K is for King Arthur



The aim of my Blogging From A to Z Challenge is to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling. A perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper.

[Visit here for links to other A to Z participants.]


Game: King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame is a strategy game with an Arthurian theme that builds on the mystery-shrouded tales of the Round Table – and yes, he gets his sword.

Release Date: November 24, 2009

Developer: NeoCore Games

Genre/gameplay mechanics: turn-based strategy; diplomacy; campaign map; real-time battles with victory locations; heroes; heroic quests; recruitment; single or multi-player; RPG elements.

Setting: Quasi-historical Britannia made up of numerous provinces in a post-Roman Britain. For an ex-pat, this could be England, even Wales.

Storytelling: Open-ended single-player campaign storyline has many scenarios, some built around Arthurian lore, but others delve into fantasy realms, even intermixing foreign elements. The player takes the role of King Arthur himself and commands his knights and armies to expand his kingdom. It is explained that Uther Pendragon, Arthur’s father, failed to draw the sword Excalibur from the stone. Arthur, years later, pulls the sword from the stone, unleashing ancient forces upon Britannia.

Releases + Expansions:

  1. Bug fixing patches versioned 1.02, 1.03 and 1.04 were released after publication.
  2. NeoCore released two downloadable content items: Knights and Vassals (adding further units and heroes), and Legendary Artifacts (adding additional weapons, relics and other items) on January 19, 2010.
  3. July 2010 expansion – King Arthur: The Saxons added an additional campaign set after the Arthurian period, during the Saxon era of Britain; sandbox game style.
  4. January 2011 expansion – King Arthur: The Druids, set in Wales, ‘sandbox’ type game format.
  5. September 2011 stand-alone expansion – King Arthur: Fallen Champions was released, with a story-based mission structure. Intended to act as a bridge between the stories of the original game and the sequel.

Sequels: September 2011 (EU) + April 2012 (Worldwide) –  King Arthur II: The Role-Playing Wargame. Single-player but no multi-player.

Formats: Microsoft Windows

Origins (Chronological) – the core sources for King Arthur:

  1. Most later Arthurian works are derivative of  Le Morte d’ArthurThomas Malory‘s retelling of the entire legend in a single work in English – first published in 1485 by William Caxton.
  2. c1170-1190 –  Chrétien de Troyes wrote five Arthurian romances that had the greatest influence with regard to the development of Arthur’s character and legend.
  3. The first narrative account of Arthur’s life is found in Geoffrey of Monmouth‘s Latin work Historia Regum Britanniae(History of the Kings of Britain), completed c. 1138. Over 200 manuscript copies of Geoffrey’s Latin work are known to have survived. It is one of the central pieces of the Matter of Britain.
  4. The 9th-century Latin compilation  Historia Brittonum describes the supposed settlement of Britain by Trojan expatriates and states that Britain took its name after Brutus, a descendant of Aeneas. The work was the “single most important source used by Geoffrey of Monmouth and was the first source to portray King Arthur, who is described as a dux bellorum (‘military leader’) or miles (‘warrior, soldier’) and not as a king.
  5. Based on a chronicle begun in the late 8th century in Wales,  Annales Cambriae (Welsh Annals) also sees Arthur as a genuine historical figure, a Romano-British leader who fought against the invading Anglo-Saxons in the late 5th to early 6th century.
  6. Excalibur was associated with the Arthurian legend very early. In Welsh, it is called Caledfwlch and appears in several early Welsh works, including the Culhwch and Olwen, a work associated with the Mabinogion and written perhaps around 1100.
  7. The earliest literary references to Arthur come from Welsh and Breton sources.  A 2007 academic survey, Concepts of Arthur by Dr Caitlin R. Greenidentifies three key strands to the portrayal of Arthur in this earliest material: the first is that he was a peerless warrior who functioned as the monster-hunting protector of Britain from all internal and external threats; the second is that Arthur was a figure of folklore and localised magical wonder-tales, the leader of a band of superhuman heroes who live in the wilds of the landscape. The third and final strand is that the early Welsh Arthur had a close connection with the Welsh Otherworld Annwn.

Adaptations set in the Arthurian universe – notable & seminal examples:

  1. BOOKS – Since H. White‘s The Once and Future King(1958), there have been some noteworthy adaptations, some listed in this excellent article by historical-fiction writer, Annie Whitehead. These include my favourite, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon.
  2. POETRY – the most notable poet, for me, is Alfred Tennyson, whose first Arthurian poem “The Lady of Shalott” was published in 1832.
  3. ART – William Morris and Pre-Raphaelite artists are among the many to produce works with an Arthurian theme.
  4. FILMS – personal preferences are John Boorman’s 1981 film Excalibur, Antoine Fuqua’s 2004 film King Arthur with Arthur as a Roman cavalry officer rather than a medieval knight, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), with its watery tarts and swallows.
  5. TELEVISION – favourite and historically the most interesting was the series Arthur of the Britons(1972–73)
  6. VIDEO GAMES – around twenty video games reference Arthur, from Tomb Raider to King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame.


Recommendation: On Metacritic, the game received an aggregate 54/100 and within the industry was well-received…including this Gamespot review, which mentions “watery tarts”, and says, “While the overall game is well worth playing because of the outstanding development of the Arthurian theme and some innovations on both the role playing and strategy sides of the fence, the flaws that mount up after a while will leave you hoping for a patch.”

3.8* Stars: I first bought the game anticipating a similar game to Medieval: Total War  (2002) and its expansion pack, Viking Invasion (2003) which I had enjoyed. King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame had echoes but with different elements, such as the RPG quests and heroes. Combat-wise, I got my armies wiped out at the beginning – too much trial and error as the Gamespot review said. But the game is addictive.

  1. Setting: 3.25*
  2. Storyline: 4*
  3. Gameplay: 3.25*
  4. Entertainment: 3.5*
  5. Genesis: 5*

Alternative ‘K’ thoughts:

K is also for King Kong. I enjoyed both Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s great 1933 movie and Peter Jackson’s excellent 2005 version. Plus, there are video games that I haven’t tried.

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