Days of Knights is a game played with miniature figures that covers period roughly from the Scottish Wars of Independence to the Italian Wars of the early 16th century. It is produced by Chipco Games and is available as a .pdf file via their website at sabersedge.com/chipco/dok.htm.
Chipco has just released a second edition of this ruleset. This review is of this new version.
Days of Knights is a fast-play ruleset, based around the element (here called a unit), rather than the individual figure. All units are based on 40mm x 40 mm (60x60 for 25mm) bases.
Each army also has a number of characters, which are based individually. There are two categories of characters; Major and Minor. Major characters, which are used to determine unit movement and can give morale and melee bonuses, include the King/General, Marshals (sub-generals), and Captains. Minor characters, which cannot influence movement, include Religious Personalities and Masters of Bow.
Essentially, a unit can only move straight forward (angling 45 degrees to either side) unless it has an attached Major Character. A Captain, for example, can affect the movement of a single unit, a Marshall can control a Battle and the King/General can lead anyone. This can lead to all sorts of problems if you don't have the required character available for a particular maneuver!
Unit demoralization is an important part of DOK. A demoralized unit cannot engage enemy and has its combat factor reduced by one. A double-demoralized unit also recoils from combat and/or shooting and cannot advance towards the enemy. A third demoralization results in the unit's destruction. However, each player has a chance to rally his demoralized units each turn by rolling a d10 and comparing the number to that unit's rally factor. If he makes the roll, the unit rallies and loses all demoralization markers. .
Combat rules are simple and familiar to players of DB*. Each unit has a combat factor, to which are added any modifiers that may apply, and the roll of a ten-sided die. Higher score wins, with the loser either becoming demoralized or being destroyed. However, unlike DB*, there are no quick kills and no variation in outcome moves depending on unit type.
Heavy infantry units get support from those beside them, encouraging the player to use battle lines. Interestingly, longbow units can give support to other infantry units, but not to other longbow units, forcing to player to adopt a herce-like formation of alternating "bills and bows". Cavalry doesn't give nor receive support, encouraging players to deploy it separately from the foot.
To fire missiles, you total the number of firing units and roll a d10. The target is unaffected destroyed or demoralized. Some troops, such as dismounted knights and later-medieval plate-barded horse are less vulnerable to missile-fire than other units.
So, how is the new second edition different from the first?
Most of the basic game mechanics remain the same with perhaps the most radical change to the basic system being new combat factors for many unit types. Many units now have higher combat factors than before; while this may reduce the luck factor in combat, it also makes it tougher on those lower in the food chain, and all but ensures units like longbows will get thumped in combat.
Unit types have also been expanded. Longbows can, for example, take to the field as Longbows, Professional Longbows, English Expeditionary Force Longbows, or mixed in with a men-at-arms unit as a unit bowfire upgrade.
Optional rules cover such topics as Swiss pike blocks, later medieval artillery and Hussite War Wagons. There is also a new system for generating armies based on the types of units each character can bring as part of his retinue.
Minor irritants remain from the first edition. Foot knights cause panic just as do mounted cavalry, and crossbows are classified as infantry rather than as missile troops. The rather odd panic rules have been somewhat improved but still feel to me like a patched version of the original system when something different was really needed.
The physical quality of the rules is much improved with photos and easy-to-read lettering. The game is only available as a printable PDF file, which has become my medium of choice.
And the verdict?
Just as with the first edition, I find the game system still works surprisingly well. Characters are all-important, and must be in position to reorganize troops after combat, or to react to unexpected threats. Leaderless units become easy prey to the enemy.
However, I find I still prefer the first edition. DOK2 is a more finished product, which leaves less room for the scenario-specific tinkering I love to do. And while there is nothing intrinsically wrong with all the new chrome that has been added, I prefer to add my own chrome to the more basic system found in the first set. But those who prefer a more finished product may well find the new version to their liking.