When Kingdomino (Blue Orange) first appeared in 2017 it was no surprise that it won that year's Spiel des Jahres award. It was a domino-drafting tableau builder where your choice of domino determined the order in which you get to choose on your next turn. The game proved an instant hit and has since spawned several standalone sequels, including Queendomino (Blue Orange), where Bruno Cathala added quite a bit of complexity to his elegant original design, and the more recent Kingdomino Origins (Blue Orange), with its incremental approach that added a small degree of complexity each round. Tho' you wouldn't necessaily know it from the title, Moon River is the latest game in the Kingdomino series: only a splash in the top righthand corner of the box shows that this is a game that owes rather more to Kingdomino than to Andy Williams' 'wider than a mile' song.
Bruno Cathala shares the design credit for Moon River with Yohan Servais, and the big difference in this game is that instead of drafting dominoes showing two terrain squares, you're drafting squares of terrain and then jigsawing them together to create your own dominoes. When you've created your domninoes, you're still placing them out to create a 5 x 5 grid, as per Kingdomino, but you have reserve spaces that allow you to stock up to three tiles before combining two to create a domino. This adds a key decision space for players allowing them to plan ahead in order to optimise their dominoes and placement without bogging them down with a heavy rules overhead.
Scoring is similar to the other games in the series, with points for contiguous areas of matching territory, but instead of the fixed crowns that were the multipliers in Kingdomino, here it's cow meeples that are the multipliers, and they have the added element that they can be moved between areas of your grid. Cows can also be rustled by other players, so you'll want to protect them by placing out specialist tokens - usable for their specific effects as well as protection for your cows. Specialists typically give you ways of scoring points for other icons on your tiles: beavers, corn or gold.
Moon River is fast becoming our favourite Kingdomino game. It adds some interesting decisions to the mix without sacrificing the simplicity and elegance of the original game. If you already have Kingdomino and/or its successors, you'll appreciate the tweaks that Moon River brings to the table. If you don't already have a copy of the previous games in the series then this is the one to buy.