Favouritefoe: ok, Saggyhead, this month’s pick is an absolute crowning glory! It almost needs no introduction, so I am going straight in!
Publisher: Coiledspring Games
Designer: Bruno Cathala
Artist: Cyril Bouquet
Player Count: 2-4
Publisher Recommended Age: 8+ (tried and tested 5+)
Heavyweight: Favouritefoe aka “the Kingmaker”
Light flyweight: Saggyhead aka “the Court Jester”
I know I have waxed lyrical about Kingdomino many a time before. From quick snippets, to full on reviews of Bruno Cathala’s territory building, 2016 Spiel Des Jahres smasher, Kingdomino was a hit for us from the get-go.
A small box hiding an elegant, crunchy puzzle; Kingdomino is one of those gold standard games. It is easy to learn but tricky to master.
Published by Coiledspring, Kingdomino is a domino based game where you are using chunky double ended tiles to build your own personal realm. Limited to constructing a 5 x 5 grid (or 7 x 7 in two player mode), the idea is to make your restricted lands as profitable as possible.
How, do you do that, dear Saggy? Well, you want to make each of the 5 distinct territory types as large as you can, including as many crowns as you can. After all, what do gold crowns make? Oh yes, the most precious of points! And for each matching tile in a territory with at least one crown, you will not only score, but your points will be multiplied! Golden!
So, just to give you an idea of the mathematics involved; if you have 5 connected forest tiles with 3 crowns printed on them collectively, that’s 15 woodland points at game end, my friend! Conversely, a ginormous desert comprising 10 tiles and zero crowns will earn you a big fat nul points! Even a sandy realm to rival the Serengeti would be a points desert without at least one coveted crown nestled in it somewhere!
Building in Kingdomino is super straightforward in terms of mechanics. The crunchy challenge comes in deciding which tile to pick, and where to place it!
So, on each turn, you select one of four available face-up tiles. The tiles are laid out in number order, and the higher ones are always more weighty in terms of crowns per tile. There is also another column of four tiles waiting patiently next to them. And, once you have placed your meeple on a tile from the first column, you take that tile and place it in your kingdom (connecting to either your castle or a tile of matching territory type. You then transfer your little kingdom builder across to one of the four tiles in the second column. And then you wait…….
In your mind’s eye (or by cheating and looking at a photograph), Saggyhead, you’ll soon realise that turn order is a sneaky, tricky trade-off in Kingdomino. Do you go for a less profitable tile now, but give yourself first pickings on the next round? Or do you go for broke and land your meeple at the bottom of the line, picking up crowns no doubt but sacrificing the chance to get something possibly better next turn?
It isn’t an easy choice. And it isn’t always the case that you will be gunning for crowns. You might want to increase the number of a certain territory type. You might only be able to pick a certain tile because you have no other matching types. Believe me, wasting a tile you can’t place, HURTS! Alternatively, you might just want to be near the top of the queue next round. I know you aren’t a meany bear like me, but you can also consider stealing a tile that you know another player is coveting! This game is definitely one that facilitates hate-drafting if you can tear your eyes away from your own little kingdom, that is.
Kingdomino is also super versatile! With extra points available for having your castle in the centre of your realm and zero missing tiles in your square, points can come not just from crowns. You can also choose between creating a 5 x 5 square or a 7 x 7 square (in 2 player mode), which let you play in a way that suits both time and space.
Not only that, but it combines well with its bigger, meatier, standalone spouse, Queendomino, for a huge battle royal, as well as having its own expansion (Age of Giants and the free print and play, The Court). You can even play a great implementation online at BoardGameArena (free for premium members) to help hone those strategic skills, and play with me (and others, I suppose! haha) who are too far from your table to touch! And if that isn’t enough, there is a roll and write version and a kiddie orientated dragon themed one (more on that from Saggyhead!). Oh, and I probably should mention that there is a new Stone Age Kingdomino Origins out later this year, mainly because I AM SO EXCITED FOR IT! 🙂
Kingdomino is without doubt one of those special sauce games that can be played by people of different ages and experience levels at the same time. A multi-level game that leaves nobody feeling short-changed or overwhelmed.
We play with Mini-meeple a lot. And, at only 6 years old, a lot of the finer strategy is admittedly lost on him now. He just loves building his kingdom. Sometimes he is in the mood to steal tiles he thinks we might want. But generally he just likes the development aspect of the gameplay. ShadowMeeple and I are a little more cutthroat when it comes to collecting crowns, however. But that’s great because we can still play together and not feel hard done by on the brain pain front.
Ultimately, I love Kingdomino because I think it is clever. It is a really well-balanced spatial puzzle with lots of strategy squeezed into a small box, and so it is a solid 9 from me.. It is a family length game (20 mins), as well as being budget friendly, which works for lots of gaming groups.
The game is also colourful and quirky, and the size and quality of the tiles makes it really nice to play. Ok, so it won’t win the Marcel Duchamp prize for its artwork, Saggy, and I know you are a box art tart! But I do like the hidden “easter eggs” i.e. sneakily included cultural references hidden amongst the pictures. Did you notice the Loch Ness Monster swimming on the double lake tile, deep diving in the swampy bog? Spy Frodo Baggins battling Shelob in the forest clearing? No? Look again and you’ll see a number of tiny illustrations which you will never be able to un-see!
So there we go, Saggy, dear chum! This month’s gauntlet is laid down. Only question is; will you pick it up and run with it, or will you throw it at me??? I’m eager to find out!
When Favouritefoe first taught me Kingdomino over BoardGameArena, I was happy to learn as I had heard a lot of buzz around this game amongst the board gaming community. I was not disappointed. As a kid I really enjoyed playing dominoes with my relatives and so this twist appealed before I even knew anything more about the game.
The puzzle of trying to ensure you maxed out your land types whilst still keeping that castle in the middle if possible and also not messing yourself up so you cannot place a domino really added a bit of crunch I wasn’t expecting. I relished it. For me, games that have variable turn order are really interesting. It shakes up the usual back and forth of a two player game a lot and makes the domino-choosing a lot more tricky.
I think as you get older, you often lose a bit of your times table ability. I tutor younger years children with learning challenges maths, and this has significantly improved my mental maths. So although the scoring and in game mental arithmetic can be a little intimidating the first time, I actually enjoyed it.
For me this game is a great two player lighter game. I enjoy the back and forth a lot. In fact this was such a successful introduction by FF that I went and bought the kid-specific Dragomino for my friend’s son. In this version every time you manage to match a land type you get to flip over an egg tile of that colour. The tile may show a dragon, which is worth a point at the end, or it may show you an empty shell and crush your dreams. This is a simpler super kid friendly version of the game. In fact you can find a SaggyShort review of it over in my section of the site.
Overall roundup is I really like this game, an excellent choice FF. I give this a solid 8.5/10!
Well, Kingdomino has proven to be a close call indeed, and slap bang in our comfort zone of a 0.5 scoring differential! Winner Winner Kingdomino Dinner! To be honest I am not surprised; it’s a brilliant game, as are its expansions variants.
So, with September being Saggyhead’s choice, I am now super keen to find out what she has in store for me!
Stay tuned for Round #8 Coming soon!