Adam Porter
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This is an expansion to the Spiel Des Jahres 2012 winner, Kingdom Builder. It adds components to allow a fifth player, in-game scoring, new abilities/locations, and new scoring criteria.


With thanks to BGG user W Eric Martin for use of image.

Very Brief Summary

The expansion allows a fifth player without changing the initial four-board set-up. There are four new boards, each with a new location/ability available. In addition, each board has a number of "Nomads" spaces which give a one-off ability which is more powerful than those from the standard locations. The new scoring criteria introduce scoring during your turn, so score-boards are now needed throughout. For example, one card allows you to score mid-game by placing a settlement in the last remaining space of one terrain area. On another game you might score mid-game by placing settlements adjacent to those of your opponents. The new abilities include plenty of opportunities to move existing settlements around the board, and there are even new tokens which can be used to make individual spaces unattainable when using a certain ability. The one-off abilities from the "Nomads" location let you place multiple additional settlements on your turn, remove opponent's settlements, or just grab a few victory points. All rules integrate seamlessly with the basic set.


With thanks to BGG user W Eric Martin for use of image.

Components

There have been a few concerns raised on BGG regarding the quality of the components of the Nomads set. My copy had no such problems. The colours/sheen of the board match the originals well (not perfectly but you have to look hard to notice the difference). The artwork of the tokens and cards is equal to that of the originals, which are excellent. Some on BGG wish the expansion components would fit in the base game box - this is easily done by simply swapping box inserts (putting the Nomads insert into the base game box). That way everything fits. Or to save even more space, simply remove the insert from the Nomads box and your base game will fit in as well. The base game came with two different sets of English language cards: one with a flag on the back; one without. Nomads cards all have the flag on the back, so if you have discarded or mislaid the flagged cards from the base game (most likely due to using the non-flagged cards) you might have an issue with the Nomads card-backs not matching perfectly. It's a minor annoyance and shouldn't affect gameplay at all.

How well does the theme hold up?

Barely. Presumably we are to believe that nomads only stay in a location long enough to grant us a one-off ability, then move on, as opposed to a barn or tavern which is set in one location. Tenuous, yes, but Kingdom Builder has never been about thematic gaming. This is an abstract game, with a beautiful atmospheric setting.

Complexity

Since getting this expansion, I have included it in every game of Kingdom Builder that I have played, whether with new players or old hands. I will continue to do so. The new rules add a small degree of complexity, but every game of Kingdom Builder needed a separate rules-explanation anyway because of the varying abilities/locations, so I have noticed little difference. I have not had a single game where someone has failed to grasp it quickly.


With thanks to BGG user Andre E for use of image.

The Luck factor

There is the same degree of luck as in the base game. Where you get to place depends on a card-draw and this can make or break your turn. But clever settlement placement over-rides the lucky breaks and a strategic player will always do well. It has been much discussed that your initial settlement-placement heavily influences your success in the game, but in my opinion this is overstated. I play this as a light game, and expect a luck factor to come into play. I have no problem with it. It is useful to guide new players on their initial placement though to prevent them trailing on the score chart later.

Playing Time (in my experience).

2 player: 20 mins
3 player: 30 mins
4-5 player: 45 mins

Number of players

I have enjoyed it with every number of players (2-5), but the experience is very different with each player count. With four or five player games the board is crowded, especially when using Quarry stones to block off spaces. This in my view is a very positive thing - it increases the interaction between players. The three player game is noticeably less interactive, and the two player game is almost a solitaire puzzle (some scoring criteria add interaction even at 2-player). All versions play very well indeed.

Will my non-gamer partner enjoy it?

Yes, it works well as a couple's game, especially since the two-player game removes much of the take-that element which comes to the fore with increased numbers of players.


With thanks to BGG user Andre E for use of image.

Positives:

In my experience, Kingdom Builder grows on people the more they play it. This is because they start to see the ingenuity of the myriad of different card and location combinations. Every game is different. Nomads enhances this greatly - four new boards and a few new scoring criteria add up to a vast number of new combinations and play-experiences. The fifth player components are welcome, and with more players interaction is increased. Everything integrates well with the base game.

Negatives:

With five players, the down-time between turns is longer, especially with analysis-paralysis (AP) prone individuals. The game is slightly more complex with the expansion; this may deter new players and non-gamers. I don't think this is a major problem. I am however tiring of certain irritating combos which arise through clever use of the location abilities and in-game scoring. Frequently a player will find themselves in a situation where they can use an ability to move a settlement which has previously scored points mid-game, only to use another ability to place a new settlement in the same spot, scoring it again. When repeated every turn throughout a game, this racks up a large score for the lucky player, but the strategy is repetitive and frustrating for others who didn't manage to grab the relevant location due to turn-order, terrain-cards etc. It's by no means an instant-win strategy, but it is frustrating to witness when there is nothing you can do to counter it. I am tempted to cease using the in-game scoring and instead use only the boards with their locations/nomad spaces and the base-set scoring, to remove this element of the expanded game.

Is it a keeper?

Definitely. It adds a lot of variety to a game which has become one of my most-played, without over-complicating or adding to the game's duration. The interaction is increased due to new abilites/scoring, and adding more players is a nice touch.

See my other reviews at http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/146115/europhile-reviews-a...
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Mr. Blue
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My wife purchased Kingdom Builder as a Father's Day gift this year, and I have found myself pleasantly surprised with the game. It wasn't one that I was really craving to try out, but I found the game to be really quite interesting and fun. So much so, in fact, that we recently picked up the Nomads expansion. We've only had one go with it so far, but we deliberately used 2 boards from the expansion and 2 from the original game. It integrates seamlessly, and we found that thinking about "in game" scoring in addition to "end game" scoring added a fun dimension to the game.
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Rick Scholes
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Adam,
I read your review to help decide whether to buy the expansion and have not played with the expansion's rules yet so the following is pure guesswork:

Might your repetitive in-game scoring problem be alleviated with a house rule that pieces scored in-game are turned over and cannot thereafter be moved by the player that scored them?
 
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Adam Porter
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bankrupt wrote:
Adam,
I read your review to help decide whether to buy the expansion and have not played with the expansion's rules yet so the following is pure guesswork:

Might your repetitive in-game scoring problem be alleviated with a house rule that pieces scored in-game are turned over and cannot thereafter be moved by the player that scored them?


That would overcome the problem, and seriously neuter the effects of the location abilities. It seems to me that these potential combos are there by design, and while I find them a little irritating, I wouldn't want to house-rule the game potentially upsetting the balance of the different powers. So I'll probably continue playing the game the way it is intended.

This element of the game (recognising potential combos) is a kin to the early strategy-spotting stages of Donald X's Dominion. However, in Kingdom Builder, it doesn't sit as comfortably with me. I can live with it though. The expansion is still well worth getting, and I'm looking forward to the crossroads expansion too.
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Mark Ellis
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The expansion looks interesting judging from your review, but as I've only played the base game a handful of times I will probably hold off for a while...

KB occupies an odd position for me in that it's a nice game in various respects, but the combination of euro and non-euro features (for the latter I guess I mean the luck element) somehow fail to get me *really* excited about the outcome... I agree btw with your approach that you "play this as a light game, and expect a luck factor to come into play". I think perhaps I would just prefer it to be a bit weightier (more decisions, more control, more interaction) so the added complexity of the expansion could help by the sounds of it.
 
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