Updated: Dec 4, 2019
Published by Blue Orange and Coiledspring Games, Kingdomino was announced as 2017 winner of the prestigious Spiel des Jahres award. It’s a well-deserved win. Like all the best Spiel des Jahres games, Kingdomino is easy to play and can be enjoyed by the whole family but there is enough depth in the game to offer a genuine challenge to seasoned game players.
The game looks simple enough. Players each have a single starting tile with a castle on it. That represents their kingdom. There are 48 domino tiles with pairs of brightly coloured squares on them. The squares represent different types of terrain. Two columns of dominoes are laid out equal to the number of players. Players move their king meeple to the tile they want to take next turn, at the same time determining the order in which players will choose in the following turn.
Players are choosing tiles to place in their individual kingdoms. They can lay any domino adjacent to their starting tile but dominoes must otherwise match at least one of the terrain types it is being placed next to. Players have to maintain their kingdoms within a 5 x 5 grid. This means that a round takes 12 sets of turns (12 dominoes are needed to complete a 5 x 5 grid). Some dominoes have crown symbols on them. For each terrain type in a kingdom, players score at the end of each round by multiplying the number of crowns by the number of connected squares of that terrain. So, for example, an area of five forest squares with two crowns in it would score 10 points. If there are is an area of terrain with no crowns in it, then that terrain will score no points no matter how many tiles it comprises.
Despite its simplicity, this is a game that requires balance, thought and planning. The columns of dominoes are not laid out purely randomly: dominoes are numbered on their reverse and are placed in ascending order. This means that dominoes with crowns on are likely to be placed lower down the column. If a player chooses one of those, his next turn will be behind that of other players. As the kingdom grids fill, turn order becomes an increasingly important consideration: the person who is left with last choice may find they are left with a domino they have to discard because they cannot fit it into their grid. Players will also need to keep an eye on the development of rival kingdoms: your optimal move may be to take a domino that benefits you only slightly in the knowledge that you are denying it to an opponent who would use it to rack up a greater score.
Kingdomino plays briskly and its appealing presentation means that this a great value game that’s likely to get a lot of play. I gather a Queendomino sequel is already in the works for likely release at Essen. If that does as well as this game, then we can doubtless expect in due course to see Princedomino. Dukedomino and Earldomino as we steadily work our way down through the ranks of the nobility. ☺