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Welcome again to my "Review a Week". If this is your first foray, continue reading - if you are one of my treasured fans, feel free to skip ahead, this is old hat to you. "Review a Week" is my attempt to play and rate every single game in my collection. Every week I will try to review at least one game for a variety of reasons, but mostly just to entertain myself and interact with the community of BGG. If it matters to you, every single game in my collection was either purchased by me, or given to me by a friend or family member.

Starting off, I have to thank

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For actually requesting a review from me. He is the reason that I am going to do Kingsburg this week. If any of you out there would like to see a game in my collection reviewed, just let me know, and I will get it done for you.

Overview and Components

Kingsburg is a game that is published for the American market by FFG. I don’t know what the components were like prior to when FFG got a hold of it, but I can assume that they were still of decent if not great quality. As you would expect from FFG, Kingsburg is a very nice looking game. You get a big giant board, a small deck of cards, lots of wooden discs and squares, thick cardboard tokens, 5 province sheets (1 for each player), and 6 sets of dice. Once everything is set up and good to go, Kingsburg is really nice to look at.

 
 
 

Awesome photos by Gamephotos

The theme of Kingsburg is pretty straightforward. You take the role as one of the kings trusted governors, in charge of some province of his realm. It is your job, through the manipulation of the members of the court, including the king himself, to strengthen and expand your province, making it the greatest of his realm, thereby winning the game. The game lasts 5 “years” consisting of 6 rounds each.

How do you play?

At its core, Kingsburg is a worker placement game, but unlike other members of this genre, instead of just getting to pick what you want, you have to rely on the roll of the dice to determine what you can affect. I am getting a little ahead of myself here, but keep that mechanic in mind as we go forward.

When the game starts, everyone is in the same boat. You have your land but you have no buildings – maybe you have a couple of serfs whacking the ground with sticks but that’s about it. When the first season of a year begins, the person the worst off (least number of buildings – tiebreaker is least number of goods) gets an extra die to roll when you get to the production phase. If more than one person ties for sucking, no one gets an extra die but everyone who is in last place gets one free “good” of their choice – wood, gold, or stone. Smart people will figure out at this point that at the start of the game, everyone gets to pick a free good.

Once that is done you move on to the production phase of the game. With no false hyperbole, this is going to be the make or break moment as to whether or not you will like this game, as this is when you have to roll your dice. Each player rolls their dice and totals up their pips. The person with the least number goes first, the next lowest goes next, etc. Once that is done, the first player gets to pick one or more of their dice and choose the person of the court they want to influence. Of course, the caveat is that you can only pick the person whose number on the board matches the number on the dice. For example, if you wanted to use the Treasurer, who is number 8, you would have to use dice that total 8.

The reason you go in order, is that you cannot (normally) use a spot that has already been taken up by another player. Since you can see everyone’s dice, AND can see what people are most likely trying to accomplish, you can play a bit of a spoiler game to muck up someone else’s plans. While this does not afford a great amount of player interaction, it is a little bit of “screw your buddy” fun that adds to the game as a whole.

Once everyone has used up all their dice or been forced to pass since they have no options left, everyone collects their rewards, beginning with space number 1 (the jester) all the way up sequentially to number 18 (the king). I am not going to go over each and every spot on the board at this time since it is time consuming and has been done to death by other reviews and strategy articles. Suffice it to say, each spot will give you something, and as you climb up the ladder, it will give you more than just “one” something. While not an exhaustive list, rewards can include soldiers, victory points, and goods of different amounts and types.

Once you are done collecting your rewards, each person gets to create one building. You look at the province sheet in front of you and pick one option if you are able to do so. Sometimes you will not have the necessary amount of goods to create the building you want so you will hold off at this point. Regardless as to whether you build something or not, once everyone is done with the building phase, you total up the number of buildings each person has. Whoever is in the lead gets an extra Victory Point from the king. Consider it a pat on the back for a job well done.

Now go back and do the dice rolling again. Place your dice, collect your rewards, and build another building if you desire. However, this time you do not get an extra VP from the king for having the most buildings. Instead, the king takes a look and sees who is doing the worst and sends him their “Envoy” to help them not be so bad at their job. See who has the least buildings with the tie breaker once again being goods, however no one can tie at this point. If two (or more) people tie for doing the worst, none of them get anything.

The envoy can be used one of two ways. In the “influence phase” it can let you use a spot that has already been taken. Alternatively, you can use it to allow yourself to do a “double build”, creating two structures instead of just one during the construction phase. If you don’t use the envoy before it is handed out again, you don’t get to keep it unless you are once again the biggest loser when buildings and goods are totaled up.

Next you do your “Autumn Phase” where you roll the dice, collect goods, and build stuff again. The king does nothing special at the end of this phase. Apparently he has bigger things on his mind, like the imminent invasion of his kingdom by some sort of enemy to his realm – see below.

After this phase is done however, it is time to recruit soldiers. Why you may ask? Remember that invasion I just mentioned? Your serfs whacking the ground with sticks offer up little protection so you are going to need to spend some of your hard earned goods to buy some men-at-arms – 2 goods per soldier unit in fact. Once everyone has bought all the soldiers they think they will need we move onto combat.

Drawing the top card from the “enemy deck” gives you your attacker name and power. Each card will have a strength rating, a loss value, and a win value. Your combined strength (soldiers plus any special buildings) must eclipse the strength rating of the attacker to defeat them. However, you may not be completely screwed at this point. The king is benevolent and will send some number of his own troops to help his loyal governors. Roll one die and that is the number of extra soldiers each person will receive. Now figure out what happens to each player. If you tie the number nothing happens. If you have less, well you lost. If you win, you get the “win value” on the enemy card as a reward. If you lost, you MUST take the penalty listed on the card, usually the loss of buildings or goods. People that tie are boring and nothing happens to them.

If that was the final of the five years, the game is done, total up the victory points and declare the winner. If it was not the fifth year, you start the whole process over. Return your soldiers to the pool but keep everything else and begin the next year.

My Opinion

Where do I begin with this one?

Whether or not you are going to enjoy Kingsburg comes down to one thing – the dice.

Dice are going to determine whether you win or lose with this one. Yes, you need to have a sound strategy, and you need to have a good grasp of your goal, but even the most clever and ideal ideas are going to fall by the wayside if the dice do not fall the way you need them to.

Now for me, this is a plus. I am a fan of any type of game, but I will be the first person to say that when I sit down for a game of Dominion or Race for the Galaxy, I am a casual player at best. Oh I know exactly what I need to do, but my brain is just not wired for one of those X + Y = Z brain burners that other people seem to love so much. I can hold my own mind you, but against the more logical and analytical of my gaming group, I am grist for the mill. That is why Kingsburg is a good fir for me, the luck factor evens out the score a little bit. I can still get screwed over by the dice mind you, but it is a rare thing that I am ever going to bemoan rolling a 4 when I needed a 2 because it just screwed up my 7 step sure fire plan for perfection.

And it is that strength of Kingsburg that will doom it to many of you. I don’t completely understand the need to have a dry, scripted game with minimal or in some cases, NO luck involved, but there are fans of that genre out there. Please do not take this as a vilification of those fans, you just won’t see me sitting at the same table as many of them. Truth be told, that is probably for the best since they wouldn’t see me as an ideal opponent anyway.

Kingsburg is a very light hearted game, with a bit of serious meat to chew through here and there. Most of the people that have played this with me have mentioned that they love the game, but they have no idea why. In my opinion, this is one of those games that the actual playing of it is probably more fun than finding out who wins at the end. There is something that is just enjoyable about rolling dice, collecting cubes, and making buildings.

There are detractions of course. The game can run a little long, and it can get a little tiresome, especially if the dice aren't falling your way. My feeling is that if you could shorten the game down to an hour, you would have a much bigger hit on your hands.

Also, as I just mentioned, if the dice aren't falling your way, there is little you can do. The game does a good job at boosting the losing player, but if bad luck follows bad, then you might end up at the bottom of the ladder, staring up at the leaders for most of the game.

However, I do think repeated plays should mitigate this factor. If you have a run of bad luck, I think it is up to the player to adjust to the situation and change their plans. Use your bonuses for last place to yoru advantage, screw up the plans of the leader if you can, and be prepared to drop everything and shift gears at the drop of a hat if need be. Rigidity in Kingsburg will most likely result in a loss, unless you can guarantee your rolls throughout the game.

Now I normally don't play games like Kingsburg, not because I don't like them, it's more that I enjoy other types of games more. The same goes for my gaming group - we would much rather be yelling "Cylon!" at each other than trying to collect the necessary colored blocks for our next building. However, when the mood strikes me to play something a little more "Euro", Kingsburg is right up my alley. It is super quick to learn and grasp, the strategies are simple, but complex all the same, and I get to roll dice. If those things appeal to you, I highly recommend the game. Of course, people who depend on a low luck experience from their gaming need not apply.
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Just a quick reply to let you know that the original version's components, if I'm remembering correctly, are either exactly the same, or almost the same as the FFG version. I expect the rulebook is slightly different, but have no clue about that.
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I played with the expansion - which gives you a "special power" card. My special power was that if I rolled a 8 or less I could change the roll to a 13 (3,4,6 IIRC). That was nice.

But even without that, there is a/are building(s) that lets you re-roll.

But even without that, even with lousy rolls you should get something.

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Thanks, Lance! I appreciate the review. Kingsburg looked pretty cool at Gencon, but I was too busy demoing other games (for people, not myself) that I didn't get to really look closely.

I really didn't like "Down With the King," and Kingsburg looked similar to it. It seems there is more going on in Kingsburg.

You said that it might be a little "long" for a light game. How long does Kingsburg usually take you to play? I don't mind a good 2-3 hours for a game.

What do you think about the expansion?

Thank you very much, again, for taking the time to do the review.
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Grimstax wrote:
Thanks, Lance! I appreciate the review. Kingsburg looked pretty cool at Gencon, but I was too busy demoing other games (for people, not myself) that I didn't get to really look closely.

I really didn't like "Down With the King," and Kingsburg looked similar to it. It seems there is more going on in Kingsburg.

You said that it might be a little "long" for a light game. How long does Kingsburg usually take you to play? I don't mind a good 2-3 hours for a game.

What do you think about the expansion?

Thank you very much, again, for taking the time to do the review.


I don't own the expansion yet, as I haven't put together an order for awhile. I have heard good things though.

Kingsburg takes about an hour and a half to play, as long as everyone is moving along quickly. It can bog down with your more AP people, but I haven't had a session come close to 2 hours in awhile.
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Grimstax wrote:
Thanks, Lance! I appreciate the review. Kingsburg looked pretty cool at Gencon, but I was too busy demoing other games (for people, not myself) that I didn't get to really look closely.

I really didn't like "Down With the King," and Kingsburg looked similar to it. It seems there is more going on in Kingsburg.

You said that it might be a little "long" for a light game. How long does Kingsburg usually take you to play? I don't mind a good 2-3 hours for a game.

What do you think about the expansion?

Thank you very much, again, for taking the time to do the review.


I have the expansion, so I can answer this. I also made a review up for it also, which you can read here.

Basically, there's 5 modules that can be added to the base game. Each module adds more choices, some add more buildings, some add more randomness, etc.

So far, other than teaching games, I won't play without the expansion. The things it adds make the game much, much better. More strategy and each player goes in much different directions.
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UndeadViking wrote:

Kingsburg takes about an hour and a half to play, as long as everyone is moving along quickly. It can bog down with your more AP people, but I haven't had a session come close to 2 hours in awhile.


I've finished games (without the expansion) with 3 people in an hour and 4 players in around 75 mins. Experienced players should know the game good enough to know where to put their dice, so the AP should be less.
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Quote:
Basically, there's 5 modules that can be added to the base game. Each module adds more choices, some add more buildings, some add more randomness, etc.


So this is similar to the expansions for Alhambra? They are single elements that allow you to add what elememts you want rather than all needing to be added? If it is, I like the idea. That is a throwback to the days when games would get "trimmed" and then the company would release the concepts that got taken out in the original as elements to "expand" the game if players choose.

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What do you guys think about Dominion? Have you done a review of that yet, Lance?

How does Dominion compare with Kingsburg? I'm thinking I may like Kingsburg better, but others seem to really like Dominion.
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Grimstax wrote:
What do you guys think about Dominion? Have you done a review of that yet, Lance?

How does Dominion compare with Kingsburg? I'm thinking I may like Kingsburg better, but others seem to really like Dominion.


I like Dominion, but it doesn't "fit" as well in my mind set as Kingsburg. I could do a review of Dominion, but really, my opinion of it has been rehashed already by several people.

I am not a very good "X+Y=Z" player. Oh, I understand the strategies, and I can even plan for them and use them, but I am a bit too rigid in my thoughts. A good Dominion player will wipe the table with me every time - it is a good thing that the game goes by quickly.
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Grimstax wrote:
What do you guys think about Dominion? Have you done a review of that yet, Lance?

How does Dominion compare with Kingsburg? I'm thinking I may like Kingsburg better, but others seem to really like Dominion.


I love both games, but they're completely different. I can't even compare the two of them to each other. Well you get VP in both games. And there's cards in both games. That's as far as it goes for me.
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UndeadViking wrote:
A good Dominion player will wipe the table with me every time - it is a good thing that when the game goes by quickly.

FTFY
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Grimstax wrote:
Thanks, Lance! I appreciate the review. Kingsburg looked pretty cool at Gencon, but I was too busy demoing other games (for people, not myself) that I didn't get to really look closely.

I really didn't like "Down With the King," and Kingsburg looked similar to it. It seems there is more going on in Kingsburg.

You said that it might be a little "long" for a light game. How long does Kingsburg usually take you to play? I don't mind a good 2-3 hours for a game.

What do you think about the expansion?


The expansion modules are wonderful (it's one expansion box with five "modules" in it that can be mixed and matched). One of them fixes the only broken part of the original game (the Winter Battles: I will never play without that module again), and the rest add some GREAT replay value and variety to each contest. There's one module that I don't use with new players (it requires you to know the boards so that you can evaluate whether you want a difference on your board or not), but in general I don't plan on playing without them: they're already all packed into the box with the original!
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jsciv wrote:
One of them fixes the only broken part breaks one of the best features of the original game (the Winter Battles: I will never play without that module again),

FTFY
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Barticus88 wrote:
jsciv wrote:
One of them fixes the only broken part breaks one of the best features of the original game (the Winter Battles: I will never play without that module again),

FTFY

That's why they are modules. Now everyone can be happy playing in their favourite way.
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Barticus88 wrote:
jsciv wrote:
One of them fixes the only broken part breaks one of the best features of the original game (the Winter Battles: I will never play without that module again),

FTFY


Seriously? You think the dice roll was a good thing? IME it basically meant that nobody really worried about Winter Battles for the first two years at all, and put a HUGE luck element into the game so much so that anyone who bet on a large roll in IV or V and didn't bother getting armies could steamroll anyone who paid attention to armies. I guess I just prefer that element to be a little less luck. The game is based on dice rolls, sure, but that was the only place in the game where ONE die meant sooooo much.

Still, as Luca says, it does make it handy to have modules.
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Grimstax wrote:
What do you guys think about Dominion? Have you done a review of that yet, Lance?

How does Dominion compare with Kingsburg? I'm thinking I may like Kingsburg better, but others seem to really like Dominion.


I just love Dominion, I think it's a pure stroke of genius (I know Luca will not agree with me, he is more "german" than me, I am more "american").

It has its own downsides, like having one strategy stronger than the others (mmmm where did I heard this before? ), and it's really tedious to set up. However, it plays really fast, and the basic idea is great.

You may want to try both if you want to just have one of the two, to check which one is more your cup of tea.
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jsciv wrote:
Seriously? You think the dice roll was a good thing?

I looked for what I wrote on this before, but I can't find it. Someday I will write on this in depth, and make a thread for it. Briefly:

For sure. It is an elegant push your luck mechanism. You assess your game position and decide how much to risk. If you are ahead, you try to put you self in a position where you win regardless of the die roll. If you are behind, you put less into defense and hope to win with a big die roll. Without this mechanism, the chance of late game hopelessness is too high, in which case the game is much too long.
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Lance, just letting you know I picked up this game after your awesome review and my wife and I love it. Thanks!

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Heh - tell FFG that. Maybe they will send me a free copy of Runewars for my trouble!

Seriously though, I am glad you like it. Make sure you pick up the expansion as well...it adds a ton to the game.

Grimstax wrote:
Lance, just letting you know I picked up this game after your awesome review and my wife and I love it. Thanks!

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Yeah, I picked up the expansion too, but we wanted to play the base game a few times first. I like what I'm seeing in the expansion, but it might make things a little too complicated for my mostly non-gaming wife. We'll see.
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Grimstax wrote:
but it might make things a little too complicated for my mostly non-gaming wife.

In this case (when you'll wish to try the expansion) add just a single module, play a few games with it and once it is "assimilated", add another one, and so on.
In this way it is also easier to distinguish the modules you (and/or the wife) like more.
Have fun! meeple
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The expansion is a nice addition to an already good game. Besides the special-ability cards, it also contains additional building strips so that one can change his board slightly.

Another good review.

Brian
 
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A fine review, well written, pleasant presentation, humourous and above all informative. You adapted your review style in response to the readership, I like that; but, you did not lose your unique approach, I respect and appreciate that even more. All Homage Viking of the Living.
LET US PLAY, MadMonk.
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When one plays this 'spoon' it helps to remember the maxim 'there is no spoon'. The group interchat is what makes this game fun. Many euro style bg are like this, the dryness is wetted by social interaction. Keep the reviews ticking. P.S Awesome bg library - I thought I had a bg collection!
LET US PLAY, MadMonk
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