Kingdomino

Publisher: Blue Orange Games

Designer: Bruno Cathala

Ages: 8+

Players: 2-4

Duration: 15 minutes

Life is hard being a lord, having all your neighbouring lords finding new property and trying to keep up. Do you expand with new fields or crops, or build new houses in the forest? Grow wheat fields or mine for gold? So many decisions…

Kingdomino puts all those decisions in your hands. It’s a game from one of my favourite designers Bruno Cathala. It’s a clever cross between tile laying (like Carcassonne) and dominoes (did you guess that from the name?). With simple rules and a short playtime, it’s a game that will keep you coming back to it over and over.

What’s in the box?

The box contains 8 figures (aka meeples), 2 in each colour for each player, 4 starting tiles + 4 starting tiles and 48 dominoes (err… I mean tiles) numbered 1-48 on the back, and with 2 tiles on each. And the tiles… not only are they high quality cardboard, but the art is amazing. The colours are vibrant, and there are unique touches on each tile. The components in this game are top notch and are a huge draw for me.

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Too bad there’s no extra points for having good ol’ Nessie in your kingdom.

So how do you play?

The objective of the game is to complete a 5×5 grid and group matching land tiles and crowns together. The crowns act as scoring multipliers, I will get to that later. You will get these tiles by a method called drafting. To set up the game, you take out 12 tiles per player from the box (24 for 2 player, 36 for 3 and all of them for 4) and set up 4 per round, and put them down in ascending order. Then you determine turn order by putting all the meeples in your hand and dropping them one by one, and as they drop the corresponding player chooses one tile in the first column. Personally, I think that putting the meeples in a bag and drawing them would have been better, as it’s kinda awkward to drop them. That’s one of my only gripes about this game, but it still works.

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Tiles haven’t been flipped to explain how they are placed.

Then, after all the meeples have been placed, players go one by one and pick their tile and put it in their kingdom. Putting the dominoes (sorry again… tiles) is simple. All you have to do is make sure one of the lands (water, forest, fields, etc) match. Your starting tile is considered wild, so any land can touch it. Then, after you have placed your tile, you take your meeple and choose your tile for the next round. This is one of my favourite aspects of the game… the lower number tiles are usually the weaker tiles (no crowns for scoring), but taking them will allow you first choice for the tiles for the next turn. This drafting mechanism works great and allows for balance in gameplay.

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The game continues and soon you will start to form a kingdom… but you have to be careful how you place your tiles. As I mentioned, you can only build a 5×5 grid and can’t go over. So if you place tiles wrong, you may not be able to finish it and have to forfeit your last tile or 2. Same goes if you can’t match at least one land… the tile must be sacrificed and you’ll potentially lose on some points.

IMG_3165
That’s quite some empty field there…

And then after everyone places their last tile, scoring begins. Scoring is simple, take each matching set of lands (called properties) and multiply them by the crowns in that land, and that gives you the score for each area.

IMG_3161
That’s a fine looking kingdom…

Example above… the field (yellow) at the bottom has 3 tiles and one crown in those tiles… so 3×1=3. The body of water (blue) has 7 tiles and 2 crowns within it… so 7×2=14. Any groups with no crowns are worth nothing. Then you add all the totals together and thats your final score. If you have the most points, you are the lord with the most prestige and you win!

Is it any good?

The first time I played this game I immediately fell in love and wanted to play it again, and with a 15 minute playtime, that’s not very hard to do. The gameplay is fluid, the art is wonderful (dare I even say cute) and the learning curve is easy. I’ve had no problem teaching it to people, even people who haven’t even played many games before. It’s no wonder this game won the 2017 Spiel de Jahres (Game of the Year) award. It’s easy to pick up, set up and play. And there are a few gameplay variants in the rulebook, from scoring extra points by keeping your castle in the middle or getting more points by fully completing your kingdom, and even a 2 player variant which uses all 48 tiles to create a 7×7 grid. This game comes highly recommended.

Pros:

  • Beautiful artwork
  • Simple, yet elegant gameplay
  • Easy to teach

Cons:

  • Could have had a better method of determining initial start order

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