Game Title: Kingdom Builder
Designer: Donald X. Vaccarino
Manufacturer: Queen Games
Kingdom Builder was one of our early finds in modern board gaming and was introduced to us by my ex-flatmate who has slowly been collecting Spiel des Jahres winners. Since then we found a copy at a car boot sale (missing a harbour token) and a complete copy in a charity shop – both pretty fantastic finds!! However a lot of gamers, including members of The Dice Tower, really seem to dislike this game and for some reason I started to listen and stopped playing it. Having recently brought it back to the table – what do I think of Kingdom Builder now that I’m a much more experienced board gamer?
Kingdom Builder is a game for 2-4 players in which you are trying to build settlements to meet certain objectives. The objectives change each game and so does the modular board. Scoring is primarily dictated by the varying objectives although points are always available for building settlements adjacent to a castle symbol.
Each player takes a collection of coloured settlements and the game ends on the round where the first person runs out of settlements, having placed them all on the board. Each player is dealt a type of terrain; flowers, grass, desert, canyons or forest – on your turn you must place 3 settlements on that type of terrain. On your first turn you can choose any position on the board but from the next point onwards, if you can you must place new settlements next to your existing settlements. One settlement is placed in each hex. As soon as you’ve played you take a new terrain card which means you can be planning your next turn whilst the others players take their turns, which definitely speeds up the game.
|Mid-point in a two player game. This game includes the Harbour tiles, meaning that both players have been able to build on water, which is not allowed as standard..|
In addition to the standard 3 settlements per turn, players can obtain special abilities that can be played once per turn. These are initially located around the board and are obtained when you build a settlement in an adjacent hex. These are often the key to building in different areas of the board and vary from being able to place an extra settlement on a specific terrain type, to moving existing settlements, being able to move settlements onto water or locating a new settlement at the edge of the board.
There are 3 scoring objectives in every game which often dictate your placement strategy – they might reward building across all 4 modular board, building on every row or column, connecting together the item hexes. All scoring takes place at the end of the game.
|A selection of the different scoring objectives.|
To start with my criticisms - Kingdom Builder is not at its best with 2-players – there is too much space on the board which means there is not enough competition and also that you can get stuck in one zone of terrain for far too long because no-one else’s settlements are encroaching. I’ve also heard the modular board criticised for not adding variety and although I’ll admit that the changing pattern of terrain is quite redundant, the different tokens available really can be a game changer as they are often the most tactical element of the game that mean you aren’t simply stuck to building in one terrain zone.
However, after re-playing it recently, Kingdom Builder definitely deserves its place in our collection. It’s definitely a light game, meaning it’s easy to teach and everyone playing the game is on a level playing field. Sometimes it’s nice to play a game where turns are quick and players aren’t overwhelmed with over-analysing their options. It’s not my favourite game, but the Yellow Meeple gives Kingdom Builder a 6.5/10.