We were suddenly not alone in our little cottage in the woods. Trees on one side disappeared. Around our house, a group of creatures pulls large boulder or tree every day. In our vicinity, buildings are growing in a variety of ways. King Donald’s large estate is growing.
Nobody asked us, but we have no choice. We live here since our childhood and know every stone in here. We survived floods, thieves raid and bears overgrowth and we will overcome this as well. Its only needed to plant new forest and plow new field and soon become a part of the Kingdom and continue to be happy.. And who knows? Maybe eventually everything will be good for something..
We already built many things, but did we ever faced task to build the whole kingdom? Village after village, farm after farm, addimg the most important thing at the end – castle, where the people cherish their king. All this and more is waiting for us in the board game Kingdom Builder from mind of renowned designer Donald X. Vaccarino, author of Dominion. This time, his work was published by Queen Games, which led it to shops using graphics of Oliver Schlemmer.
Box will not disappoint you with its size and even later with its contents. It is a square package (although lower, than other Queen Games boxes) with a portrait of a knight on a rearing horse. There is a new, beautiful and glittering kingdom in front of him. This should be only and only his, when you do your work correctly. But beware, there come other knights (= players), that would like to fight for it.
Punch-out cardboard sheets dominate the whole inside. Some of them are entirely occupied by large parts of the game map. We find spotless world of deserts, forests and waterways on their front size, while on the other, we see can see castle silhouette. There is a scoring scale printed on it and winding in a spiral from one to a hundred. All of these parts have puzzle edges and are waiting for you to connect them together in a random arrangement.
Locations come in same numbers as the large map tiles. Their orientation is on one side of the tip, while the other follows the just mentioned hexagonal maps, which will enable you to connect them. Each of them represents a special event, that you will meet in the nearby kingdom. Small pieces of buildings, that populate the map from the beginning, are also made of carton. There are 28 of them and feature a tower, oasis, harbor or oracle, while on their back is a pictogram indicating a single advantage of this tile.
Biggest pile is made of settlements themselves, which will be used to fill up the kingdom. There are 160 of them, forty for each player. They come in orange, blue, black and white, meaning some players may be missing the traditional green or red. In the same shades will be serving you also small round tokens used for monitoring of gold won on the scoring scale.
In conclusion, we are left with cards divided in two piles – terrain and builders. First in line are cards of each surface (five of each species), which can be found on the map (grass, desert, canyon, forest and floral). Remaining ten cards are conditions for getting gold during the game and their appearance and graphics will remind you a bit of Dominion. In addition to names and portraits of each character, the most important is description of their requirements printed in the frame.
Players start the game by choosing four random map tiles and assembling them into a unitary rectangular world. Each part has its corresponding location, that connect to edge of the tile. Game will therefore have always exactly four of these conditions. You will find a trio of sites on each part of the world, which are now overlaid each by pair of tokens with the corresponding image (eg. oasis). Shuffled deck of terrain cards create a drawing pile. The last work is to randomly select a trio of characters you will be trying to please and put them next to the map.
Players can now choose their favorite color and get her all forty settlements and one round token. This little disc will begin his journey on the starting position of one of the unused map, turned with its scoring side up. Each competitor gets one random terrain card, which he holds hidden from other opponents. Once you specify starting player, building of the Kingdom can begin.
Players take turns always by simply playing a terrain card from their hand. It’s the only one they drew (either at the beginning of the game or at the end of previous turn), so they essentially have no choice from this point of view.
Selecting starts based on what terrain the card contains. This surface is place, where player must gradually play three of his settlements in a way, that they are all directly adjoined to ones he has already places in his color. At the beginning of the game there is no neighbor to choose from, so its possible to choose, where to build. It is advisable to stay away from others, but close to the special sites. The actual laying of villages has its own clearly defined rules, because it can happen, that players get terrain card for which they have no adjacent settlement available. In this case, they can start a new group played on the surface anywhere on the board.
Once you get by expanding into neighborhood of some location, you immediately get one tiles, if there is any remaining. Second tile will have to wait for another player in order to get there. Action of such a token can be used during any of your next turns, before or after playing cards.
Sooner or later, one of players empties his reserve of settlements. This marks last round of the game. At the end of it, players evaluate their success in gold. Scoring has no common factor, since everything depends on the selected kingdoms and character cards. If the game took place on the board with castles, each player whose settlement is adjacent to the castle, immediately gets three gold.
All other revenues are determined by cards, that are from the beginning uncovered next to the board. Gold can be awarded for completing a horizontal line, connection between the locations, creating a fishing village (next to the river) and others. There are ten options, while you use only three for each game. A player, who has accumulated the most gold, is winner of the game.
There has been written a lot about the Kingdom Builder game and it is difficult to come up with something new and interesting. This is a very simple family game, that will not bother you with any strict rules or unsolved situations. Everything is clear from the first moment. You play a card, place settlements and trying your best to meet common challenges of cards.
Game includes ten cards, each offering different terms for collecting gold. As you have current three orders, you are trying to make the most of all of them together. Tasks are sufficiently variable, but especially the random selection at the beginning of every game provides a completely different experience each time.
Now here comes ambivalence into play. Which card is better to fulfill? Will you focus on one or more options? And try to get an edge over others with neighbouring locations? It will take time, you could have otherwise spend with collecting gold. These are all questions, that will chase you in your head, whenever you place a new settlement.
But a lot of players will mind lack of choice in terrain cards, although its completely ok to have it this way. You draw one card into your hand and its the some one, you have to play during next turn. But the author made a logical choice, because if you were holding more cards, not only would the game notably slowed down, but above all everything suddenly become very simple to accomplish. You could reach every goal, you could ever imagine in several rounds, without having to adapt. Type of surface is not so much important, even with bad cards you can create a winning strategy with good placement choices.
Despite the necessity of playing a single card in the game, there are still plenty of options. This will thankfully avoid feeling, that you have no control over the game. On the contrary, for most of the game, you can choose from several places to building, as you would be holding more cards in your hand and not even know it. It is therefore nonsense to add house rules with more cards or let the players choose from card offer on the table. Such modifications make players too powerful and they were not intention of the author.
During the game, you will be changing your focus. At the beginning of the game, you’re trying to keep all settlements together, with fewest number of surfaces covered, so you can spread your buildings around the kingdom. But as game progresses, your building will to every terrain and you will thus try to retain as much freedom in choosing, where to put your buildings.
Difference of each game is moved to the next level with eight different parts of the kingdom. Environment for your building will always look different (each board can be rotated 180 degrees and is usable in two ways). And with that also coincides different locations, that bring you special bonuses. These immediate rewards for connecting the settlements are an important way to gain a slight advantage over opponents, because they allow you not only to play new village, but also move some of the existing ones! Awesome, right?
Tremendous asset of Kingdom Builder is its speed in the initial stage of match. Game is moving forward with ease and grace, because players usually have time to think about their move during other’s turns. But as is the game board getting crowded, options are increasing and expanding your influence comes every time with difficult decision. Waiting of players will be longer, but remains at an acceptable range. Whole game fits comfortably in the promised 45 minutes, although you may slightly exceed this number in four opponents.
Accessibility of gaming mechanism makes this game ideal entertainment for families, who expect no complicated explanations of rules. Just sit down and you can play within five minutes with everybody. Just be sure to always properly introduce characters and locations present in current game, so everyone can start planning right away. And all this is great even for children around the eighth year of age, because whole game is language independent (besides few easily understandable sentences on character cards). There are also some expansions bringing even more to the game, which we would love to look at and test in the future as well.
Kingdom Builder is in some respects reminiscent of Ticket to Ride. You are building long snakes of villages on the board and with some tasks, you even have to connect different locations. But the greatest similarity lies in the concept perfect for family. Whole game is great gateway to the world of board games and will inspire beginners much more, than advanced players. But even those will certainly not be bored, when Kingdom Builders is brought on the table, because of its cleverness.
Kingdom Builder excels in a target group of less experienced players and beginners. It offers to them building houses all around the kingdom. World looks different every time, because its created from four out of eight large tiles. You get only one card into your hand and you have to play it to add buildings on type of terrain drawn on that card. House placement is up to you and this is where surprisingly broad options open for you. There is always more spots, where you could continue building, even across some limiting rules. Every player tries to get an advantage tokens, which can later be used to even larger point gain. Players are trying to accomplish tasks given them by three randomly selected characters. Their demands decide your goals and each of them guarantees reward for something else. Given there are ten of them, it offers truly unique mix for every game. Although Kingdom Builder is a true board game at first sight, it will get to you with its simplicity and accessability. You are able to learn it in two minutes and will keep playing after many matches to come. Relaxing and balanced ones. Just like it should be in a proper family fun.
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each match is different (different world, different tasks)