Kingdomino – A Puzzly Tile-Placement Game for the Whole Family
This month we’re hosting a Kingdomino organized play day at Here Be Books & Games. We have some cool promos to give way as prizes to participants, including: Dark Castles, Ice Castles, Princess Castles, Sand Castles and a Tile Tower. So, it seemed a good time to write a review of this quick, puzzly, tile placement, kingdom-building game by Bruno Cathala, published by Blue Orange Games.
Kingdomino, takes its name from its domino game pieces featuring a terrain tile at each end. Your goal is to build the richest kingdom filled with waving fields of grain; rich, dark forests; sparkling lakes; green pastures; a bit of marsh-land for that homey pluff mud smell; towering mountains rich with ore; and golden crowns sprinkled throughout to prove your abundance – and earn you loads of points. You score points for each contiguous terrain: number of tiles times the number of crowns in that area. Add ’em all up and that’s your score. Highest score wins.
Sounds simple enough, but there are a few caveats:
- Your kingdom may not exceed a 5×5 tile grid.
- When placing a domino, at least one end must connect to a matching terrain tile. Your starting Castle Tile is considered wild.
- The turn order each round is determined by who chose the least valuable domino in the previous round: lowest value goes first, then second lowest, etc. Each domino has a number on its back to guide you during setup at the beginning of each round.
- One of Kingdomino’s variants, Middle Kingdom, requires you to make your Castle the center of your kingdom: awarding you 10 points if you succeed.
- In the Harmony variant you can earn 5 points for completely filling your 5×5 grid, that is, not discarding any dominoes during the game, so there are no holes in your finished kingdom.
Kingdomino’s game play is quick and simple, though you usually have to make some hard choices both when placing dominoes and choosing your next domino. How bad do you want to go first? Maybe that domino with the 3-crown mountain tile on it is worth going last.
Because it’s made by Blue Orange Games, the original publisher of Spot It!, you know Kingdomino is family friendly and that you can play it with the kids. But is it fun for adults? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Take a look at some of the Honors Kingdomino has garnered since it debuted in 2016:
- 2016 Tric Trac Nominee
- 2016 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Nominee
- 2017 Spiel des Jahres Winner
- 2017 Nederlandse Spellenprijs Best Family Game Nominee
- 2017 Gouden Ludo Best Family Game Winner
- 2017 As d’Or – Jeu de l’Année Nominee
Tim and I really like Kingdomino. It’s light, fun, easy to teach and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. It’s not all fluff and pretty pieces either. You have to make some hard choices. Of course you want the dominoes with the crowns on them, they multiply your terrain scores, but the dominoes with the crowns are also the highest valued, meaning you’ll usually get last pick or next to last pick in the next round when something even better might turn up.
Another thing I like about Kingdomino is that it scales well for different types of gamers: you can use the variants or not, it’s up to you. When playing with young kids, you might want to keep it simple, leaving out the Harmony and Middle Kingdom rules. With seasoned adults, you can throw in both scoring bonuses for a more challenging game. They Dynasty variant provides a longer game in which you total the scores of three play-throughs to determine the winner. You can even combine Kingdomino with Queendomino for still more challenges, but that’s a topic for another day.
Kingdomino also plays well with just two players: the rulebook includes a variant in which players build 7×7 tile kingdoms and have two meeples with which to choose dominoes each round.
I love the bits: the dominoes are nice and chunky – they’re shiny, too. The delightful artwork by Cyril Bouquet features lots of great details. Some of my favorite tiles include:
- The shadow of a dragon flying overhead on the hunt for sheep.
- Lochy, the Loch Ness Monster, swimming under some fishermen and their nets.
- Someone (Bilbo? Frodo?) fighting a giant spider (Shelob?) in the woods.
- A girl on a raft in trouble using her shirt for a sail.
The Castles are cute and colorful and who can resist wooden meeples in a new king meeple shape.
The box also has a really nice insert to keep everything organized – always a plus in my book.
This year Blue Orange is releasing a giant-sized Kingdomino for retail. Kingdomino: Giant Version was originally created for retailers to use for in-store demos only, but when customers clamored for a chance to buy it for themselves, Blue Orange decided to produce more for retail. Each domino in the Giant Version measures 3.12″ x 6.25″, the Castles rise a little over 3″ high, and the wooden King Meeples are 2″ tall! You’ll definitely want a bigger table to play this puppy. For comparison: dominoes in the original version are approximately 1.5″ x 3.25″, the Castles rise 1.5″ high, and the King Meeples are 1″ tall.
Any way you build your kingdom, whether you concentrate on endless forests and sparkling lakes or the highs and lows of mountains and marshes, or a little bit of everything with lots of glittery crowns, it’s a fun, puzzly game that’s over before you want it to be.
2 to 4 players ages 8 and up can play Kingdomino in about 15 minutes. Younger kids can play, too – they’ll just need a little help calculating their scores at the end.