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Subject: Kingsburg + Expansion = Troyes and Alien Frontiers are late to the party rss

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Brian McCormick
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Kingsburg came out back in 2007, but I didn't hear about the game until mid-2010. Though the game enjoys a very high boardgame rank (#149 overall), I guess it just flew under my radar. Lately, Troyes and Alien Frontiers have been making a buzz with their "dice as workers" mechanics, but Kingburg was the game that introduced me to the concept, so let's give it a look.

Note: I will be reviewing Kingsburg as well as its expansion Kingsburg: To Forge a Realm.

Why? Because To Forge a Realm is to Kingburg as On the Brink is to Pandemic. They're inseparable. And, it saves on time and space putting both games in one review. You probably should buy the base set and the expansion and play them together anyway.





What makes Kingsburg tick?

The essence of Kingsburg is rolling dice and collecting resources. On the board there are 18 members of the kingdom, and you place your dice one group at a time on them to influence them (and receive some items or favors). Like in the worker-placement games that precede it, Kingburg introduces player conflict by restricting the number of dice on each spot to one player color. In other words, if your buddy to your left takes the spot you need, tough luck. This creates some interesting decisions. Dice rolls are public knowledge, so you can glance at what everyone else rolled and determine which spots are safe and which ones are going to be taken.

For example, if you are the only person who rolled a 2, then you need not worry that someone will take the 2 spot and you can focus instead on higher-value targets. However, don't assume that rolling high numbers is always a good thing. The turn order is rearranged each new season from the lowest roller to the highest. Meaning, you might have rolled triple 6s, but the other players will get a chance to place their dice on the board before you do. It's simple, but it helps balance the randomness of the die roll. Plus, the lower-cost spots are not necessarily bad. Often you can gain more resources by splitting your dice among several low-cost spots instead of spending it all on one high-cost spot. The game progresses in seasons, and at the end of the year players must defend their portion of the kingdom from zombies, goblins, or even dragons.


courtesy garyjames

In three of the four seasons, players have the opportunity to add enhancements to their kingdom. This is the purpose of the resources that you're gathering with your dice. Each player has a game board (printed on thick, glossy paper) that shows a tech tree of potential buildings, and it's up to you to pick and choose which ones will lead you to victory. Some of the buildings give upgrades to your military, while others allow you to affect your dice rolls. Others still give you discounts when you contruct other buildings, and most of them also have a point value that you gain immediately once you build that structure.


courtesy Ratio

The kingdom board is where things get really interesting, though it is also the source for the base game's lack of replayability. Players can customize their kingdom however you want. Do you want all of the Rank 1 buildings? Go for it. Do you want to specialize in the military rows of buildings? Be my guest. Or, do you think that a careful balance between military and economy would be the best choice? Give it a try and see if you win. The various building abilities allow for some neat synergies, and as mentioned before, most buildings give you victory points, so keep that in mind.

Though there are a lot of different options, what you'll notice is that over the course of several games, you find yourself falling into one out of a few "best" options. I'd say that you hit this wall after about 10-15 plays if you keep trying new configurations. Not terrible as far as replayability goes, but it should be mentioned. To Forge a Realm completely destroys this particular issue, and I'll talk about that in a later section.

I mentioned that you have to defend your part of the kingdom at the end of every year. During setup, five cards (one for each year) are randomly drawn. There is a variety amongst the cards in each year, so during Year 2 you might fight zombies, or you might fight goblins. Anyway, fighting off these enemies is very important, because they can ding you with some nasty negative effects. Plus, winning battles gives you a small reward, so you might as well try to win the battle. A white die is rolled for the King's Reinforcements, adding that many soldiers to everyone's supply, but you typically need some soldiers of your own to win battles. Soldiers can be gained via buildings (permanent) or by the game board (temporary).

 

courtesy discoryno

The good ol' Pros and Cons list

Can't go wrong with a bullet-by-bullet list of all the standout features of Kingsburg, can ya?

Pros

Easy to understand - Though it is a worker-placement game, Kingburg has a very straightforward ruleset, and the dice make it accessible to anyone who can...well...roll dice. Every time I pop open the box, I'm amazed at how small the rulebook is.

Balanced, despite the dice - Some might turn their nose at the inclusion of dice, but c'mon, this is the modern age of Euros. Stone Age, Troyes, and Alien Frontiers have all used dice in a clever way without making the game too dependent on luck. Kingsburg is no different.

Build your kingdom - The player board is a neat concept, giving each player the satisfaction of building their own little corner of the world and trying out different building combinations each time they play.

Not much downtime - Each phase of the game clips along at a quick pace. The only times when people might get slowed down is during the building phase (when trying to decide what they want) or the dice placement phase (when trying to figure out the best spots to take).

Cons

Loses its luster after a while - While the kingdom board is ultra cool at first, after several plays you begin to see a pattern in the sort of buildings you want to take and then the game loses its fresh, "unexplored territory" sort of feel

Fight or die - Because of the attacks at the end of every year, military is too useful to ignore. As such, it means that it's pretty difficult to create a pure economic kingdom, unless you're really confident in the King's Reinforcements die roll.

A bit lucky - Okay, I'll admit it. There is some luck involved. No, not a lot, but there is randomness in the die rolls as well as randomness in the year-end attack deck.

Limited turns - This complaint is common to many Euros, but I thought I should point it out anyway. Kingsburg has a finite amount of moves, so players will need to manage their actions within a constrained number of turns. This can feel a bit restrictive to some (but I say that it goes with the Euro territory).


Hey, what about the expansion?

Hmmmm. How shall I put this in a quotable way?

To Forge a Realm drizzles on the awesome-sauce with utter disregard for caloric intake or food allergies. You get a bit of everything, and you get a lot of it. To Forge a Realm includes not one, but five enhancements to the base game. The nice thing is that these are stand-alone: you can play with some of them or all of them or just one of them. Any complaints about the base game lacking replayability have been addressed head-on.

One of the biggest enhancement is an all-new kingdom board. It's larger than the original and includes all of the original buildings, but it also adds two new building rows. Nice!

The next enhancement is also for your kingdom board: removable rows. During setup, players receive two rows randomly. These rows cover up the row beneath, so you have to decide if the new buildings are worth covering up the old ones. Players can choose to use one, both, or none of the extra rows.


courtesy perigorn

Now, the additional rows alone add a ton of replability to the base set, and I think this fixes my main complaint with Kingburg. With the new rows, there are so many different ways to play the game, and players will find far more paths to victory via the expansion than what can be found in the base set.

The designers of Kingsburg could have given us the new board and the new rows and stopped there, but they didn't.

Next up, we have the character cards. Players are dealt a few characters at the beginning of the game and they get to pick one. This character stick with them for the entire game, and players can use their ability whenever applicable. It's a small but cool addition that keeps things interesting.


courtesy perigorn

To Forge a Realm introduces Events to the world of Kingsburg. Each year, a new Event card is revealed and it affect all the players. Some effects are good, while others can be a pain in your butt. There are 20 Events (but only 5 years per game), so once again we have an added component that will add a lot of replayability to your sessions of Kingsburg.

The last addition in To Forge a Realm is the soldier tokens. Adding these to the game gets rid of the King's Reinforcement die roll before the year-end battle. Instead, players have a set number of tokens that add 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 soldiers to their force, and once a token is used, it is discarded from the game. Players must use one token per year. The neat thing about this mechanic is that there are six tokens in total, and you gain bonus points for whatever token you have left.


The Verdict

Kingsburg by itself is a good game, especially on the merit that it is easy to teach yet it still offers challenging decisions to a veteran boardgamer. However, To Forge a Realm is about as "must-buy" as you can get with an expansion. It adds so much to the base game that I don't even consider playing Kingsburg unless To Forge a Realm is involved somehow.

So, if you haven't already, give Kingsburg a try. And if you haven't already, give To Forge a Realm a try. Kingsburg is great, but To Forge a Realm makes it a top-tier game in my book.

Thanks for reading.
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Luca Iennaco
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Aurendrosl wrote:
Thanks for reading.

Thanks for writing. meeple
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Geoff H
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I really enjoy Kingsburg (with or without the expansion) as well as Olympus.

In the first paragraph of your review, you mention Troyes and Alien Frontiers as games which use similar mechanisms. I've never played either...

Would you mind comparing and contrasting the three games? Which do you like best? How different are they?

Thanks,

Geoff
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Brian McCormick
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gheintze wrote:
I really enjoy Kingsburg (with or without the expansion) as well as Olympus.

In the first paragraph of your review, you mention Troyes and Alien Frontiers as games which use similar mechanisms. I've never played either...

Would you mind comparing and contrasting the three games? Which do you like best? How different are they?

Thanks,

Geoff

Haven't played much Alien Frontiers. I own Troyes. Macao also fits into the "dice as workers" subgenre.

Troyes is by far the most "Euro"-ish of the group. It has a lot of moving parts going on at once and it is the least dependent on the dice rolls out of all the games. That's because when you roll, you place your dice in the center of the board. During your turn, you can use some of your own dice (for free) or you can purchase someone else's dice. They cannot refuse the purchase, but they still get the gold. This means that it doesn't matter if you roll terribly the entire game. If you play strategically, you can still win.

I can't really say much for Alien Frontiers except that it feels far more "swingy" than the other dice-based games. To be perfectly honest, I never got caught up in the Kickstarter hoopla so I consider this game to be an inferior alternative to Troyes and Kingsburg. IMO, of course.

The thing that really makes Kingsburg a winner for me is that the base set is incredibly easy to learn and to teach. I'm talking about 5 minutes here. But, there is a wealth of options in the game, so even if I use it as a "gateway game", I'm not bored spending the 45 minutes to an hour playing Kingsburg. And in case it wasn't clear, I LOVE the expansion, To Forge a Realm. It adds many new dimensions to the base game.
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Andy Andersen
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Excellent review. My thanks.thumbsup
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Geoff H
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Thanks for the added comments. Sounds like there is no need to add the other games to my collection.

Good news for my gaming budget.

Geoff
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David Hoffman
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Neither Troyes nor Alien Frontiers use dice the same way Kingsburg uses dice. In point of fact, the only real similarity between the three games is the fact that, yes, dice are used in executing actions.

Skipping either of those (superior, in my opinion) games in favor of Kingsburg would be, I feel, a mistake.
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Doug Click
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Nice review, thank you.

I have to agree that the expansion makes this a great game. If all of this was packed in one box it would have received a 10 from me. The ease of rules explanation to new players is another plus for the game.

I have not gotten to play Alien Frontiers or Troyes yet. I have Alien Frontiers on order and hope to get it soon. Troyes I am not sure I am interested in at this time. Although the “buy an opponents die” is very interesting. I wonder if something like that would work in Kingsburg as a variant.
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Joshua Gardner
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Nice review. You allude to it as a negative, but I found that (particularly with the base game), that a full 'B' row is required if you want a chance to win the game. Most people try to take this late, since the in-game effects of those buildings are very poor, so the end game becomes this rush to see who can get a Cathedral. The expansion helps with this a bit, but it's still there. Is your experience any different?
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Brian McCormick
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bullseyetm wrote:
Nice review. You allude to it as a negative, but I found that (particularly with the base game), that a full 'B' row is required if you want a chance to win the game. Most people try to take this late, since the in-game effects of those buildings are very poor, so the end game becomes this rush to see who can get a Cathedral. The expansion helps with this a bit, but it's still there. Is your experience any different?

The row you're talking about is "A" in the base set and "B" in the expansion. Just clarifying.

In my experience, a Cathedral can help someone grab victory, but it is not required. It's obvious if someone is trying to go for the Cathedral, so other players will often try to block them from getting the items they need. A Cathedral can actually be pretty difficult to get if people are actively trying to block you, and it's not worth the effort because it means you'll probably succumb to the year-end attacks.

In the base set, if there is anything "required" it would be a strong military. The expansions shake things up and neither the military requirements nor the Cathedral rush remain much of an issue. With the expansion, I've seen people lose to multiple year-end attacks and still win the game.
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Dan Dedeaux
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I own and have played Kingsburg+expansion and Alien Frontiers (not Troyes). Before I go over a few things regarding them, I will only say this: There can be a LOT of downtime if a player (or more) in your group has AP (analysis paaralysis!). Ugh. I only say this because in the last game I played of Kingsburg (without the expansion), I was bored to death. I thought I finally was over the game and didn't like it anymore. Turned out it was just because the players I was playing with were so slow. In their defense, it was their first game.

Fortunately, I bought the expansion. Since then, I have had fun again! So, maybe it was just that one game where I taught new players that was dragging for me.

In any case, one thing I don't particularly like about Kingsburg is the necessity that requires you to build your army to an unknown strength. It's unfortunate, because if you take your chance and build just enough to play the averages, you could win (or lose). Whereas if someone plays to guarantee victory, they've spent a lot of resources. And losing a battle at the end of the year can really hurt your chances of winning. I've since played with the expansion chits that bypass the die roll at the end of the year. Can't say it makes things better, because rolling the die is exciting (as long as you win! lol)

Alien Frontiers has the same roll the dice and place them mechanic. Very similar with different kind of rewards. In Kingsburg, you gain resources for your die placement. Resources are in turn used to purchase buildings and soldiers.

In Alien Frontiers, you can get resources as well, but they are used to do other things like place colonies...Die placement also offers more things for you to do in AF, such as buy cards, exchange resources, buy more ships (ie dice to roll per turn). It's a little more involved, as there's a moon (?) your colonizing during the game as well, which in turn also gives players new benefits/powers.

I wouldn't say either game is better than the other. Though I think Alien Frontiers is a little more complicated, since there are more options for placement. They are definitely different games, but if "dice placement" is what you're looking for as a mechanic, they both offer it...so, while I might (I actually do) own both games, I'd probably not play both games in the same night.

If you get Kingsburg, get the expansion.
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Joshua Gardner
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Aurendrosl wrote:
bullseyetm wrote:
Nice review. You allude to it as a negative, but I found that (particularly with the base game), that a full 'B' row is required if you want a chance to win the game. Most people try to take this late, since the in-game effects of those buildings are very poor, so the end game becomes this rush to see who can get a Cathedral. The expansion helps with this a bit, but it's still there. Is your experience any different?

The row you're talking about is "A" in the base set and "B" in the expansion. Just clarifying.


Wait, people still play base Kingsburg? Why?
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Not as much a fan as Kingburg - with or without expansion - as you are.

My biggest complaint is that I've never seen a game come close to finishing in 45 minutes. If it could be done in an hour or less my opinion would improve a great deal, but playing times with several different groups have always clocked in close to 2 hours. Sadly, there just aren't enough meaningful choices to make to keep the game interesting for that long.

Another concern I have is balance. Some die rolls are clearly better than others, just as some of the expansion roles and replacement strips are also clearly imbalanced. Game breaking? Not really, but it can be annoying. (This is related to the time issue: in shorter games I don't mind some minor balance issues.)

That said, the game is fun and attractive and easy to teach. It's easy to see why people do enjoy it!



I also don't get the connection to Troyes and Alien Frontiers, other than all of the games using dice. Very different games intended for different audiences... but maybe they were just thrown into the title for effect?
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Thanks for the review!

The part of the expansion that you mentioned last (the Soldier Tokens) is by far the most important to me.

Without them, the entire game could be decided by a single roll of a D6. With them it's a much more strategic game. For me it "fixes" the base game. The additional parts of the expansion are some nice gravy to add to the game.

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Brian McCormick
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manchuwok wrote:
Thanks for the review!

The part of the expansion that you mentioned last (the Soldier Tokens) is by far the most important to me.

Without them, the entire game could be decided by a single roll of a D6. With them it's a much more strategic game. For me it "fixes" the base game. The additional parts of the expansion are some nice gravy to add to the game.


Right on. thumbsup

Being able to swing the game 3 or 4 points by keeping that particular soldier token until the end can be the deciding factor in some games.
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Christopher Walker
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How about downtime between turns? I know that is my major complaint with Alien Frontiers, that since you only roll the dice on your turn, you can't plan ahead and as a result end up sitting around with nothing to do until it's your turn again. Is that a problem with Kingsburg, since it also appears to be dice-as-workers placement game?

Edit: whoops, I see you have it listed under "pros" as "low downtime". My mistake, good to know!
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Brian McCormick
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harmonicaman79 wrote:
How about downtime between turns? I know that is my major complaint with Alien Frontiers, that since you only roll the dice on your turn, you can't plan ahead and as a result end up sitting around with nothing to do until it's your turn again. Is that a problem with Kingsburg, since it also appears to be dice-as-workers placement game?

Edit: whoops, I see you have it listed under "pros" as "low downtime". My mistake, good to know!

There isn't much downtime. Players place their groups of dice one at a time taking their turn around the table (so, very little downtime here). Then, players gather their resources (again, almost no downtime here). Then, players have the option of building a building. This phase usually has the most downtime BUT it is simultaneous, meaning that you don't need to wait for an opponent to finish their choice before you choose your own building.
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Chris Schenck
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I do enjoy Kingsburg, especially with the expansion. I don't think the comparison with Alien Frontiers is valid though, and I'm confused why you added it to your title only to later admit that you don't really know much about it.

I find Alien Frontiers has a very different feel than Kingsburg. The use of dice is notably different, the interplay of the mechanics is different, and the game has more layers of tactics than are present in Kingsburg. I feel safe to say that there are more differences than similarities -- and not just superficial differences either.
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Jason Meyers
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Nice review! thumbsup

Kingsburg is indeed a good choice to introduce non-gamers and kids to the worker placement and resource management genres. The base game will lack long-term play for serious gamers. I do not own To Forge a Realm, but have looked for it. Unfortunately both the base game and expasion are near impossible to find. I believe I saw last month on one of the big online retailers a re-stocking expected in 4th quarter 2011, but can't locate that note now. soblue Wonder if FF is planning a new print run?
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Luca Iennaco
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Spielemitkinder wrote:
Wonder if FF is planning a new print run?

I think they are, but do not ask (yet) for precise dates.
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bullseyetm wrote:
Aurendrosl wrote:
bullseyetm wrote:
Nice review. You allude to it as a negative, but I found that (particularly with the base game), that a full 'B' row is required if you want a chance to win the game. Most people try to take this late, since the in-game effects of those buildings are very poor, so the end game becomes this rush to see who can get a Cathedral. The expansion helps with this a bit, but it's still there. Is your experience any different?

The row you're talking about is "A" in the base set and "B" in the expansion. Just clarifying.


Wait, people still play base Kingsburg? Why?

Because the expansion is out of print now. I am waiting for a new print run to get it. In any case, I did enjoy the base Kingsburg a lot.
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Andrea Chiarvesio
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Luke the Flaming wrote:
Spielemitkinder wrote:
Wonder if FF is planning a new print run?

I think they are, but do not ask (yet) for precise dates.


They are currently reprinting the game, so it should be available again any soon. Good news!

ps: unfortunately I don't know if the expansion is being reprinted as well, or not. I know there are plans to reprint it, but I don't know if it means together with the base set or later on.
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Geoff H
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Andrea,

While you are here, is there any update on the dice from Q-workshop?

Thanks,

Geoff
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jeremy hammond
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Speaking of, does anyone know of a new expansion coming for Kingsburg? I love this game, but its time to expand: just new cards to mix in would be great, new tracks if you want to, but new monsters, year cards, and such would be great.

thanks
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manchuwok wrote:
Thanks for the review!

The part of the expansion that you mentioned last (the Soldier Tokens) is by far the most important to me.

Without them, the entire game could be decided by a single roll of a D6. With them it's a much more strategic game. For me it "fixes" the base game. The additional parts of the expansion are some nice gravy to add to the game.



I don't like the soldier tokens as I feel they force more stale play. The average "die roll" of tokens is 2.2 assuming you don't use the zero, it's worse if you do. Thus this variant rewards military at all costs, whereas you can at least push your luck with the die. Considering many of the bad guys destroy buildings you often cannot afford to lose a battle. I find that player's board look much more similar with the token variant than without.

As for the others, they are all awesome with awesome sauce as described.
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