Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Saturday, 16 November 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Kingdomino Duel

Game: Kingdomino Duel

Publisher: Blue Orange Games

Designer:  Bruno Cathala, Ludovic Maublanc

Year: 2019


Kingdomino is a Spiel des Jahres winning, family game. It’s definitely on the simple end of gaming, but it’s an elegant play on dominoes as you try to create large areas of matching terrain, scoring based on the crown symbols that are within each area. Kingdomino Duel reimplements this classic as a roll and write game – following the trend that has certainly had more longevity than I anticipated.

However, unlike any other roll and write I’ve encountered, which tend to be my go-to for a crowd of gamers, Kingdomino Duel is a 2-player only roll and write game. Dice become the tool that determines your terrain type – in this case denoted by different flag designs, but otherwise the placement and scoring rules of Kingdomino still stand. However, with the addition of some extra bonuses to work towards, a little extra complexity is added and I was hopefully that this would spice up Kingdomino for me – a game that we’ve long since grown bored of.


Gameplay

Kingdomino Duel is a roll and write that will have you treating the dice rolled like dominoes. If you have played the original Kingdomino then the placement and scoring will be very familiar. Every round one player will roll all 4 dice. They will then pick one to take, the other player will then take two, with the roller getting the final remaining die. Each player now has 2 dice which are used to create a domino tile. You place them on your board by filling in the relevant flag shapes on two spaces next to each other. One of the two flags you draw must be adjacent to another flag of the same type, or the castle in the center of your kingdom which acts as a wild card.

At the end of the game each area of your map scores a number of points equal to its size multiplied by the number of crowns in it. But not all die faces feature crowns. Should you get dice without any 'crowns' on them then you instead can check off the relevant spaces on the central 'board' (which is simple the back of a player sheet). If you are the first to fill up a track for any flag type then you will earn that bonus. These bonuses vary from bonus scoring potential, to being able to break the placement rules, re-roll the dice up, or even split your domino back into two single dice to place as you wish.

The game will end on the turn when neither player can place a tile. At which point players can add one final crown to any space they like before scoring every area on their map. If a player has earned it they can also score the bonus which nets them extra points for every separate area of a chosen flag type.


Amy’s Final Thoughts 

Kingdomino is a roll and write where the dice are combined to form dominoes. It's fair to say that I was sold at this simple concept alone. Kingdomino is an incredibly approachable and enjoyable game so mixing it with the ever-popular roll and write genre was almost inevitable. The core gameplay does exactly what you'd expect, you get a 'tile' every turn, place it, adding crowns as necessary. It's a faithful recreation of the original game.

With the shift over to dice Kingdomino Duel was able to try out a few new things that weren't possible in the original release (at least without using a pair of scissors). Splitting your dice up, ignoring placement rules, rerolls or sniping both dice as your first pick. Each of these powers is useful in their own right. As you earn these powers by taking tiles without crowns on there is a natural balance between what die faces you end up getting. However that's not to say luck of the roll can't hit you hard, if you opponent consistently rolls the faces with 2 crowns on a full shield it's going to be hard for you to win. The powers may be compensation, but most of them don't reward points.


In regular Kingdomino getting bad tiles will mean that you get first pick next turn. If there are no good tiles next turn then you can use your first player choice to take the 'worst' tile that round to and keep yourself in first place until a good tile appears. In Kingdomino duel you simply swap turns as first player. This means that luck can really hit you hard some games.

The art design in Kingdomino Duel is functional, but perhaps too much so. Sure drawing the flags is easy, but would it have been so hard to have had us drawing a couple of trees for a forest or a sheep for a field? Unfortunately by the end of a game your board just looks ugly. It reminds me of those old-fashioned war games, a series of colourless flags draped macros a landscape.

Kingdomino Duel feels extremely faithful to the original game, which has its advantages and disadvantages. More could have been done to convert the game to a roll and write there aren't the same wealth of interesting choices that you often get. I also can't understand for the life of me why they couldn't have thrown in 4 more dice to make it a 4 player game! Despite all that, Kingdomino is a very good game and Kingdomino Duel does successfully deliver that experience in a slightly more portable way.


Fi’s Final Thoughts

We are very on board the roll and write train. We probably own around 15 and we've played and moved on from a significant number more. Kingdomino Duel has the benefit of being tied to a known game, plus, for us trying out new two-player only games really fits with our gaming opportunities. On the other hand, roll and writes are something I like to introduce to other people, especially my work colleagues and there's nothing better for me than seeing the player count 1-99 on the box, because it can open up so many other gaming opportunities, like gaming via Skype. Kingdomino Duel is really tight as  two player experience, but I can only imagine that either cost (for adding more dice) or issues with balance meant that this wasn't turned into a game that would play additional players.



I really needed more complexity than Kingdomino has to offer. Even when introducing it to friends as a gateway game, most of my friends were board by Kingdomino's simplicity, rather than impressed by its elegance. Kingdomino Duel definitely adds that extra layer and for me it's done in a much smoother way than either Queendomino, or the Age of Giants expansion did for the original game. The simple addition of the bonus board really adds new depth to your dice drafting.

Sometimes you're really looking for dice with crosses, but other times it's more lucrative to just add to your largest area that's worth a lot of points. Additionally, taking the dice without crosses lets you add to the progress towards the common bonuses. At times this outweighs other factors because it's a tug of war. Having these extra factors is a lot more exciting to me that simply vying for turn order, as in Kingdomino. The only downside to the bonus system is that it's driven by the dice you roll. The more interesting and powerful bonuses simply might not come up during the game, which can be a bit of a missed opportunity. On the other hand, the easier bonuses can feel bit meaningless in some contexts, like the ability to split a domino, when you've actually been playing really well and don't need to!


Of all of the Kingdomino series, Kindomino Duel is absolutely my favourite. I like the added complexity and how it really integrates into the mechanisms of the game to add new factors and choices without really affecting the fundamental game play of Kingdomino which was very elegant in its tile laying. If you play with two players then I'd absolutely recommend that this is a version of Kingdomino that you try.
 



You Might Like...
  • This is Kingdomino in a small package that could be packed up even smaller for travel.
  • The bonuses add an extra layer of complexity compared to the original game.
  • The dice drafting has some really good choices to be made.
You Might Not Like...
  • The game is only for two players and yet there's no obvious reason that extra dice couldn't extend it to more players.
  • The game lacks the visual appeal of a tile laying game like Kingdomino.
  • A good roll when you're first player can cause a swing of luck.

The Verdict
7.5/10 Kingdomino Duel split our opinions a little. It's not obvious exactly what niche it fills because of the cap of two players, but while Amy found it a bit too lucky and hard hard to look at, Fi liked the addition of the new bonuses that added a different slant to the drafting phase. It's more compact and more interesting than Kingdomino though, so if you are only laying with two then this is absolutely the game we'd recommend from the Kingdomino series.



Kingdomino Duel was a review copy kindly provided to us by CoiledSpring Games.

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