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Subject: Delivers On Lofty Intentions rss

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Jason Rider
United States
New York
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Score: 8.5/ 10

For a fantasy game fan, just browsing Fantasy Flight Games’ catalog can be comparable to an alcoholic strolling around a liquor store: Too many choices, intriguing all. As I’ve been using what spare time I can muster to methodically sample various treats from said catalog, Kingsburg has been on my to do list for quite some time. In a recent free-shipping induced online ordering binge, I finally slapped ol Kingsburg into the virtual cart with high, if somewhat hazy, expectations.

Low and behold, after several close rounds of play, I am pleased to report that Fantasy Flight has managed to put out another winner in the fantasy board game genre, this one a combination of resource management, basic combat, and opponent-oriented strategy.

If, like me, you find yourself attempting to make some sort of logical game play assessment based exclusively on the back of the box’s description paired to photos of the (seemingly insanely complex) game in play, let me begin by putting your mind at ease. The game is deceptively intuitive after only a full 90-minute play, perhaps even earlier than that but by the second full game, you’ll find yourself referring to the 8-page rulebook less and less.

True to the teasers, you assume the role of one of the king’s governors in a land with apparently very invade-able borders. The idea of the game is to come out furthest on the board’s outermost scoring track at the conclusion. Pacing the flow of things is both a seasonal and annual counter (4 seasons per year/ 5 years total game time). Not to worry if five years sounds like an awful big commitment, a table of experienced players will enjoy complete game times between a little over an hour to an hour and a half maximum.

I mentioned resource management and indeed, that element represents the core of the game play mechanic as dice rolls determine which of the king’s royal court will toss a few goodies in your direction (these goods range from gold to building supplies to soldiers). Each turn (season), players allocate their resources to constructing buildings, building up their army, or just stockpiling materials for later use. The catch is each year come wintertime; the malevolent forces from outside the land’s borders come a knocking. Players who neglected to prep their armies during spring, summer and autumn will pay severe consequences should they falter to the invading orcs, barbarians, zombies, and dragon forces.

This all sounds terribly complex, I’m sure and photos of the game board with its depicted hierarchy of characters, dozens of in-play dice, markers, chips, and player sheets does little to dissuade the notion. However, after a few minutes of actual playtime, it becomes very clear that whoever designed the board initially had an outstanding perception of the game’s intricacies as nothing, and I mean nothing, on it is without purpose. Markers keep track of everything from the given season and year (remember there’s only 5 total), to which player gets to roll first in a given season, to the precise payouts each advisor provides, to how many soldiers you’ve got recruited into your army. All of the building construction is kept separate from the board on the player’s individual province sheets. Hard commodities such as gold bars, wood, and stone are represented by appropriately painted wooden blocks. The more familiar with the game one becomes, the more he comes to appreciate the detail and amount of information the game board contains on every square inch throughout.

The rules themselves are pretty clearly presented so long as you don’t make the mistake of attempting to comprehend them without the actual game components set up before you. I found that the quickest and easiest method to get underway was to actually follow the setup section precisely and to actually go through all of the motions on the board for a full year (4 seasons) along with the step by steps of the instructions. After which, starting over for an official game begins to feel quite intuitive. Fortunately the rules are presented in a very orderly fashion, complete with full color examples for nearly any situation, making quick reference to iron out the rough spots very convenient.

The pieces and bits are typical Fantasy Flight Games which is to say beautifully illustrated, constructed of unprecedented quality, and come within a box loaded with plastic storage compartments to insure that everything fits neatly within. Setup is quite minimal and in this case limited to a bit of card sorting, stacking up some wooden blocks, and retrieving the tokens, wooden markers, and wooden dice to correspond with your chosen color.

The game’s greatest strength perhaps is its practice of not pitting players directly against one another but rather as individuals against the rigors of the kingdom. Decision making and resource allocation factor heavily upon the game’s outcome over luck of the draw elements or random card flipping. In the end it’s basically a player versus other player(s) situation even though it rarely feels like it during the course of play. I’m pleased to report that there’s very little in the way of punishment or trickery to opponents. Again, players will find themselves quite involved in managing their own affairs, which is appropriate since it is their own decisions throughout that ultimately determine the game’s winner.

In all, Kingsburg is a fantastic entry in a saturated market and further proof that Fantasy Flight Games is quite serious about their craft. Highly recommended entertainment!
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Vernon Evenhuis
United States
Illinois
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Very nice review Jason! I have this game too and I agree it's pretty darn fun, and nice to look at too.
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Jason Rider
United States
New York
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Thank you kindly, Vernon. I've been playing the expansion "To Forge a Realm" and have been really happy with that as well. I'll try to review that by tomorrow evening.

Thanks again!
Jason
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Joseph Cochran
United States
Costa Mesa
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While I don't intend to diminish the FFG love here, FFG isn't actually the creator of the game, nor of the form/function of the components. The illos and fonts and all of that are identical to the earlier Elfinworks (I believe) edition. FFG picked a great game to purchase the rights to, and they've done a bang-up job with the expansion, but this is more of an example of them BACKING a winner rather than creating one.
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Jason Rider
United States
New York
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Joseph:

Good point- and actually a trend for FF. I've noticed games like Battlelore, Britannia, Warrior Knights (just to mention a few) are all similar cases.

I would love to hear the specific criteria involved in having FF decide to pursue your preexisting game.
 
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