Kingdom Builder : A Game Review

Kingdom Builder board game
Kingdom Builder board game review

Kingdom Builder is designed by Donald X. Vaccarino and is an area control game that is geared towards beginner boardgamers It uses relatively simple to learn mechanics to provide a fast, simple game for players.

Appearance: Kingdom Builder is produced by Queen Games, which means that the production value is very good. Lots of little settlement tokens are available; along with multiple modular boards, numerous character cards who help score points and the land cards which players will draw each turn.

Overall, there’s little to complain about with the production quality available here. There are more boards and card than will be required each game ensuring that you will more than sufficient replay value in this game.

Rules/ Ease of Learning: In Kingdom Builder, players set-up the game board using 4 modular board tiles in a rectangular orientation to one another. The terrain cards and the Kingdom builder cards are shuffled, with 3 random Kingdom Builder cards drawn and set-aside for the game and a single terrain card provided to each player. These cards are in-play and will be the major way players will score points during this game.

Each turn, players must build 3 settlements on the terrain indicated in their terrain card. These 3 settlements must be built adjacent to the player’s existing settlement if possible. If not possible; the players may place their settlement in any location that matches their terrain tile.

If a player builds next to a castle, they will score 3 points at the end of the game. If they build next to a location tile hex; they may take a location tile (if available) and use the tile their next turn. Location tiles provide additional actions which allow players to either build additional settlements or move existing settlements to new locations. At the end of their turn, the player discards their used terrain card and draws another terrain card.

At the end of the game; points are scored for settlements adjacent to the castles and for the Kingdom Builder cards.

Gameplay: As you can tell, turns are relatively simple mechanically.  Each turn, players must place 3 buildings on the terrain hexes indicated and then they draw a new terrain card.  As such, this is an easy game to teach new players; with the complications arising from the additional action cards and the scoring from the Kingdom Builder cards.

One of the nicest aspects of the game is the drawing of your next turn’s terrain tile at the end of your turn.  This allows players time to review the game-board during the other player’s turns, thus keeping the game flowing quite smoothly.

At times, due to the restrictive nature of the terrain card draws; players might find that their actions are ‘scripted’ as they are unable to place their houses in a location that they’d prefer.  However, the use of the additional action tiles can significantly decrease this luck factor; allowing players to score their settlements still.

Kingdom Builder mostly seems to be a tactical game – while you can create a general strategy at the start of the game based off the terrains available, the Kingdom cards in-play and the location tiles; your first couple of turn draws on terrain cards can significantly alter your strategy.  As such; players have to be able to adjust their strategies ‘on-the-fly’ to win.

There is a certain lack of interaction on the game however; as players are not able to directly affect other players except by (maybe) blocking their future moves.   However, games take less than an hour to finish and turns move very quickly; especially with more experienced players so the lack of interaction does not seem too big a deterrent in the game itself.

Conclusion: Kingdom Builder is a good gateway game.  The rules are simple enough to teach; while there’s definitely a depth of strategy to the game.  With so many variations on the boards and Kingdom cards available; there is a lot of replay value in the game.  The theme is somewhat lacking however; and is very much more focused on a tactical level which can be a deterrent for some players.

Social Responsibility and Businesses

I rarely discuss the things that we do outside of our main business, but with the Gaming for Diabetes event coming up tomorrow; I thought I’d talk a bit about the various charities and initiatives we help sponsor through Starlit Citadel.

Semi-Marketing Events

There’s quite a few events out there that have partial over-lap with our main business – Gaming for Diabetes, Game Days and Convention sponsorships are the main one`s that come to mind.  Whether it`s a small con like ToonCon or a larger event like VCon; sponsoring the conventions don’t actually provide us a large ROI.  However, in the long run these events grow the entire market and it’s worth it; at least to us to provide sponsorship.  It’s why in many ways, we slot it in the same section as donations.

Full Donations

Of course, there’s also events and charities that we support that have nothing to do with our business that we support.  In general, those are done for personal reasons – whether it’s something we personally enjoyed (Can’t Stop the Serenity); believe should be supported (the Pacific Post-Partum Society) or are part-of (the Vancouver Bach Choir).

In most cases, what we provide are games. It’s more financially viable as we can provide over-stock games and slower-selling (but good) games to these various events than a straight-out donation.  I’m sure there’s some tax basis for providing one or the other; but truthfully we’re still such a small organisation that it probably doesn’t make a great difference.


Bottom line is; if you’re involved in an organisation or event that is gaming related; there’s a 90% chance we’ll provide some form of sponsorship.  If you aren’t; we might still be able to do so – it just depends on how much of our budget has been used up that year; at that point in asking.  Oh, it also helps if you don’t mind getting some not-as-good games.


View Revew : Filler Games (Part 1)

This week we’re doing a special on board game fillers. All of these games are quick, fun and easy to learn and play; so we figured we’d do a single large review rather than multiple small reviews. This week, we are reviewing Zombie Dice, Martian Dice, Cthulhu Dice, Spot It! and We Didn’t Playtest This at All.

It’s the little things that get you – Stress

Stress.  It’s a quite (or not so quiet) constant in business.

The Early Years

In the first few years, you’re always thinking ‘will we make enough to cover the bills? How long before I run out of money?’.   It’s an intense refrain, one that continues for days and hours till you finally make it.  Then you start wondering if you’ll make enough to pay yourself a salary.  It’s incredibly stressful, and sometimes you wonder why you decided to get into this business at all.

For most, this period lasts 1 to 2 years, 3 at the outside before you ‘breakeven’. And for a moment, there’s euphoria.  Then the stress comes back.

The Growing Years

It’s an equilibrium that is made up of a minimal salary & expenses.  Of course, no one wants to earn a minimal salary and that equilibrium isn’t stable anyway.  If you’re lucky, it moves in the right direction and you get even more business.  Of course, that business just adds more work and suddenly you need to hire.

And a new kind of stress comes – that of people.  It’s one thing when you only had to worry about yourself, about your own salary. It’s another when you realise you have paychecks to meet.  If things were slow one month, I could cut my pay and no one was the wiser.  You can’t do that to employees so you suddenly need a reserve.  One that is significantly larger than your previous one.

Then you realise that you keep running out of stock because business has picked up so much.  Now you need to carry more stock – a larger investment in capital.  More stress, as you scramble to find the money to devote to increasing stock.  You can’t touch your salary reserve, so you have to find it somewhere else.  Maybe a loan or line-of-credit? Maybe you just short-change yourself (again) for a few months.  Either way, stress.

And on it goes.  It never ends.


As a business owner (and human); the only thing you can do is learn to deal with the stress.  Whether it’s meditation, exercise, talking about it, learning to partition or just going out and enjoying your life – it’s a necessary must.  I think part of the reason most business owners fail is because they burn out; by not learning to cope with the daily stress of running a business.  It’s not easy at all and if you’re prone to ulcers; you might consider avoiding being an entrepreneur.

Business Valuation

Business Valuation is an interesting area; and one that generates a lot of debate.  It’s partially due to the highly subjective nature of some of the valuation methods and partially due to the fact that there are multiple valuation methods which can result in multiple (and highly divergent) numbers.  Having now spoken to a number of businesses, it can be extremely frustrating as sometimes, the valuation differences is extreme.  At the end of the day though, what a business is worth is exactly what someone else is willing to pay for it.

Valuation Methods

There are basically a few major forms of valuation:

  • Income Approaches
  • Asset-based approach
  • Market approach

Income Approaches take a run at a company’s profits to decide it’s sale value.  The simplest form of this uses a multiple of the net profit – generally between 2 to 5 depending on the business.  Sometimes, the net profit is adjusted to add back the salary paid to the owner; though that is obviously dependent on the business involved.   This is potentially quite useful if the business is profitable; but quite often (at least in this industry); it’s not profitable.  And a multiple of a negative number isn’t going to be useful at all.

Asset based approaches basically take the combined value of all the parts of a business to come to a valuation number.  It doesn’t take into account things like Goodwill or Growth factors; just the actual assets of the business (generally adjusted towards fair market value); so it actually provides a lower valuation number for an on-going business.  In a gaming business, most of your assets would be in terms of stock and potentially shelving /office equipment.  If you have a website and domain name, it might be included in this too – especially if the website has been well developed.

Market Approaches value a business based on its competitors.   It’s really only useful if you know the sale value of another business; which is uncommon when you consider that we’re dealing with private businesses here.


Before we finish; I’d add that quite often a discount is also added to a business. The most common reasons for adding a discount is for purchasing a minority control (added risk) or a lack of marketability (especially relevant for private sales).  If you’re buying a private business; getting out of the business is a major problem since there’s only a limited number of individuals who might wish to buy it.

My Experience

All of the above factors make buying another game store difficult.  If someone is offering to sell to you; 90% of the time what they are selling is a business that is losing money.  As such, you’ll need to value them based off their assets.  However, quite often the seller bases their sale price on unadjusted value of their inventory, goodwill and growth ‘potential’ and other intangibles.  Sometimes those intangibles include things like ‘what I invested to get the company this far’.

Now, some of those factors make sense – goodwill from customers and a strong brand has value.  The question is; how much? That’s where things might get highly contentious, since a business owner is often much more optimistic than the purchaser.  As a purchaser, quite often you also have to input an amount for opportunity cost – if I paid $15,000 for your business; what else could I have done with that $15,000? To make it worthwhile, you’d need a sufficient amount of ‘discount’ or potential for profit to make it worth spending that $15,000.  On the other hand, if you expect too high a discount you won’t be able to purchase the business.

It’s this gap that I think that is often why the end game for a game shop is so bleak.  Unless you’re selling the business at firesale prices; it’s hard to get much money back as most purchasers will just value you at your cost of inventory (with a slight bump for brand name, etc).  Yet, quite often none of the years of hard work you’ve put in is valued at all; which can be quite frustrating.  Sometimes, it’s just better to close shop rather than deal with the hassle.


The Wheaton Effect

FYI – A new chart with updated statistics has now been added

As many of you know, Wil Wheaton has a Youtube channel dedicated to board gaming called Tabletop. It’s been phenomenally successful – his Small World video has garnered over half a million views. Our review has generated just over 2,000.

With such a spotlight on the game, it’s had a knock-on effect on sales (mostly). Here’s a little chart to show the ‘mostly’ for us.

As you can see, I added a few weeks of pre-Tabletop / Wheaton to all the sales figure to give an idea.  You can see there’s a lot of variation on a week to week basis for bestsellers like Settlers of Catan, so the 0 sales on release date means very little.  Yet, there’s no real change in demand there; unlike the other 3 games showcased.

My guess? Settlers is such a popular, mainstream game that is easy to find; it’s no wonder that we don’t see a change in sales.  Customers don’t need to come to a game shop to find it – Chapters, Amazon, B&N all have the game in-stock.  The other 3 though are harder to find; and thus we receive the ‘knock-on’ effect from the publicity.

Overall, the sales of these games have certainly increased.  The danger for game store owners is correctly guessing the amount of sales we’d garner; and making sure we don’t overstock when the demand dies.  If that happens, especially for really slow-sellers like Tsuro, we’d be caught with ‘dead’ stock once again.

I’ll update this chart in a few months once the current season of Tabletop is over to get a better idea of the Wheaton Effect on sales of board games in Canada.


Top 10 Games for Large Groups

Just got another article up, with a list of games for large groups.  I’ve restricted the list to games that come pre-built for large groups (i.e. more than 6) rather than games that can expand to accommodate large groups.  I’ve also restricted the games to the easier to learn type; rather than more complex games like Arkham Horror as I assume most large group games like these will include at least a few non-gamers.

Let me know what you think of the list.  I’ll also be updating some of our lists soon too – there’s been a few new games since we wrote them in 2007 that I think should replace some of those we originally listed.