Reviewed by Herb Levy
KINGDOMINO DUEL (Blue Orange Games, 2 players, ages 8 and up, 20 minutes; $14.99)
In this day and age, when you have a game that has garnered such praise and success as Kingdomino (featured in the Summer 2017 issue of Gamers Alliance Report), it is no surprise to see that game reinvented in one form or another. So by incorporating this surge of interest with the avalanche of Roll & Write games that have lately been released, we find a new variation of this game: Kingdomino Duel.
In this strictly 2 player game designed by Bruno Cathala and Ludovaic Maublanc, both players begin with identical map sheets and a pencil. The back of a sheet serves as a “Spellbook” where players write their names and chart bonuses they may earn as the game goes on. Four special dice are provided and dice drafting is used to create the familiar dominoes used in the original game.
These four six-sided dice are not identical but among them can be found the six different coats of arms used in the game as well as a ? (which acts as a “wild”). Some coats of arms also display a cross or two to symbolize “high dignitaries”, this game’s version of the crowns in the original.
The first player (the “oldest”) rolls all the dice and then chooses one of them. Player B then chooses the next two leaving the first player with the last one. Chosen dice are then “combined” to make a “domino” with their symbols written in on that player’s map sheet in order to create “domains” sharing the same coat of arms with the following guidelines:
Symbols must be adjacent to each other; any crosses are noted accordingly next to the symbol.
All symbols match the center castle space. Subsequent “dominoes” must either touch that center space OR match an adjacent symbol already on the map. No diagonal “connections” allowed.
If you cannot draw in any symbols following these guidelines, you do nothing, effectively losing a turn. On the other hand, each time a coat of arms without a cross is added to your burgeoning kingdom, the Spellbook comes into play.
The Spellbook has a center column with spaces for each player on either side. A “cross less” coat of arms allows you to fill in a space on your side of the Spellbook corresponding to that coat of arms symbol. The first player to complete a line (and only the first player) can use the special power it provides. Special powers include allowing you to place symbols and ignore the connection rules, separate your dice and play then individually, allow the first player to choose two dice first (instead of only the first and last) and change any one die face. These powers may be used at your discretion. Two final powers must be used immediately and they are the ability to choose one coat of arms and gain extra points for each domain of that type and adding one more cross to any domain of your choosing. All powers are one time use only. There is also a one time use for each player to to add a cross to a rolled die!
Once any player has filled in all the spaces on his sheet or both players cannot place their “domino”, the game ends and scoring happens. Points are earned for each domain based on how many coats of arms are in it multiplied by the number of crosses there. As in Kingdomino, no crosses (crowns) in a domain is a multiplier of zero and is valueless. And, of course, any points earned through the Spellbook are counted too. High score wins! Tie? Then the player with the biggest domain claims victory! (Still tied? Then the game ends in a draw!)
In Kingdomino Duel, tile drafting of the original game is replaced by dice drafting to create “dominoes”, adding another aspect to play. This game moves quickly and the always present luck factor of dice rolling is amply mitigated by dice drafting. The race for special powers that can be gained adds a new element to the basic play of the original as well. While it is fun to grow domains, it might be a well worth it to splurge for a set of colored pencils, one color per domain, so you can readily see how your domains are shaping up – and color makes the whole thing pop too! It also should be mentioned that the “wraparound” style of box holds everything snugly including rules in French, Spanish and English.
Kingdomino Duel is a clever blend of the original game with a Roll and Write character with an added dimension of competition over spells that can boost abilities. This combination of ingredients gives this game an identity of its own making for a worthy addition to the Kingdomino family of games. – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy
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