The fiance and I just played our first game of Kingsburg last night with some mixed thoughts. It was just the two of us, and after a quick read through the short and concise rules we started off.
It seems to me that you are, generally speaking, going to pick 2 building tracks and build them out entirely. I picked the military path (mostly just military bonus' and ending in the Wizards Guild, which seemed an odd choice for the top military building) and the Inn/Farms/Merchants guild path, as the Farms seemed particularly attractive.
The game was very close, almost disturbingly so. We both built at about the same time, sometimes holding back for the catchup benefits then jumping ahead. Neither of us had any problem holding off the attackers, and by the last round I was 2 points ahead due to a lucky roll that let me claim the Queen. When claiming the queen I got a peak at our last enemy and determined that, after paying for a few soldiers, I would be able to at least tie the enemy if anything other than a 1 were rolled. My fiance would defeat them easily and gain 1 VP, but I would still be ahead for the win. Naturally, I roll a 1, lose a building and lose the game. As a person who loves a good euro, this left a very, very bad taste in my mouth.
My opinions on the game are as follows:
Generally speaking, I think this is a really solid gateway game to get people into heavier euros like Caylus and Puerto Rico. However, despite the admittedly fun and interesting role selection mechanism, once one gets into these heavier games it's hard to fully enjoy something like this. To be fair the fiance loved it and is excited to play again.
I feel like there aren't a lot of options, and this was reflected in the fact that we were almost on top of eachother on the VP track the entire game. We both picked 2 tracks, built them up with our 3-ish goods per turn. We both handily defeated the enemies and in the end my bad die roll cost me a couple points and thus (due to the closeness of the scores) the game. Other than building up a different building track there wasn't much I could have done to stop it.
The other problem with the 'close scoring' is the Queen. Getting a 3 VP jump is a huge benefit when the score is so close, and we found that we were always taking it when we physically were able. Far and away better than the King. The fact that, on top of 3 victory points and 2 goods, you could ALSO look at the top of the enemy deck was hugely overkill. Though it was mentioned it wasn't taken in playtest when the VP was capped at 2, I feel that will be our house rule. 3 VP on top of 2 goods and foresight of the attack is just too much.
While I will certainly give this game a few more chances and try out different strategies, I simply feel that when one has become used to the heavier euros of a similar sort this game just won't quite scratch that itch.
On a final note the quality of the game is exceptional and I'm very impressed in that department. I will, however, jump on the 'player sheets are just sad' bandwagon. The spectacular quality of the rest of the game casts these thing sheets of paper in very sharp contrast and after repeated plays the wear will surely start to show. Perhaps laminating is the answer there.
I agree with most of your comments playing 2 player.
One particular gripe I have is that the King Roll for soldiers in the Winter Phase can rob the game of any tension. Especially as it's very easy to get enough soldiers anyway before you roll a 5 or 6.
My thought was to half the King's Roll to:
1-2 = 1
3-4 = 2
5-6 = 3
So you have to work harder to balance Soldiers v Buildings.
But still I'm very fond of Kingsburg despite its flaws.