Hi everyone. I think this might be my first post.
Anyways, the topic of Castle theme factions is one that has intrigued me since my Lego Castle childhood in the 80's and 90's, and while I've been out of the game for many years, and don't have near the Lego knowledge any of you do, I thought I'd come in and share what I believe, which was my approach to playing Lego Castle as a kid.
In order not to dictate how to play with the Lego system, I felt Lego was always purposely vague when showing the merits of a set in a catalogue or commercial, making it so that I don't really think there is a real right or wrong answer. But this is how I always saw it. I don't think you can deny that the lion Knight/Crusaders are supposed to be the "good guys", and beyond that, with having a set called the "Kings Castle", you know they're in charge. My first set was Black Monarchs Castle, so my first day in the game, there were already 3 factions. Lions/Falcons?Crusaders. To me the Black Falcons and Black Monarch's factions weren't "bad guys" but underlings of the king, trying to win prestige and favor by fighting or one upping each other.
I saw the two "black" factions the way I'd seen underlings in the movies, whether it be like the Cardinal from the Three Musketeers, or the Sheriff of Nottingham from Robin Hood, which were both popular movies during the golden age of Lego Castle. In my head I always saw Black Monarch guys as being the more dastardly of the two, but both would do what's necessary to achieve power. This was a very popular theme/idea during this time period, not just with the two movies I mentioned, but in movies like Star Wars with the relationship between Vader and the Emperor, to other vague ideas of heirarchy in cartoons like GI JOE, where Destro was doing the same thing to Cobra Commander on a weekly basis, or StarScream/Megatron, or Skeletor/ Beastman/Trapjaw/Merman. the same types of heirarchies exsisted in almost all the media my young brain consumed, so naturally, I applied this same logic to my Lego battles. When the Black Monarchs Ghost set came out, I thought the Ghost itself was Black Monarch, so they always fought in memory of their leader, but in reality, I think it says something that no king or Queen was ever produced, that maybe a lack of leadership was intended, and lends creedance to the idea that these are already factions in power fighting to rule and govern. Like stated by another, I saw the forestmen as the Robin Hood type, good guys at heart, and not at all interchangeable with the Wolfpack, who were basically thieves and pirate-like.
When the Dragon guys came out, I remember getting in a fight with my friend because he thought the Dragon guys were the same as the Black Monarchs, who having teamed up with the blue wizard, had changed their theme, to associate themselves with the dragons they now controlled. It's plausable I guess, I think my main complaint with it as a 12 year old, was really just that if the Dragon Knights were the Monarchs, the the sheer balance of sets just made the #1 guys even bigger, which didn't make any sense. If I were to recreate my battles now, as an adult, or with my son, I'd probably make it so that Majesto, the blue wizard, having the ability to control dragons, would be recruiting his Dragon Knights from all the various factions with the promise of turning the tide in the war for who reigns in LegoLand.
Also, just to chime in on the other discussion. I view the 6018 dragon boat set as a Falcons set. While color scheming the figs together within a set often worked, I don't feel at all that Lego ever intended a specific color or shirt pattern to align with a faction, and goes to further my idea that in the big scheme of things, they're all really offshoots of a bigger faction (those under rule of the king). With the boat having a dragon head, I see it as nothing more than a symbol to strike fear in the hearts of those they sail against, and dragon heads aren't that hard to fake with a few bricks. Just look at the Dragon Knights castle from a few years later, swiveling dragon head on it, also, I didn't associate them with the Monarch knights, who also used the dragon emblem.
Just my .02