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Subject: Fun quick game rss

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Zoe M
Canada
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I had high expectations for a game from the creator of Dominion, and this didn’t disappoint. I was able to try it at an afternoon game session last weekend, and we played about six times and didn’t end up playing anything else—this despite the fact that we had a barely-played Dominion: Hinterlands sitting there as well.

So, what did I like about it? Basically, it’s quick and light (important for those of us who don’t have a lot of time for games), while having just enough depth to be satisfying, and it feels fresh and unlike other games.

I was impressed before we even started because the game only took about five minutes to explain. This is something I value: it means it’s very accessible, and we can get right into it with a new group of people without having to waste a lot of time. Even better, the game takes maybe two minutes to set up, and cleaning up is just as quick. We considered switching to Dominion at one point, and decided that that would be too much of a hassle, which gives you an idea of just how simple this one is. Again, I really value simple set-up and clean-up when I have limited time: the less time wasted on that, the more time left for actually playing.

Basically, set up involves randomly laying out four of eight game boards in a rectangle to form the map for the game. Each of these boards gets a few special tiles that players can collect to give them special powers, and there are also pieces explaining the special tiles that go at the sides for your convenience (these can obviously be omitted as the game becomes more familiar). You shuffle a couple of small decks. Then you deal out three of ten “Kingdom Builder” cards that define the victory conditions for the game. And that’s it. So simple, and yet it works.

I really liked the idea of having variable victory conditions. The player with the most points (called “gold”) always wins, but the ways of earning points vary from game to game. You may be trying to distribute your pieces evenly between the four quadrants, or to place lots of pieces in the same horizontal line, or build next to water, or develop a large connected settlement area. Of course, I ended up preferring some of these victory conditions to others: my favourite might be the area-control one where the person with the most buildings in each quadrant gets 12 points, and the person with the second-most gets six. I was less excited by the game where one of our conditions was to build in a horizontal line and another was to build in as many different vertical levels as possible. Overall, though, I liked the way the various conditions interacted and made each game slightly different. I’m not completely sure that the game will continue to seem fresh after a lot of plays, but I’m happy with it for now, enough so that I’ll be adding it to my own collection.

The method of placing settlements was also interesting. The map has five different types of buildable terrain (grass, forest, etc.), plus water and mountains and special locations. Players draw from a deck of the buildable terrains, and each turn place three settlements on the terrain that they’ve drawn (you draw your card at the end of your previous turn, so you can plan ahead). The tricky thing is that your settlements have to be connected where possible. So if you place your first few settlements in a large area of grass, and draw another grass card next time, then you’ll have to continue placing in the same area. Likewise, if you placed in a grassland such that one of your settlements is touching a forest, then you’ll have to place your settlements there when you draw a forest. But if you draw a terrain that you aren’t touching, you can place settlements in that terrain anywhere on the map. It’s worth glancing at a picture to see what the whole thing looks like: for example, http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/1082921/kingdom-builder .

It can be a little bit frustrating to get a string of bad draws, especially since you won’t be getting enough turns to guarantee anything like an even distribution of terrains: the game ends on the round when one player runs out of settlements, you only start with 40 each, and you’re placing at least three per turn, while placing five or more isn’t unusual. So if you only get 8 turns in a game, a few bad draws can go a long way. There was one game where it felt like I was only placing deserts. But the game is short, so even a bad game doesn’t drag on too long, and it all evens out across multiple games in the long run. The one thing that I can really see ruining the game is a player with a case of AP: I was satisfied with the amount of depth it has for a quick-paced game, but it’s not something where you really want to spend a huge amount of time thinking about every turn (though this varies a bit with the victory conditions). I enjoyed it most when playing quickly, even when that led me to make a bad move that cost me the game. I don’t mean you have to race through it, but a lot of the value of a quick game is lost when it’s no longer quick. I think our games probably took 30-45 minutes on average, and that seemed like a decent pace. There were just a few times when I really found myself wishing that one of my opponents would speed up.

That's basically it, but before concluding, I should describe the non-terrain hexes, at least in passing: there are palaces that always give three points for each one you touch, and locations that give bonus powers to the first two players to touch them: you may be able to place a fourth settlement in your assigned terrain each turn, or to extend a straight line of three settlements by adding a fourth, or to move a settlement two spaces over. These abilities end up being critical to the gameplay, and add that much more variety and depth. Each of the eight boards has a location (or two) with a different power, so you’re getting a different combination of four powers in each game. And I can also see an easy opportunity for expansion here….

So, I personally was happy with this game, enough so that I’ll be purchasing it in the near future. It’s a short, easy game that I can see making it onto the table quite often. There’s enough depth that I didn’t feel bored, but it’s not a brain-burner; if you’re looking for a very heavy game, you should probably look elsewhere. At first glance, it seems like Kingdom Builder has a good amount of variety, but only time will tell how long it really lasts. I think I’ll get my money’s worth, anyway, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see an expansion refreshing the game at some point in the future. Overall, I’d recommend it.
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Angelo Nikolaou
Ireland
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It's surprising to hear that there is a delay in play. Since everyone gets to think their next more (knowing their next card) we find that it is really quick to play
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Zoe M
Canada
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I think it partially depends on what powers the people have. Generally, the moving ones seem to allow for more possibilities than the ones that are just placing a farm settlement, or whatever. There was one game where someone used the water power to hop all over the board and collect a bunch of different powers quickly, and then his turns were just much longer than everyone else's.

There's also going to be some natural variation, though, depending on how many options your card gives you for placing your settlements. If I only have three possible hexes to place on, my decision will be immediate, while someone who's free to choose from anywhere on the board may want to think a bit (and like I say, I missed out on a victory in one game by not looking hard enough and missing the obvious best move--someone more AP-prone could easily slow down all their moves deliberately just to be sure). And if my no-choice turn happens in the same round that someone else has a think-a-bit turn, then the wait will be noticeable.

I also found that three players felt a lot quicker than four players, though I preferred the depth with four.
 
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Sceadeau D'Tela
United States
Greensboro
North Carolina
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Given a finite amount of time, I'd rather finish 2 games than win just 1.

And we always have a finite amount of time.
 
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Zoe M
Canada
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Sceadeau wrote:
Given a finite amount of time, I'd rather finish 2 games than win just 1.

And we always have a finite amount of time.


Agreed. But sometimes there will be a player who thinks differently.
 
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Curt Carpenter
United States
Seattle
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Seems a bit expensive to me for what it is. If it were 25% cheaper, I'd probably go for it, but at the current price I'm passing.
 
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Chaddyboy
United States
Olathe
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curtc wrote:
Seems a bit expensive to me for what it is. If it were 25% cheaper, I'd probably go for it, but at the current price I'm passing.

I just checked some prices and it seems right in line with the prices of any other current release if you just look at them component-wise, and cheaper than many. A 25% reduction in price would put it in "insane value" category. There is a lot of cardboard and wood in this one; the box is pretty hefty.

I think what you're seeing is just a rise in board game prices across the board. If you compare to games that were printed two years ago, yeah, it's expensive. But if you compare to games printed this year, it's right in line.
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Curt Carpenter
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The "for what it is" is refering to both design complexity as well as components.

But yeah, games in general are getting expensive.
 
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Zoe M
Canada
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I can understand wanting to hold off for such a light game, though I did think the components were nice. It's interesting how much the price seems to be determined by the size of the box.

I personally tend to justify my game purchases by comparing them to seeing a movie: if we play the game for one afternoon instead of going to the cinema, it's already paid for itself. But then I remember that I only see movies in the theatre once or twice a year, and the argument no longer makes so much sense. Still, it makes me feel better.
 
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Curt Carpenter
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This analogy only works when you don't already own games that you enjoy playing. For free you could have played a game you alreday own. So buying additional games when you're not sick of what you have means that the full price of the game is merely to play that instead of some other game that you like.
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Zoe M
Canada
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Yup, that's true. But the whole point of going out rather than staying in is often to do something different for a change, even if that variety isn't free. Excuses, I know
 
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Charles Waterman
United States
Commerce Township
Michigan
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I dunno. It costs way too much to go to a movie these days, given the cost of living. Frankly, there aren't more than 3-6 movies I'd even consider going to these days. If there was a second-run theatre in my area where I could catch a movie for $5 or less, I might. DVDs and Netflix make going out to see a movie an extremely expensive luxury these days.

That's why I compare the cost of a game to the cost of renting a DVD. Usually I can rent a DVD which lasts for 90 minutes for about $1.50 if I wait for sales and don't need to watch something the moment it comes out. That's why I tend to go with the $1 per hour for entertainment idea.

Of course, you may be earning more than I do...

Chuck Waterman

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Curt Carpenter
United States
Seattle
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$29.99 at CSI today only.

That's more like it. Sold!
 
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Zoe M
Canada
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Kingdom Builder » Forums » Reviews
Re: Fun quick game
Nice!
 
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