The Origins of Kingless

Kingless began as all projects do, with an idea.

In August 2018, I had this idea for a dwarf-themed game which bore no resemblance to Kingless whatsoever, beyond the presence of cards. After a quick think about how it could work, I suggested it to Seb, who responded with instant enthusiasm. I had heard that we are currently in the golden age of independent tabletop game design, what with the internet to connect people and the wonderful power of crowdfunding to bring ideas to life. We knew we wanted Nathan to join us on the project, as we were already working together and he has played more tabletop games than both of us combined.

After an initial brainstorming session for the mechanics, Seb and I thought we had really nailed it. As you probably guessed, we had not, and you will see almost nothing from those initial frantic notes in the game today. Nathan put us to rights and spent an evening inventing the bones of the fast and approachable game we have today.

Those initial efforts left us with an excellent framework, but we had only just begun. We knew we needed dwarves, events (spells at the time) and items. All of these factors had to have a name and a function to play off of each other, so as to really bring the game to life. After throwing enough ideas at the wall to see what stuck, we got a list of dwarves we were happy with, complete with a name, an identity and a pivotal role in our game.

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I’ve always found naming characters to be challenging, and it turned out to be even harder to name a game. We decided to create a spreadsheet containing a handful of name concepts. We then independently reviewed and added a number rating to them, so we could get a final list together. This ended with a clear result for Kingless, but if you look carefully you can see the central theme and the very first reference to the Hammer & Crown.

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With both the name and the game roughed out, we began the long process of playtesting and improving it. As you can imagine, the first playtest was rough with many improvements being done on the fly, and turns were made in between frantic note-taking. By the third playtest, however, Kingless was finally starting to feel like the game we had imagined and fun was being derived from gameplay and not just us laughing at our own hubris.

After many incremental changes, we arrived at version 0.7 for us; this was a milestone. Kingless was now playing how we envisioned, and it was time to open the game up to friends and family.