Reviewed by Herb Levy
KINGDOMINO (Blue Orange Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, 15 minutes; $19.99)
Throughout history, kings have often sought to expand their holdings, growing their kingdoms ever larger and larger. In this new game by Bruno Cathala, players find themselves in that role, gradually building their kingdoms (and amassing the most Victory Points) in Kingdomino.
All players begin with a small square piece that operates as the starting spot of their kingdom. (Cardboard “castles” may be punched out to indicate each player’s color and they may be placed on that starting tile to add a little “atmosphere” as well.) They also have one meeple in their chosen color (two if playing a two player game). There are 48 “domino-like” tiles in the game, numbered 1 through 48 as well.
Tiles are shuffled and tiles equal to the number of players are displayed, in number order, low to high. For the first turn, meeples are randomly drawn and then placed on the tile that player wishes to claim.
All tiles are divided into two spaces which generally show different terrain (although some will have two spaces of the SAME terrain.) Higher numbered tiles will also display one or more crowns on their terrain. Now another set of tiles is placed, available to be claimed next. A meeple on a tile allows that player to move the tile into his kingdom, with moves made in number order from lowest tile to highest. The player then assigns his meeple to one of the tiles in the upcoming display (which determines turn order for the next round.)
Tile placement follows simple guidelines. Terrain on tiles placed MUST match at least ONE terrain space already present. (The initial square piece will match ANY terrain.) Tiles may be rotated if so desired. The layout of the kingdom can never exceed a 5 x 5 square so you need to be sure you don’t place tiles so that future tiles will not fit or gaps created. Tiles that cannot be placed (either because the configuration of your layout will not permit it or terrains do not match) are discarded. Play continues until all tiles are played. Then we score.
Each type of terrain is examined and the value calculated. Terrain will score only if the terrain contains crowns! The number of crowns is multiplied by the number of connected terrain spaces of that type. For example, a connection of four desert tiles which contain two crowns will score 8 points. On the other hand, a connection of six desert tiles with NO crowns scores NOTHING! The player with the highest total score wins!
Kingdomino is a fairly simple game in its game play; placing tiles in domino-like fashion is classic which makes learning the game easy. Yet the game provides interesting choices every turn in the balancing between the advantage of turn order (which gives you first pick of the next set of tiles) and the value of amassing crowns. Since crowns appear on the higher numbered cards, choosing to claim one of these nearly always means giving up the chance to go before other players in choosing the NEXT tile for your kingdom. Conversely, choosing a lower numbered tile will give you first pick next round but the tile you will be placing in your kingdom will likely have no crowns on it which can have a disastrous (or, at least, a dampening) effect on your final scoring. The game’s graphic quality is very good, particularly the thick tiles and colorful artwork by Cyril Bouquet. Variants are provided in the rules (such as being compelled to have your starting piece the centerpiece of your kingdom etc.) for those players who want to add more flavor in case they feel the game is too “vanilla” but, in our sessions, we have found the game operates fine without those additions.
Kingdomino comes in a small box, just big enough to hold the tiles, the meeples, the cardboard castles and rules. But, as is often the case, good things come in small packages. If you are looking for a game that works well as a warm-up for a night of gaming, a game that will sit well as the evening of game play winds down or just a pleasing game for the whole family, Kingdomino is a excellent choice. – – – – – – – Herb Levy
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