hand, banning the consumption of Ash Bread risks starvation or revolution. And there are even further choices connected to this storyline —  the price of bread, the morale of soldiers who do or don’t eat it, how my kingdom sees the bread based on my decisions regarding its consumption, and more.

The King’s Dilemma is the closest I’ve come to a regal advisor simulator, a position that has always fascinated me… although to be honest, this is one of the most underserved niche genres out there. While I appreciate that players’ lives are never at risk as they might be if they were manipulating things in the Game of Thrones world, it’s not perfect — but it is a good start. One can only hope that it leads to even greater attempts in the future.

Rating: 8 out of 10

— Patricio do Rosario

Disclosures: This game is published and developed by Big Trouble. It is available on PC. This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on PC. Approximately 7 hours of play were devoted to the single- player mode, and the game was completed. There is no multiplayer.

Parents: The ESRB has not rated this title. There are depictions of disturbing images and scenes of implied violence. There are references to slavery, abuse, racism, physical violence, domestic abuse, suicide, substance abuse, sexual violence and limited gory imagery(human sacrifices, blood).

Colorblind Modes: Colorblind modes are not available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The King’s Dilemma offers no options for audio accessibility. The text is not able to be altered or resized. (See examples above.) However, the game is playable without sound because it is 100% text based. As such, it is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, the game’s controls are not remappable.

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