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.

Game Review : Sid Meier’s Civilization – Fame & Fortune Expansion

Civilization : Fame & FortuneSid-Meier’s Civilization: the Board Game – Fame and Fortune is the expansion for Fantasy Flight’s Civilization game.   It introduces a 5th player, a few modular expansions and tweaks to the gameplay of Civilization to help streamline flow and adjust the balance issues.  Note that I’ve only had a chance to play this once, I’ll probably amend this review once I’ve had a few more plays.

Appearance: Fame & Fortune comes in a smaller square box, slightly larger than what is required to keep all the pieces in, which is a nice change.  The designs and tokens, like the original Civilization board game draw from the popular computer game graphics, providing a good flow-through and great designs.  The new cards provided are of decent quality, as are the tokens.  Overall, the expansion meets FFGs high standard of materials and appearance.

Rules / Ease of Learning: As this is an expansion, I’m going to concentrate only on the new rules, technologies and civilisations that have been added and will not reiterate basic rules or just pure additions like new terrain cards and new wonders.

Firstly, there are a series of new technologies (and an amendment to the Flight technology card).  The new technologies include Agriculture, Ecology, Plastics and Mysticism.  Agriculture add a ‘Metropolis’ to your capital city; making it 2 squares large with 10 hexes it can draw resources from.  Ecology makes it easier to advance on the culture track while Mysticism provides the ability to slow-down a coin victory.  Plastics allows players to build a unit, figure or building for free on their turn.

Secondly, Great People have a new deck that provides special abilities to the Great People drawn, which makes them significantly more powerful and worthwhile to acquire.

Thirdly, battle wins / losses have now been clarified and expanded.  There’s even a small summary card that summarises the changes.

Fourthly, investments have been added which allow players to ‘invest’ in new abilities that provide a benefit in achieving any of the four victory tracks by ‘investing’ a gold coin token onto one of the four abilities.

Lastly, there are 4 new civilizations – many who take advantage of the new rules (e.g. the Indians get a Metropolis at the start of the game while the Greeks can draw 2 Great People cards to choose from).

Gameplay: We played with all the new additions to the game including a 5th player and 3 of the 4 new civ’s (we didn’t have India in-play).  Overall, we felt it was a very good expansion that fixes some of the balance issues and made some of the other victory tracks easier to reach.

The Great Person’s cards make the civilization track even more important to get on-board with, with the Great Person abilities ranging from mildly useful to amazing if received during the start game. E.g. Orson Wright gives the player a free Airplane card at the game start.  That’s a huge advantage over both the barbarians and other players.

The new Civilisations are fun to play, and are all quite different in their play styles.  The Spanish with their ability to build any ‘basic’ building might be a bit over-powered as they get a major lead in the start game.  The Greeks’ ability to keep their trade is interesting, since while seeming over-powered at first glance can actually limit technology choices to a ‘secondary’ path.

Investment cards during our game were sparingly used; but definitely provided a bonus to each of the other victory tracks.  We had our first technology victory resulting from this; with a player using the Public Education investment card and culture cards to get a ‘jump’ on technology with a culture victory close behind.

Perhaps my favorite amendment has been the addition of coins to the battle victory rewards and culture cards that can take away coins.  This is particularly important because it used to be impossible for a player on the coin victory path to be slowed down, and seemed to have imbalanced the base game to that particular victory path.  The new amendments now allow players to slow-down most other tracks (other than Tech, which is generally slow anyway).

Conclusion: Overall, I have to say Civilization – Fame & Fortune is great.  I like the new additions and amendments, and I feel that each of them adds a lot to the game.  It does slow gameplay down slightly with all the new choices, but it’s not as if Civilization was a fast again in the first place.  My only real grouse is that they didn’t just add a 6th player to this expansion immediately instead of forcing us to purchase another expansion.