The King Is Dead is a party roleplaying game for 3-5 players which can be enjoyed in a single evening, requiring up to a few hours of game time (depending upon the number of players). No GM or Referee is needed, since each player has their own copy of the rules which explains everything and tells them exactly what to do. Replay value is pretty high, since the specific story details of each session are provided by the players themselves during gameplay.
Essentially, the king is dead, leaving no clear adult successor. Players name themselves, choose from among the five great Houses which rule the land-- you can have more than one player from the same House-- and then they take turns initiating a series of 'games' which will determine who will ascend to the nation's throne.
'Games' which can be played include having a simple dinner with other players; pursuing another player, either on foot or on horseback; crossing blades for a little bloody violence; taking troops into the field for a full-fledged battle; and finally, an endgame which tallies things up and determines the game's outcome. There are something like 10 or 12 distinct games in the rulebook, including the endgame, and since each player chooses which game they want to initiate on their turn, the number and variety of stories which can be told in each session of The King Is Dead is nearly infinite. No two games will ever be alike!
The game mechanics of The King Is Dead are pretty simple. The outcome of each mini-game is determined by drawing a card from a standard deck, following a few prompts in the game book which might bring additional cards into play, and then comparing the value of cards drawn. The results of each mini-game determine which new cards wind up in the player's hand for scoring purposes, and then the score of the player's hand during the endgame phase determines the game's outcome. Essentially, from a purely mechanical point of view, The King Is Dead is a hand-building game.
Mechanics aside, though, the real joy of this game comes from the creative story details which players provide while following the prompts found in their copy of the rules during each mini-game. Everyone taking part in each mini-game contributes to the game's narrative, helping to define "what happened" when Lord Baffrey matched wits with Lady Slawana during a rather salty dish of roast pheasant. This is the part of the game that story details emerge from.
We've had a few amusing sessions with this game. I'd describe The King Is Dead as one of those games that comes in really handy when you have friends to entertain. Its nerd factor is low enough that you can spring it on creative friends who aren't necessariy gamers, but still high enough that your friends who are gamers can get that roleplaying itch scratched through gameplay.