Ard Rí means "High King" in Irish, and this variant represents the struggle of Irish feudal lords and chieftains to be crowned High King of Ireland. It was created in 1996 by Stuart John Bernard and published by Stupendous Games before apparently being lost to time. The variant was revived and adapted for Realpolitik in 2020 by Eamon John Driscoll.
Ard Rí begins in Winter 379, allowing the players to select their own starting units. There are fifteen (15) supply centres on the board, of which none are neutral. To win the game, a power must control eight (8) centres.
This is a five-player variant. The powers are: C: Connacht (Connachta) - black L: Leinster (Laighin) - green H: Meath (Midhe) - blue N: Munster (Mumhain) - yellow U: Ulster (Ulaidh) - red
Due to limitations of the Realpolitik programme, it was necessary to exclude both the optional Viking power and the "raiding" action (attacking off-board areas for profit). I have considered establishing Viking outposts throughout Ireland, but this option will require changes to the map that take it away from the original version of the game. Nevertheless, the Viking-esque unit icons taken from the Stonehenge variant are meant as a nod to this lost power.
One change was made to the map from the original version. This was to give Waterford and Kilkenny a border, taking it away from Cashel and Wexford. Previously, it had been too easy for Leinster to build two armies straightaway and grab Cashel without resistance.
Also important to note on the map is that Limerick is a coastal center, bordering Shannon Estuary. Thus Clare and Kerry are separated and units wishing to travel between them must either be convoyed or go through Limerick.
When adapting Ard Rí, province names were changed to their familiar modern English-language place names. This was done in part to make the game more accessible and realistic, but also because the original names seemed to have very little basis in geographic reality. Some were accurate, but most were not and quite a few seemed to be not geographic at all. For those who wish to play with the original place names, a version is included in the files to copy, paste, and play.