|Release date(s)||Alpha 28th May 2009
Beta 4th November 2010
Gold 17th October 2012
Stronghold Kingdoms (SHK) is a massively multi-player online real time strategy game (MMORTS) with a Medieval castle building theme. It was developed by Firefly Studios and based upon their commercially successful and popular Stronghold series of games. Firefly Studios started development of Stronghold Kingdoms in 2007 as their first entry into the MMO genre. The first Alpha test began in 2009 and was open to 150 players. These were drawn from previous testers of Firefly Studios games, and volunteers of other prominent fansites. Afterwards, an open Beta was run for just under 2 years before the games official release on the 17th of October 2012.
In addition to the central theme of castle construction and design, Stronghold Kingdoms incorporates a variety of architectural, economic, military, agricultural, mercantile, industrial and political elements which challenge players ability to prioritize, direct work-flow and resources and administrate their holdings in the manner of a medieval land holder or noble. An individual player's success is not entirely predicated upon the ability to defeat computer-generated enemies, but also upon teamwork with fellow players.
The player begins relatively alone, one village amongst others in a single parish. From this beginning, strategic decisions are made and dialogue established with fellow parish members which introduces the social aspect of Stronghold Kingdoms. All players can vie for stewardship of the parish, dependent on rank. When two or more players wish to be Steward they can negotiate to decide who will take control of the parish, or take it by force, razing out the opposing players village from that parish. If Theology is researched, then monks can be deployed to infiltrate the parish and influence the vote. This is usually referred to as a monk war in the game vernacular. When the successful candidate becomes steward they gain control of the parish army along with the ability to set taxes (tithe), and build the necessary guilds to improve life for all in the parish.
Gameplay Elements 
Communication with one's neighbors is vital to a player's advancement and enjoyment of all that Stronghold Kingdoms offers.
Players are greeted by a tutorial after placement of their village. Starting resources are given to each new player and from that beginning how the village is managed, is essential to building a strong foundation to defend against all enemies. Juggle research to unlock what the castle needs, food, weapons, or basic resources like stone and wood, used to build everything in the castle or village. Use research points to unlock different aspects of the game. Obtain honour peacefully by banqueting or choose an aggressive means by attacking wolf lairs, bandit camps and AI castles. Defend your castle in turn from an attacking enemy AI Siege Camp or enemy players. As the game progresses, honour is accumulated and used to rank higher, but honour can be gained, or lost. If you opt to attack another player, this will cost honour thereby making every decision influence the next.
Proclamations, arrived to Stronghold Kingdoms in client update 126.96.36.199 This gave Stewards, Sheriffs, Governors and Kings the ability to send messages. Proclamations, cannot be responded too by players that receive the notice.
Captains, are an elite unit used to capture or raze an enemy village. In peaceful mode they are used to purchase a village charter. In order to unlock captains, a player needs to first unlock leadership research. This becomes available at rank 12 when a player is able to start his second village. Up to 25 villages are allowed per player, per game world.
Captains, once unlocked, have a delay ability. This is useful when capturing a village as a player will put the captain on a delay of up to 200 seconds. If the captain dies then the capture or raze fails. Captains have other unique abilities called Tactics but these were weak until client update 188.8.131.52. The powers were buffed and are now worth researching, considering a player can use up to 5 captains in one attack.
- Rallying Cry, is a shout that gives a health boost. This has changed from one single boost to smaller health boosts which take effect over a longer period. A green plus sign will appear when the power is active and show above the troops affected.
- Arrow Volley, this is a volley that does more damage than regular arrows and begins as the captain moves forward. This has been updated to use multiple volleys as opposed to the original one.
- Battle Cry, increases the damage done to walls, moats and buildings. A red exclamation mark appears over the captain and troops affected when the shout is active.
- Catapult Volley, now gives multiple volley's over a period of seconds. The captain will only advance after the volley begins.
The Second Age 
The Russian world of Mir 1 became the first world to enter the second age of Stronghold Kingdoms. The original English world 1, followed soon after. This age begins when the Glory challenge ends leaving one house standing.
The second age heralds a world reset which includes the following changes:
- Glory - The Glory Challenge will reset and welcome back all Houses. All points are reset to zero.
- Factions & Houses - Factions will be cleared of players. Houses cleared of factions and alliances.
- Stock Exchanges - Resources cleared and prices reset.
- Capital Buildings - Buildings will be deleted and levels reset.
- Forums - Capital forums to be cleared of all posts.
- Flags - Capitals cleared of all current flags and set back to the default number.
- Leadership - Leaders of Capitals will be removed and current votes reset.
- Gold - Gold will be cleared from all capitals.
There are a number of integral gameplay changes brought into effect with the second age. These include the following:
- Increased Factions per House - The amount of Factions a House can hold is increased from 12 to 20.
- Increased Troops and Units speed - Armies and scouts speed is doubled.
- Increased costs when using Monks - Excommunication and Interdiction's Faith point cost is doubled.
- Glory tripled - Glory reward points are tripled
- County Capital Influencing - Monks now have the ability to influence votes at County level.
- Vote caps - Votes to be capped for leaders holding County, Province and Country positions.
- Capital Building Bonuses - The Second Age brings about a major change to Buildings placed in the capital. A steward will no longer be able to delete fully levelled buildings and retain the bonus. On deletion the bonus is lost!
World 1, (English Language Server) the original Alpha world is modelled upon Britain. At the beginning of the Beta phase in November 2010 it was announced that World 1 would not reset, as it had through the previous Alpha iterations. As of May 2011 there were over 14,000 active players on this world.
World 2, (English Language Server) as World 1 filled with players and demand grew stronger for the game Firefly Studios launched World 2 on Tuesday 8 February 2011. This world has the same map and all players from world 1 could join world 2. This also introduced the ability to start in different areas of the map rather than in a cluster.
Coat of Arms Designer 
The new Coat of Arms designer has full game integration and allows a player to customise his shield in many ways. To flip or rotate are just some of the options available along with over 200 symbols, designs and thirty two colours. The shield designer is available when a player logs into the game and clicks on their shield. Once designed, the shield resides atop their village on the world map and beside their name in mail and posts on the Parish Info Wall.
As players evolve in game, the ability to join a Faction becomes available. They can create their own or join an existing one, opting for a group that has the same common purpose. The creator of the faction invites and appoints officers who in turn can invite and dismiss members. Each faction has an individual forum where participants of that faction may communicate with one another. Faction leaders may also choose to enter into an alliance or war with other factions, doing so will place a decorated white ribbon or a glowing red sword - respectively, above other player's villages. As a faction grows, they may decide to join a House that holds the same aspiration.
Houses have their own banner and designated colour. Factions apply to join a House and on acceptance are integrated and sport the house colour beneath their villages on the world map. They also receive the house banner by their name on the leaderboard.
House leaders are now able to send a proclamation to their officers once per day, as of update 2.004.22
Glory is an ongoing challenge played in rounds between Houses. A House gain points or the control of parishes, counties, provinces, and countries. At the end of each cycle, which is determined when a House reaches one million points, the last two Houses in each round are eliminated and take no further part in Glory. The House that wins a round receives a gold star on their banner.
The final victory condition was set on 17 January 2012. When five Houses remain in Glory, the elimination process will now drop one House instead of two. Stars gained from previous rounds are equal to lives. If a House finishes last, it may use a star to gain a life and remain in the Glory Challenge.
Quests arrived to Stronghold Kingdoms in a summer update. This highly anticipated gameplay brought a bonanza of gifts in the form of in game resources. Some quests will give you the option to spin the "Quest Wheel". A wheel spin will reward the player with gold, card packs, card points, research points, faith points or the jester, who denotes a free spin. The "Quest Wheel" has five levels and the prizes grow in accordance.
To complete every quest a player will need to participate in combat, farming, trading and being a diplomat. The aim is to expand a players knowledge of the game to include every aspect Stronghold Kingdoms has to offer and reward them in the process.
The new quests are world specific so playing on more than one world will restart them. The only quest that is account specific is the Tutorial which, until this update, was the only quest available and would automatically activate the moment an account was created and a village location chosen.
An update on 9 May 2011 brought Achievements to Stronghold Kingdoms. Awarded in the shape of a medal, players earn these by completing deeds. To acquire "Banquet King" for instance, a player would need to feast with different elements of banquet goods, to earn each rank of medal. The medals come in four ranks starting with iron, silver, gold and diamond. Medals ranked silver and above reward the player with a small amount of honour. All medals earned by players are viewable in game to both friend or foe, so you can see what other players have achieved. With over 40 achievements to accumulate, it could take a player some time, but Firefly Studios bestowed some retroactively, thereby giving players a head start with their collection.
An update put out on the 16th June 2011, takes the client build to 184.108.40.206 and delivers for the first time to Stronghold Kingdoms, music. The background music is a medley of beautiful medieval sounds that make a welcome début to the on-line game and will be instantly recognisable to fans of the Stronghold series. Those wonderful notes composed by Robert Euvino are now incorporated into Stronghold Kingdoms. Listed in the music folder is a battle medley that includes two endings, one for defeat. Along with the battle music there are various pieces including, Under an old tree, a poignant piece titled Stainedglass-all, and an ecclesiastical sounding Monks1. The music can be turned off altogether or reduced depending on player preference.
Sound Effects were added to the game on 17th October 2012. This update brings to life the players battle reports, as his troops clash with the enemy. Village life has also received attention and is no longer silent. A player can click on every building and hear the reflected sound; Wood being worked, stone quarried and the fletcher going about his daily business, as the jester laughs in the background.
A later update to sound effects put out on the 24th October brings the client to version 220.127.116.11 and gives the player the option to turn off the battle sounds. The audio visual menu located under settings in game, now gives the player total control over all game sounds.
The stronghold community grows stronger and to strengthen this bond the Stronghold Team has implemented a player news page. The Daily Pillage will spotlight players in game stories which are submitted via e-mail.
CEO of Firefly Studios Eric Ouellette, stated Stronghold Kingdoms would be free-to-play. A set number of free cards are given each week depending on criteria achieved in game. An option exists to also purchase crowns. These crowns are then used to buy strategy cards and Premium Tokens, to enhance gameplay.
Strategy Card Packs
- Random Pack - Standard and Rare Cards
- Food Pack - Food Production Cards
- Industry Pack - Resource & Productivity Cards
- Army Pack - Offensive/Siege Cards
- Defence Pack - Defensive/Castle Cards
This token gives the option to automate some of the play actions while one is offline. Auto scout, attack, trade and recruit. A research and build queue is also included as well as a Villages Overview screen, providing players with all important information across all their villages in 4 simple screens.
Vacation mode was added in the winter update and requires that a player have a premium token in play. Once activated this gives the player between 3 – 15 days, twice per calender year. In this mode a player cannot be attacked and all game worlds become inaccessible.
Premium Boxes 
Two premium box editions have been released that include special content. The Stronghold Kingdoms Deluxe Edition is the English version while the German Premium Edition differed only in offering a 10% lifetime discount when purchasing crowns. A code within the box gives access to the exclusive content. Accounts may only redeem one code.
The redeeming of one code per account changed briefly with the updated deluxe box from getgamesgo. The new deluxe code works with the old deluxe pack code but again the caveat being, a one use per account.
Strategy Informer gave a score of 85/100, with reviewer Emmanuel Brown describing it as "mission accomplished" and saying that "for the most part, they get it absolutely right." Gaming XP's review praised how the classic Stronghold format was "implemented very well for this MMO".
Alpha 1, this was a closed alpha and the game at this stage was very basic. Some parish screens were blank but for a tax setting. Barracks were limited to the stewards command research which scales with each level attained.
Alpha 2, religion was added where previously the research for this had been greyed out.
Alpha 3, parish guilds were implemented and strategy cards introduced.
Alpha 4, most of the screens were now in place. The only major addition to this alpha was the introduction of captains. These were now necessary when buying or capturing a village. They were also fleshed out with their own tactics.
Beta, An open Beta was run from November 2010 until the games official release in October 2012.
Gold Stronghold Kingdoms was officially released on the 17th October 2012.
Current Client Version: 18.104.22.168
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