As newly-crowned ruler of your kingdom, you naturally seek wealth, lands, and prestige for your domain, as other rulers do for theirs. You explore new lands and claim them for your kingdom, but you quickly find that lands you had hoped to acquire have already been claimed by another. Not to be dissuaded, you continue to explore and expand your kingdom until it becomes clear who among you has managed to create the most prestigious land of all in Kingdomino.
Kingdomino is a kingdom-building tile-laying game for 2-4 players with a playtime of about 15 minutes. In Kingdomino, players will place domino-like tiles with various lands types within their own personal kingdoms. Certain tiles will add Prestige to all connected lands of the same type, and whoever has the most Prestige at the end of game is the winner.
Basic Game Concepts:
The first thing that players need to understand about Kingdomino is the domino-like tiles used in the game. These are rectangular tiles divided in half into two squares with various land types on them. The land types are Sea, Forest, Wheat Fields, Pastures, Swamps, and Caverns. Both halves of the tile may have the same or different land types printed on them, and each land type has multiple tiles that may have one, two or three Prestige symbols (crowns). Also, each tile in the game has a number printed on it’s back which will be used during the game to arrange tiles numerically from lowest to highest for reasons which be explained later. Lower-number tiles are generally considered to be less valuable.
In Kingdomino, players are seeking to have the most possible Prestige at the end of the game. The way Prestige is calculated is by multiplying the number of same-type lands in a connected area by the total number of Crowns on those lands in that area. For instance, if you have 6 Wheat Fields that are all interconnected, and only one tile has a Crown, that whole area is worth 6 Prestige at the end of the game. If you have 3 Pastures that are connected with a total of 3 Crowns among them, those Pastures are worth 9 points at the end, and if you have an area of Forest with no Crowns, that whole Forest area is worth 0 Prestige. If that sounds confusing, I assure you it’s not really that difficult and the rules give good visual illustrations to help clarify.
At the start of the game, each player receives a single starting square tile and castle for their kingdom, and four tiles will be randomly drawn and arranged numerically from lowest to highest. Each player also takes a pawn in their color (or two, in a 2-player game), which will be randomly drawn and then placed on one of the four tiles that player wishes to claim. Then four more tiles will be drawn and also arranged numerically in a second row from lowest to highest. Whoever has their pawn on the first (lowest) tile begins the game.
On your turn:
On your turn, the first thing you will do is take your claimed tile and place it into your kingdom. The rules for doing so are simple: The tile must be placed EITHER directly adjacent to your starting tile OR with one side of a land type touching the same land type on another tile. All parts of the tile must also fit within a 5x5 grid (measured by half-tile squares). You must place your tile if able, but if you cannot legally place your tile, it is discarded from the game, and you move on to the next step.
After placing (or discarding) your tile, you will then place your pawn on any unclaimed tile in the next row. This means that whoever claimed the lowest tile and placed it first each round is also the first to claim a new tile for the next round (Remember that while taking the lowest tile will give you first pick next round, lower tiles are also generally considered less valuable). After all players have placed their current tiles and claimed a new one, four more tiles are drawn, arranged from lowest to highest, and the player who claimed the lowest tile will begin a new round.
End Game Scoring:
After all players have placed or discarded their final tile, players will calculate their Prestige points as described above, and whoever has the most points wins the game. Two optional scoring rules that I always use (except maybe when teaching it to someone for the first time) are that if you have your Castle in the exact middle of your kingdom, you receive an additional 10 points, and another 5 points if your kingdom is complete (No empty spaces or discarded tiles in your 5x5 grid).
Something to be aware of is that there are two different options for two player games. You can either play with each player building a 5x5 grid as described above, but this requires that half the tiles are randomly removed at the beginning of the game. Alternatively, you can play with all the tiles, and each player constructs a 7x7 grid instead.
Kingdomino is over all a well-produced, good quality game. The tiles are thick and sturdy with a nice glossy finish, and the artwork on the tiles is simple, bright and colorful, and does a good job of carrying the theme of the game without getting in the way of gameplay. It’s very easy to tell which land types are which, and you even get the occasional shadow of a dragon flying over a field, or the silhouette of a sea monster under the water, which just adds some fun flair to the look of the game. The game also comes with these neat little 3D castles to go on your starting tile, and they fit in the box while put together which is great.
The insert for this game box is perfect. There’s a clear spot for everything with just the right amount of room, and the box as a whole is not that large, making it easy to toss in a suitcase (which is exactly what I did while traveling over the holidays).
The rulebook is short, clear, logically sequenced, and has good visual illustrations if anything is unclear from the description. On the back, there’s even a breakdown of how many of each land type there is in the game along with how many Crown symbols there are for each type. This comes in very handy the deeper you get into the strategy of the game and start planning ahead.
My only VERY minor complaint about components is that the pawns are wooden “meeples” shaped to have crowns on their heads, and frankly they just don’t look that great in my opinion. I understand they were trying to be thematic, but I might have preferred just a simple wooden crown or a standard meeple instead.
When I first heard about this game, I didn’t understand how it could possibly be any fun. The name itself implies that it is just dominoes with a slapped-on theme, and I don’t find dominoes particularly enjoyable. Also, another reviewer I’m familiar with gave it a rather low rating, so I had little desire to try it out. But I found the game on clearance for $10, and since it had won the internationally recognized 2017 Spiel Des Jahres (Game of the Year) award, I figured I would see what all the fuss was about, but I still had very low expectations.
Wow, was I wrong! Kingdomino is just an amazingly fun game. I assumed that, like the experiences I’ve had with dominoes, it would be essentially random with minimal interesting choices. But this game is full of meaningful decisions in both how you place your tiles into your kingdom and which tiles to claim next.
The tile placement creates this nice little puzzle of how to connect your tiles together for the most possible points. If you play with the optional bonus scoring as described above, it really takes the depth of strategy to the next level. You have to be careful to place tiles in such a way that you don’t create unfillable gaps, and deciding how to construct your kingdom in such a way that your castle remains in the middle is a fun challenge.
How claiming the tiles works is a lot of fun (it has a very “worker placement” feel), and I really love the numbering system for the tiles. It really balances out the game well, since the last player to place a tile doesn’t get a choice in which tile to claim next that round, but usually gives them first pick the next round. And I never felt like I was forced to take a bad tile; all the tiles are good, some are better than others, but none are overpowered. But because of the natural flow of claiming tiles in the game, in the end everyone gets an equal shot at the tiles that they need.
But the real fun of this game is just constructing your own personal kingdom and admiring it at the end. Even if you don’t win, it’s satisfying to see what you’ve created and how it’s different from everyone else. Also, the game is incredibly quick to play and lends itself to wanting a second playthrough right away.
I think this game will probably receive some comparisons to another popular tile-laying kingdom-building game, Carcassonne. Personally, I much prefer this over Carcassonne. The game is easier to teach, and while the gameplay is simpler than Carcassonne, I feel that the decisions in Kingdomino are much more interesting and meaningful. Over the holiday, I was able to teach it to my grandmother-in-law, who has little or no gaming experience, and she said she had a good time (Also, she won - with only a little strategic help here and there). I also played it with my mother-in-law, who immediately asked if we could play it again.
I will say that my personal favorite way to play is the 2-player game with a 7x7 grid. The 5x5 grid is fun, but the 7x7 game with having two pawns each round really takes the strategy and depth up a notch or two for me.
Overall, Kingdomino provided a very fun and unexpected experience. With great artwork and components, quick and simple gameplay, and fun and meaningful decisions, I would definitely recommend that you check it out.