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.