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Kingdom Builder recently won the Game of the Year award (2012) and was the subject of some pretty heated debate, did it really deserve to win game of the year? My answer is yes, it is a game that can be played over and over and enough will be different every game that keeps it from getting boring or stale. The mechanics are easy enough to learn and teach to someone, but there is still enough room to perfect your strategy and create some in-depth plans.
For a full better laid out version of this review, complete with pictures go to http://toddsboardgames.blogspot.ca/
Objective: All points are tallied at the end of the game, the winner will be the player with the most victory points. For details see 'Scoring'. The game ends when one player runs out of blocks, all the other players finish their last turn then you count score.
On a players turn you play a card. Then you carry out your 'basic action' followed by ALL extra actions. You might be asking what the heck is a basic action or what is and how to I get an extra action? Don't worry that will all be explained.
Basic Action: Play 3 wooden blocks on the terrain type that matches the card you played. (Place 3 blocks in the desert if you played a desert card.)
Extra Actions: In order to use an extra action you must have the corresponding extra action token. To obtain one of these tokens you simply place a block next to a "Location" where there are available tokens (there is a limited supply at each location). Your extra actions are as follows: For a list of each extra action with a pictured explanation go to
Now all this seems pretty straight forward, how does all this add up to game of the year? There is one major twist/golden rule and that is: If you can place adjacent to one of your pieces already on the board you HAVE to. After you have completed placing all the blocks you can on your turn, you draw a new card.
Scoring: Each time you play Kingdom Builder you will have 3 'random' cards that determine how you will score victory points for the entire game. In addition to these cards you will score 3 points for every 'City' you have built at least 1 block adjacent too. The reverse sides of all the board tiles have a scoreboard on them use one of the extra tiles to track score.
Components: The game tiles are good quality, and it’s hard to make a poor wooden block. The cards are all well printed, the game has nice artwork. There are some 'waste' pieces that we never end up using they are the First Player Marker, and the slightly bigger tiles that show what each location does. Also the little 'Location' tiles that give you your extra actions are a little too small / hard to pick up. Kingdom Builder is fairly quick to set up, I think the best part about the components is how many variations there are. For example there are 10 victory condition cards but you only use 3 per game.
Overall I believe anyone can have a good time playing Kingdom Builder so lets move on to who will enjoy Kingdom Builder and why:
Family Gamers: The game does have some more complicated victory conditions and extra action tokens but instead of randomizing these you could choose the easier ones, for example placing a 4th block instead of moving existing blocks, and victory cards like miners: 1 point for every wooden block built next to a mountain. There is no violence or adult theme to this game its very Euro style and if you start with a easy setup I believe you could then teach this game to just about anyone. Recommended for families with a little gaming experience.
Casual Gamers: Because some of the victory conditions are more complicated than others this is a great bridge game for casual gamers, play with easier conditions at first till they understand the game then swap to the ones that really make you strategize and think to get people hooked on this game! Lots of the mechanics in Kingdom Builder exist in other games and learning them now in a 'lighter' game allows someone to get the hang of other games quicker and easier.
Gamer Gamers: Although lots of hardcore gamers despise 'random elements' I still think this is one to check out. I am the hugest fan of random elements in games however when a game forces to you make the best moves you can out of a not so good situation that is when it shines for me. This is how you really separate the pros from the amateurs, a good strategist can think on their feet and make a solid plan out of almost any situation. The random setup I think is a huge bonus for avid gamers that way you cannot use the same strategy every game or preplan your strategy depending on who you are playing with, overall I would recommend checking this one out