Review Date: August 10, 2015
Time: 20-40 Minutes
Release Date: 1994
Mechanics: Abstract Strategy, Tile Placement
Developer: Reiner Knizia
Publisher: Fantasy Flight
If you like doing math and placing tiles then have I got a game for you. Kingdoms is played over 3 rounds in which players take turns placing tiles or castles. At the end of each round add up the values of the tiles in the same row and column of your placed castles to determine your score. Pretty straight forward, but let’s take a closer look.
Note: I have the 2011 Fantasy Flight version of the game.
Each player starts with level 1, 2, 3, and 4 castles, 50 coins and one random starting tile. A 5 x 6 grid is used to represent the kingdom and it is initially empty.
On your turn you can do 1 of 3 things:
Place a Castle: Place one of your castles on an empty spot on the board. A higher-level castle will garner you more points at the end of the round. For example a 3rd level castle will multiply that row and column total by 3.
Draw a Tile: Draw a random face down tile and place it somewhere on the grid. A tile can be a resource (positive), a hazard (negative), or a special tile. Each spot on the grid can only contain one tile or castle.
Place Starting Tile: Place your secret starting tile somewhere on the grid.
Once the grid is full players add up their scores and retrieve all of their level 1 castles. Any higher-level castles can only be used once and are removed from the game at the end of the round that they are used in. Clear the board, shuffle the tiles and repeat the process.
Strategies That Work For Me
High Level Castles: Be careful when placing these as they attract hazards played by other players. Only set these down is you are sure that they will get you positive points.
Obviously you don’t want to place your castle in a spot that you know will lose you points. If possible use all of your 1st level castles each round since they will come back to you at the end of the round.
Keep your Starting Tile: Do not play your starting tile too early. Save them for the end of the round once a few castles have been played. If it is a hazard try to hit multiple enemy castles. If it is a resource place it where it benefits you the most. The end of the round is where most of the strategy comes into play; you don’t want to be drawing random tiles at the end if you can avoid it. Nothing hurts more than drawing a hazard and having no choice but to play it where it will hurt you.
Components: Let me first start out by saying that Fantasy Flight is one of my favorite publishers out there, however they struck out with this one. The castles are not awful, but we have seen what they can do with plastic and these could have been so much better.
The board had to be my biggest component disappointment. It is so small and plain and there is so much wasted space. The entire right side is unused and the spot that they give you to stack the coins is way too small to use unless you stack your coins immaculately.
I will say that the cardboard tiles are nice and thick and the artwork on them is colorful, but pretty generic.
Theme: I haven’t played a lot of Reiner Knizia games, but one of the main complaints I hear about his games are the pasted on themes. I can’t disagree with the people on this one.
The whole castles and dragons theme can be interesting if done properly. This is an abstract strategy game with no backstory and the theme just didn’t do anything for me.
I Don’t Want To Be The Banker: At the end of every round you need to score every row and every column for every player. This can take a decent amount of time, but the fact that you keep track of your points with chit coins makes it even worse. You only get so many 1 value coins and players will need to be trading in 1 value coins for 5 value coins after each row and column is scored. It can be a hassle and I think that a score tracker going around the board would have been better than coins to keep track of your score.
Repetitive: You grab a tile, place it, and then wait and then you repeat it again over and over. It is nice that the game is simple and easy to learn, but this one is a little too simple for my taste. Perhaps each round could have introduced a new unique tile or two to spice things up.
I’m not saying that there is no strategy involved here, but the first half of each round can be a little boring. When the board is less than half full you have so many options and no matter what you draw you can find a good spot to put it.
The special tiles do help a bit, but they are few and far between.
Easy Rules: It is seriously 2 pages of rules and you can teach this game to almost anyone in like 2 minutes. The box recommends that the game should be played by people aged 14+, I see no reason why this can’t be played with younger children as long as there is someone there to double check their math.
Size/Price/Time: The box is small and the game itself has a small footprint. It can be played in less than 30 minutes if everyone knows what they are doing.
Close Scoring: A well-placed 3rd or 4th level castle usually wins the game.
Overall Score: 6/10
Kingdoms is a pretty average filler strategy game. It can be repetitive and it’s one of those games that won’t get played too often, but it is a game that I will keep around for when I’m in the mood for a lighter abstract game.
You can find my other reviews at www.doyouwantthetruth.ca
I'm trying a slightly different review format here (I cut down on the rules explanation and the component breakdown.) Let me know what you think.