Manufacturer: Queen GamesIn Kingdom Builder, the players create their own kingdoms by skillfully building their settlements, aiming to earn the most gold at the end of the game.
Nine different kinds of terrain are on the variable game board, including locations and castles. During his turn, a player plays his terrain card and builds three settlements on three hexes of this kind. If possible, a new settlement must be built next to one of that player's existing settlements. When building next to a location, the player may seize an extra action tile that he may use from his next turn on. These extra actions allow extraordinary actions such as moving your settlements.
By building next to a castle, the player will earn gold at the end of the game, but the most gold will be earned by meeting the conditions of the three Kingdom Builder cards; these three cards (from a total of ten in the game) specify the conditions that must be met in order to earn the much-desired gold, such as earning gold for your settlements built next to water hexes or having the majority of settlements in a sector of the board.
Each game, players will use a random set of Kingdom Builder cards (3 of 10), special actions (4 of 8), and terrain sectors to build the map (4 of 8), ensuring you won't play the same game twice!
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- Atkinson's Analyses: Review of Kingdom Builder
A name like Kingdom Builder inspires the imagination with knights, castles, battles for riches and honor, and, for the fantasy minded, magic and dragons. This amazing fiction is even conveyed in the box’s cover depicting a knight on a reared horse standing over a cliff looking over a valley with castles at the base of a mountain range.
In this game players operate as a Kingdom attempting to expand it’s influence across the land by placing settlements according to a specialized rule set (each settlement must be place adjacent to, if possible, another settlement). At the end of the game players receive gold for how well they placed their settlement on the landscape.
Upon removing the shrink wrap we felt the textured box and considered the quality to be about average. The game boards are constructed with high quality chipboard as well as the action tiles which we will discuss later. The wooden game pieces for the settlements are not simply cubes; they do actually look like little houses which, although they are very simple in nature, does add to the fiction of the game. The quality of the cards is like any other game and we would recommend that you purchase some nice quality card sleeves for the gaming cards as they are only plastic coated and will show wear after some moderate use.
Moving beyond the initial opening of the box you take notice of the artwork. Artist Oliver Schlemmer’s interpretation of Donald X. Vaccarino’s Kingdom Builder is not terribly exciting or imaginative but does provide a nice visual playing experience. The game cards which players draw at the beginning of their turn, showing the type of land the player must place on, is also left wanting. However, the artwork on the cards which determine the games conditions of scoring and tiles which change the game structure each time you play the game is a little more interesting and visually appealing, although not significantly better. Considering that the whole package does fit well together we cannot fault the game terribly much in the artwork department.
At the beginning of the game players randomly choose four (4) of the eight (8) boards that come with the base set and create a landscape. Then three (3) of the twelve (12) scoring cards are drawn and set up the conditions for which scoring occurs during the game; although players don’t actually score during the game, rather at the end of the game. This provides a large amount of value in that each game will feel different. By my count there are a total of 15,400 different game variants to be: that’s A LOT of possibilities.
The game mechanic is euro style worker placement driven by the card the player draws indicating the type of terrain the settlement must be placed on. Although once a settlement is placed, there is little left to do with it and so we felt that it simply became a token to fill a space. If a player builds next to a special location they will receive a special action tile which can be used once a turn allowing for various strategic placements or moves of existing settlements. Moving all settlement away from these special locations forces the player to give up his/her action tile and the strategic advantage it provides. These tiles are a must if you desire to play the game with any effectiveness and strategy and players finding themselves with none of these special ability tiles will quickly find themselves in a hole they wont be able to climb out of also running the risk of thinking the game is really dull and boring.
It seems that because of this particular game mechanic and rules in how placement and scoring works, most players’ first experience with this game will seem flat and unexciting. However, as the players begin to fully understand the usefulness of the action tiles and how to work all three of the game’s scoring conditions to their advantage, a world of nearly infinite strategic options opens up and the game will explode into a competitive area control game. Be careful though, you may find that you want to play a second or third game right away as this one can become quite addictive.
Player interaction can be moderate to intense as using settlements in a fencing strategy to block others from certain regions on the board and special locations becomes necessary. As you can imagine, the more players at the table, the more intensity to this competition. We also find that this game is terrific for two players; especially for a couple looking to enjoy an evening without the tele.
The design of the game is geared towards major replay value. This is a must for a game you’re thinking of investing your hard earned monies into. Furthermore, when we consider the value we place not only on the playability of the game itself but the lasting relationship building that comes with the gaming experience, it certainly plays well in favor of this game.
The one critique we really have with this game is the theme. The scoring system of gold does seem to make sense with a kingdom building game. However, this fiction doesn’t really play well with the real playing mechanic of abstract token placement on a hexagon board. Furthermore, the scoring system using gold which you only get the gold at the end of the game, and there are no actual gold pieces that are distributed to the players, nor can you use this buy anything just falls short of our expectations of the game title. Essentially gold is simply victory points awarded for placing your pieces well and, in our opinion, should be called such. It seemed as though this construct was a quite thin and falls flat with the theme of kingdom building.
Overall we recommend this game if you enjoy abstract strategy, area control, and are not specifically looking for a game designed to actually provide the fictitious experience of medieval times. The possibilities of strategy and depth to this game do provide a very rich environment and enjoyable experience. We have seen a great deal of use as this particular game, and its expansion, at our table and consider this as one of our most played and enjoyed evening activities from our gaming library. This definitely is a game that could played with your family and by players about 10 and up. The game box state 8+ which certain can be achieve, although the younger players may not fully understand the conceptual strategy required for higher scoring.
What can we pull out of this aside from a simply enjoyable one to two hours? The game does require significant planning and efficient use of the action tiles which help develop critical thinking skills. Aside from this, we fail to recognize any other significant contributions to our personal lives other than the aforementioned value of time spent with loved ones.
Best for any number of players
Overall Scoring: 7.2
Scoring by Categories:
Quality of Construction: 6
Quality of Theme/Art: 3
Game Play Experience/Fun: 9
Depth of Strategy: 9
Replay Factor: 9
Thanks for reading,
William Atkinson, Ph.D.
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