Martin G
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I wrote a huge review of Kingdom Builder after my first 30 plays, at which point I'd just started to include the first expansion Kingdom Builder: Nomads. I'm now at 60 plays and have reached the same stage with Kingdom Builder: Crossroads so it seems like an auspicious time to review what the two expansions have added.

In my original review I noted that "the separation of data and mechanics makes the game a prime target for expansions". Both expansions have naturally added new boards, new bonus tiles and new scoring cards, though I've been slightly surprised by the direction some of these have taken. I'll take a look first at the scoring cards, then the bonus tiles and finally at some other bits and pieces.

Scoring cards

Surprisingly, neither expansion has added to the ten regular Kingdom Builder cards included in the base game, each of which was scored at the end of the game. Instead, Nomads adds three cards that substitute for Kingdom Builder cards but score during the game, while Crossroads includes six task cards, from which 0-4 are used in addition to the standard three Kingdom Builder cards.

I broke the base-game scoring cards down into a matrix with one axis describing whether the goal is related to the specific geographic layout of the terrains and the other describing whether the scoring is linear i.e. a reward for each settlement placed, or non-linear i.e. dependent on completing a bigger structure over time.

The three Nomads cards are all linear, and they are even more short-term than the linear base-game cards since they score immediately on placement rather than at game-end. They give you an extra little something to try to achieve each turn, along with your other short- and long-term goals. My criticism of them is the extra hassle, and the potential errors, of tracking the score in-game, which I'm not sure is justified by what they add. I haven't played with more than one Nomads card in use at a time, but it would only increase that problem.

By contrast, the six Crossroads cards are all non-linear, since they represent all-or-nothing 'tasks' which the players try to complete over multiple turns, such as building a settlement on each edge of the board, or a diagonal line of seven settlements. As I noted in my original review, I enjoy the non-linear scoring cards most so these are a pleasing addition to the game. In my 4p games they have become the focus of interaction through blocking of obvious attempts at completing a task, but this has been less pronounced in 2p, where some tasks seem a bit too easy to complete.

Here's the updated table:


| Terrain-dependent | Non-terrain-dependent
-----------|----------------------|-----------------------
Linear | Shepherds | Ambassadors
| | Families
-----------|----------------------|-----------------------
Non-linear | Home Country | Fortress
| Place of Refuge | Advance
| | Road
| | Compass Points


I believe Donald has hinted at future expansions including new 'regular' Kingdom Builder cards and I would be pleased if that were the case.

Bonus tiles

Nomads adds four new bonus tile types while Crossroads squeezes in eight by offering two different ones on each of its four new boards. Some of the new powers are obvious variations of base-game powers, while some are more complex than the base game, as befits an expansion.

I also used a matrix to classify the bonus tiles, with one dimension for whether or not they are keyed to specific terrains, and the other for whether they allow the addition of an extra settlement or the moving of an existing one. The Nomads and Crossroads tiles break down like this:


| Terrain-dependent | Non-terrain-dependent
-----------|----------------------|-----------------------
Addition | Garden | Village
| Forester's Lodge | (City Hall)
| Monastery |
| Fort |
-----------|----------------------|-----------------------
Movement | (Lighthouse) | Caravan
| | (Wagon)


Garden, Forester's Lodge and Monastery are simply 'add to meadow', 'add to forest' and 'add to canyon' to complete the base set's 'add to desert' and 'add to grass'. Not earth-shaking, but nice to have. The Fort extends this to adding to a random terrain drawn from the deck.

Village, from Nomads, is my least favourite power of all: add a settlement where you have at least three settlements adjacent. This never allows you to jump to new areas of the board (as the terrain-based additions do). It's also nowhere near as useful as the base-game's Tavern which allows lines of settlements to be extended and combos particularly well with Knights and Merchants scoring. All it really lets you do is 'bulk out' an existing settlement area, but pretty much any addition power can be used this way too.

On the other hand, Caravan is one of my favourites. With its lack of adjacency requirement, it's similarly game-warping to Paddock from the base game, allowing settlements to slide across the board until they reach an obstacle. It's great fun to stage 'commando raids' on distant castles, even more so when Paddock is in play too!

The powers in brackets are those in Crossroads which bring new types of pieces in to play. Wagon gives you a movable wooden piece that can cross mountains; Lighthouse a movable ship; and City Hall a one-off block of seven additional settlements to place. I worried that these might be a bridge too far in terms of complexity, but so far I'm really enjoying them. They're nicely constrained in terms of analysis paralysis because the powers only allow the movement of one or two special pieces, while something like Paddock or Caravan presents many more options.

There are also a few powers that couldn't be accommodated in my matrix. Quarry from Nomads allows players to place neutral blocking pieces, either to wall themselves off from inconvenient adjacencies or to block other players from their goals. It's a nice idea, but I prefer the way a similar effect is achieved by Barracks in Crossroads; it seems inelegant to require 40 new pieces for just one bonus tile.

Finally Crossroads adds an eponymous bonus tile that allows the holder to draw two cards at the end of each turn instead of one, choosing which to use and then discarding both at the end of the next turn. I like to think Donald put this in just to screw with people who've invented variants to 'fix' the randomness of the card draw in the base game.

Other stuff

Crossroads limits itself to just new boards, tiles and task cards, but Nomads has more going on. The expansion is named for the Nomad Tents which replace the Castles of the base-game boards and offer one-shot bonus tiles to the first player to reach them. These range from 'add three settlements' powers for each terrain type (including mountains and water) to a simple +3VP. Because these are one-off, not persistent, they're less influential on the feel of the game than regular bonus tiles, though Sword (remove one settlement belonging to each other player) adds some nasty, and not necessarily welcome, direct interaction.

Nomads also adds red pieces for a 5th player. The game doesn't change massively with 5, but I prefer to limit it to 4 or fewer lest it outstay its welcome.

Summing up

On the whole, the expansions do a good job of adding variability and some complexity to the game without requiring lots of new rules. I was initially disappointed to hear that Crossroads added new types of pieces and no regular Kingdom Builder cards but so far I am enjoying it more than Nomads. I prefer the non-linear task cards to the ultra-linear Nomads scoring cards and I prefer having two persistent bonus tiles on each board rather than the one-shot nomad effects. I recommend both expansions, but if you are choosing just one, I'd suggest Crossroads.
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Ben Schomp
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qwertymartin wrote:
I recommend both expansions, but if you are choosing just one, I'd suggest Crossroads.


Thanks Martin!
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Caleb
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dabowsa wrote:
qwertymartin wrote:
I recommend both expansions, but if you are choosing just one, I'd suggest Crossroads.


Thanks Martin!


This pretty much confirms my opinion of passing on both expansions. I haven't played KB nearly as much as you have (and am unlikely to anytime soon), and I often play with my 9yo daughter who has quite enough to think about with the base game (though she's playing it quite well now).

If a more 'basic' expansion came out that was just new scoring cards I'd probably buy it, but I don't see the need for either of these two big-box expansions personally.

Thanks for the review.
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Martin G
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That seems perfectly reasonable
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Rich P
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qwertymartin wrote:
I like to think Donald put this in just to screw with people who've invented variants to 'fix' the randomness of the card draw in the base game.


I had the same thought. I hope it's true! devil
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Neil Robinson
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An excellent review, although I suspect you are preaching to the converted here.

Crossroads has the more interesting elements when compared to Nomads, but Nomads wins for me because you get a red player. Red is essential to any base game in my book.
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Martin G
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Haha. Crossroads would have been just perfect if they'd thrown in some green pieces!
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Laszlo Molnar
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qwertymartin wrote:
Haha. Crossroads would have been just perfect if they'd thrown in some green pieces!

Yes, green would be nice to have... On the other hand, it would suggest playing the game 6-player which doesn't seem to be a good option.
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Matt E
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I'm guessing there are no green pieces because two of the terrains are green. Or so that colorblind folks can differentiate the pieces.
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Martin G
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I don't need your logic! I want to play green damnit!
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Laszlo Molnar
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err.. okay, I can see your microbadge.
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Bryan Doughty
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I really don't see why boardgames don't just come with player pieces in four to six shades of green so that everyone can play their favorite color.
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Martin G
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Sweet avatar Bryan!
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pato rumura
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I do agree. I love the red pieces as well and use them only. Also, I love the shepherds card. One of the best in the game.
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Brian Jurney
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Great review! Kingdom Builder is one of my favorite games and I have played it about 30 times now. I have only played Crossroads a couple of times. I liked the idea of the Crossroads power and thought it would add a lot of power to whoever held it. My 1 play with that power, I wasn't able to get it until close to the end of the game, in fact I was only able to use it once. Luck would have it, that I drew two deserts! laugh

I like both expansions as well, but Crossroads seems to be the better of the two. Nomads is still good though and offers what I consider the most powerful tile in the game, the Caravans.
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Joe
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I really like Quarry, it's one of my favorite abilities. I don't mind the extra bits at all, it's simple enough to dump them by the board when Quarry is in play.
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Jeff Shoot
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firepile wrote:

An excellent review, although I suspect you are preaching to the converted here.

Crossroads has the more interesting elements when compared to Nomads, but Nomads wins for me because you get a red player. Red is essential to any base game in my book.


Oh great.... Here I was all excited as this review helped me to choose Crossroads over Nomads.... then you have to point THIS out!shake

Red! ARRRGH! (I have no explanation as it's not my favorite color, but I ALWAYS play red...)

One question: Do BOTH expansions add a 5th player to the base game? Or only Nomads?
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Brian Jurney
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house14 wrote:

One question: Do BOTH expansions add a 5th player to the base game? Or only Nomads?


Only Nomads does
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Mike Stevens
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We just got KB Big Box last week and finally got to try out both Nomads and Crossroads. We have both played several games of base KB so a few nights ago we read the rules and played with Nomads. I think we drew 2 Momads boards and 2 from the base game. Both of us enjoyed it and after getting 2 Caravan tiles early in the game, I was hooked. Caravan is now one of my favorite tiles and I will always go after it. Last night we tried out Crossroads and ended up with 3 Crossroad boards and one board from Nomads. So we had 3 Task Cards. Both of us really liked the Task cards. I used both Warriors and my opponent made good use of her Wagon. We did not have the Lighthouse so no Ships made it into play. I was able to complete all 3 Tasks and my opponent scored 2 of them. I ended up with a 120-82 win.

Great review Martin! I agree with most of what you say and am totally wanting more regular scoring cards. We always play Blue vs Red in our 2-player games so Nomads gets a few extra points for that. Most fans of the base game will want both of these expansions. The KB Big Box also comes with the Capitol City and Caves promo tiles which are pretty sweet.

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Matt Smith
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Thanks for posting this review. I've had Crossroads for a while but only played with it a couple of times. I plan to track down a copy of Nomads, primarily for the red player pieces, but also to have even more boards.

I downloaded the Android app of the base game over the holidays and played it a ton, which convinced me even more that KB is one of my favorite games. I wish the app included the expansions, though.
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David Hodge
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Meeple source, or an old Risk set with the wooden pieces.
Having more colors doesn't mean you have to use them all at once. You can choose 5 or less. You can also use 2 more board sections for a bigger game.
 
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