Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Kings, Queens, and Giants (Blue Orange Games)

One of my biggest passions is tabletop games, more casually known as "board games." I hesitate to use the term "board games," because when you say that people think Monopoly, Clue, Scrabble, etc. And while these were fine games for their time, there are thousands of better games out there now. All you have to do is walk into a Target, and you'll see "modern classics" like 7 Wonders, Ticket to Ride, Catan, and Carcassonne. Even these modern classics have been improved upon, and now there is so much selection, I guarantee that there is a game out there for you. Lately, I've been trying to get my son to play better games. Yes, I know that sounds snobby, but you can only Pop the Pig so many times. I've tried a couple of different games with him, and the one that has been the biggest hit is KingdominoKingdomino is a game for 2-4 players, ages 8+. It takes 15 minutes to play and retails for $20. In this game, you are a royal trying to expand your kingdom into  new lands. The object of the game is to have the highest scoring 5 x 5 grid.
Setup
1. Give each player a starting square tile, a 3-D castle and a king (pawn) of matching color. (Note: If playing with two players, you get two pawns.)
2. Shuffle the 48 dominoes, putting them back in the box so that the numbered sides are facing you.
3. Draw the first four dominoes, arranging them in numerical order, and then flip them face-up.
4. Initial player order is determined by randomly drawing the kings from a player's hand. In turn order, each player will place their king on a domino.
5. Four more dominoes are then drawn and again arranged in numerical order and flipped face-up.
Game Play - Players will always take two actions.
1. Add the previously selected domino to their kingdom. (Note: When placing a domino, you must stay within a 5 x 5 grid, and at least one of the two terrains on the domino must match one of the two terrains of another domino already in your kingdom.)
2. Select a new domino from the new line of four. After all dominoes are selected, you draw four new dominoes, arrange in numerical order, and flip face-up.

The game ends when the dominoes run out. Take each territory, count the number of connecting terrain squares and multiply that number by the total number of crowns in that territory. The highest score is the winner.
Review
Playing through this game was an absolute delight. I wasn't sure what to expect, but despite this game being a bit light, it still has a fair bit of strategy as well. What I like best about the game is the art. Each domino is bold and vibrant in color with unique little pictures on each one. This creates a unique-looking kingdom each time you play and just creates a wonderful image to behold when you are done. The quality of the components is also very high with them using very thick cardboard, so you know the game will gold up to multiple plays. I'm not surprised this game won the Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) in 2017. It's is quick, fun, beautiful, and even my 5 year old son can play it and win!

With that said, no modern game would be complete without an expansion and a stand-alone expansion. Let's start with the expansion called Kingdomino: Age of Giants. With this expansion, you are now able to play Kingdomino with five people. However, it comes with a catch! There are now twelve tiles that picture Giants and Giant Footsteps. If you take a tile with a Giant on it, you are given a large wooden giant to place into your kingdom and cover one of your crowns. If you take a tile with Giant Footsteps, you remove a wooden giant from your kingdom and give it to someone else to place in their kingdom. This adds a level of interaction that a lot of people (my wife) don't like, as it means you win by sabotaging someone and not on your own merits. I didn't mind it so much, as the game plays quickly, but if this were a longer game I would agree with her.

The other feature added is Challenge Tiles. There are 17 tiles total, and each game you will pick two. These serve as end-game bonuses to aim for (complete 5x5 grid, castle in the middle of your grid, etc.) and add more replay value to the game as you'll have to adapt your strategy each game to meet these goals. I love this feature, and while that one is a little tougher for newer or younger gamers, they will get the hang of it after a few plays. I will always play with the challenge tiles, and only sometimes play with the giants!

Queendomino is a "standalone expansion" to Kingdomino. What this means is that it the game can be played by itself, or it can be combined with Kingdomino to either play with more players or allow four players to make a bigger 7 x 7 grid. This game is a step-up in difficulty from Kingdomino. Why? Because women are more complicated than men. Just kidding! In addition to building a normal kingdom, there is the introduction of knights, towers, a dragon, and a queen. There are also taxes to collect, which will aid in your construction of buildings. These buildings give you additional crowns and can score you end game points. At times, I like the extra difficulty, but sometimes nothing beats a classic. I do like that I can combine the game with Kingdomino or Age of Giants, and I am hoping that soon there will be a way to combine all three, but I wager if that is the case there will be a fourth game coming soon...perhaps Jackdomino? Time will tell!

Overall, I am a big fan and proponent of these games. You can play them with almost anyone, combine them, mix-and-match them, and it will give you a fun and rewarding experience every time. If you are looking for great family games, check out this product line and other great titles from Blue Orange Games!