Game review: Kingdomino
Kingdomino is a great variation on dominoes, which encourages thinking to build the kingdom that will bring the most points.
The game contains 40 dominoes depicting one of the game’s terrain: a forest, a meadow, a corn field, a sea, a mine or a swamp. The art is extremely well done and colorful, and children will enjoy looking at them.
The game also comes with 4 pretty castles, which you need to build the first time you play, 4 starting tile and 8 king figurines.
In Kingdomino, each player needs to build a 5×5 grid using the dominoes, while trying to connect together as many matching terrain tiles as possible. Although the principle is simple, two gameplay elements give the game a very interesting strategic aspect which pushes players to think and make the result of each game uncertain.
The first element is the point system. Some of the tiles have crowns on them. At the end of a game, the point are calculated by adding the number of matching tiles connected together, then multiplying them by the number of crown on them. The result is that you might have more matching tiles connected than the other players, but if you don’t have crowns on them you will get less points: having 5 forest tiles connected with 1 crown on them will give you 5 points, while having only 3 forest tiles connected with 2 crowns on them will give you 6 points. This adds an interesting layer of strategy and means that you will sometimes be surprised by which player actually wins.
The second element is the way players select tiles. Each tile has a number on its back. The tiles with the lowest numbers are the least valuables (they have no crowns), the ones with the higher numbers are the most valuables. Each turn, 4 tiles are set on the table, with the one with the lowest number first. Players pick them by placing their king figurines on top. The clever twist is that the order of who picks the cards first depends on the player’s choices during the previous turn: pick the lowest numbered card and you will be the first to pick a dominoe in the next round; pick the most valuable card and you will be last to pick in the next round, leaving you with the card the other players didn’t want. You will need to think carefully: do you want that tile, with all the shiny crowns, knowing that you will be last to pick in the next round?
These two elements make the game surprisingly deep and entertaining. They ensure that no player can get an advantage by selecting dominoes first each time, while also reserving surprises at the end of the game: the player with the biggest area of matching tiles might not win if he has no crowns.
Kingdomino is one of the most interesting game we played (Alex started playing it when he was 6 and understood the rules without difficulties). Simple to learn, yet with a deep element of strategy, a need to think about the best move and a point system that means the winner is not always who you might think it is. A great game, that we definitely recommend.