GenCon 2017, Photosynthesis by Blue Orange Games was one of the big sellers which, in turn made Kingdomino, published in 2016, one of the big sellers, too. The company gave out $10 promo copies and developer Bruno Cathala stood at the booth, prepared to answer questions and sign copies of the game.
We missed out on Photosynthesis which flew off the shelves like hotcakes, but then proceeded to spend the next two hours at the booth, discussing with Cathala the correct pronunciation of the game and playing repeatedly. My children absolutely loved this game right from the beginning, with my now 9-year-old begging for it for her birthday.
The purpose of the game is to get the most points by creating a kingdom in a 5×5 grid. Like many tile-laying games, that sounds very simple in theory, but can be extremely competitive and difficult in practice. Players get a starting tile and a small castle of their chosen colour. There is a stack of larger game pieces (which the game refers to as “dominoes”) that are shuffled. For two-player and four-player games, players choose from four dominoes each turn, with two-player games allowing each player to choose two. For three-player games, players choose from three. After all of the dominoes have been chosen by placing a king pawn on the domino of their choice, the players collect their dominoes and lay them into their 5×5 grid. Then the dominoes are replaced and play continues until there are no dominoes left, taking up 6 or 12 turns, depending on the number of players. Dominoes are laid in ascending order with the picture side up each turn. Turns vary, as the player with the king at the first spot in the line goes first in the next round. Dominoes need to be placed next to others already placed on the grid or next to the starting square. If a player cannot legally place a domino in their 5×5 grid, they have to discard it.
Points are scored by multiplying squares of conjoined properties (same landscape) by the number of crowns on these properties. There are extra rules that can change the scoring system, such as scoring extra by having your castle and starting tile in the middle of your kingdom.
The player with the highest number of points wins. In case of a tie, the player with more crowns in their kingdom wins.
Kingdomino is a great game. That’s an easy thing to say, as it won the 2017 Spiel das Jahres for game of the year, but this Kingdomino really does stand head and shoulders over many other board games for a variety of reasons.
First, the construction of the game itself is sturdy with beautiful and friendly artwork. The box is small and transports easily. Overall, this game is everything I have come to expect from Blue Orange. They do good work with engaging younger gamers with enticing, brightly coloured drawings.
Second, the game play is simple to understand and draws in both adults and children. Despite easy rules that my children grasp easily, it still contains a high level of strategy that makes it interesting for my adult gaming groups. I particularly like this game as a medium-sized filler game between two heavier games and as a game to play with a variety of ages. It introduces a number of mechanics that gamer kids will need to know eventually while still being quick and light enough that they will not be unsuccessful every time against a more skilled adult.
Third, the price point makes Kingdomino an easy choice to add to the game shelf. It’s both affordable and high quality.
Kingdomino has provided hours of enjoyment for my family despite a brief 15 minute playtime. We often finish one game and start up another one. I definitely recommend this game for both families and for gamers who like lighter, manageable games that are nevertheless filled with strategy from time to time.