Thoughts From The Gameroom

The ramblings of a Euro-gamer from South Dakota

Archive for January, 2012

Kingdom Builder

Posted by sodaklady on January 31, 2012

Kingdom Builder box coverI’m not a fan of Dominion so when I bought Kingdom Builder, I wasn’t looking for the next awesome game by Donald X. Vaccarino; I was looking for a lighter, fun game with lots of re-play value. Did I find that? Yes. Emphatically yes.

The game is for 2 to 4 players, age 8 and over, with a play time of about 45 minutes. If you’re a fan of Dominion and think this is another deck-builder, it’s  not, in any sense; nor is it card drafting or hand-management as you only get 1 card at a time; nor is it area control, worker placement or pick-up and deliver. There are no stocks to invest in, no trading or betting or bidding. The mechanics listed on the Board Game Geek page is “route/network building” and that’s close but still misses. You’re just making points the best way you can manage given 3 random cards that set the parameters, and four random abilities provided by the map layout. And that, it turns out, is more than enough.

Kingdom Builder boards

Here are the 8 boards that come in the game. You can't build on the grey mountains at all, and only on the water with a special ability chit.

On your turn you show your card and place 3 of your wooden houses (settlements) on that type of terrain, adjacent to previous houses if possible. The “adjacent” rule is very important, limiting where you can go and possibly making your opening move a critical one. If you have built next to a location where the various ability chits are placed, you can use each of those abilities once each turn either before or after building your settlements. Then you draw a new card. That’s it; that’s your whole turn. Doesn’t sound like much, does it?

The secret is in which locations with their special abilities you build next to.  The abilities are:  place a new settlement on a desert (yellow) hex, move a settlement two hexes in a straight line, move a settlement to the terrain type on your card, place a new settlement on the edge of the board, place a new settlement on  a grass (light green) hex, place a settlement on a hex of your terrain card type, move a settlement to a water hex, and place a new settlement at the end of a row of three or more of your settlements.

Kingdom Builder location summaries

These nice location summary cards are placed next to the boards as reminders.

When you add 4 of these abilities to your placement options, it can open up your choices nicely. But if you choose poorly, you can find them totally useless in helping you achieve points as dictated by the scoring cards drawn for this particular game.

There are 3 scoring cards (out of 10 that come with the game),  dealt randomly each game. You can be trying to place settlements adjacent to mountains or water, on many horizontal lines or vertical lines, or adjacent to castles and locations. You may be trying to create one very large settlement area or as many areas as you can. Maybe you’ll have to build settlements in each of the four map sectors, or connect locations and castles. Sometimes the combination of scoring cards work together but sometimes they are such that you have to choose which ones to concentrate on.


Kingdom Builder scoring cards

Here are the 10 scoring cards with lovely artwork.

When a player puts his last settlement on the board, that triggers the end of the game–scoring occurs at the end of that round. You add the points you earned for the three scoring cards, and three points for each castle next to which you placed a settlement. The winner is the player with the most points, of course. In case of a tie, you’re all equally brilliant!

The components are nice, as you would expect from Queen Games. The colors and artwork are clear, making it easy to see across the game table, and the cheat sheets for the locations’ abilities are a nice addition. I like that the back of each map board has a score track, making it useful as well as eliminating the need for VP or money tokens to keep score.

Each time I’ve played, I’ve had a good time even if I lost. Although the game is simple in theory, there’s a puzzle-like aspect to finding the best way to accomplish the goals set out by the scoring cards. How do I get across the board or build many small areas when I am required to place adjacent if possible? Which ability tile is going to help me the most? Where should I start when I want to make one long horizontal line but the board is full of rivers?

Kingdom Builder score boardThe game may take 45 minutes to play, but it doesn’t feel like that much time has passed because the turns are quick for the most part. There is very little confrontation except when someone builds in your way, which could be on accident or deliberate, depending on the people with whom you’re playing. Around here, you can assume it’s deliberate!



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Game Day: More Risk Legacy

Posted by sodaklady on January 2, 2012

When Dave and Mike showed up, I had Hansa set up ready to play. This is a simple but tricky Michael Schacht game that I really enjoy. I had forgotten how nasty it can be but fell right in to old way, screwing my left-hand neighbor who just happened to be my husband. Well, you know what they say about Karma… yeah, more on that later.

Then we convinced Mike that we should play Risk Legacy next; wouldn’t want to forget it or run out of time! 😀

Risk Legacy set up 1

Here's the setup, my first bad decision.

Mike, Dave and Richard all stuck with their starting factions but I, being the adventurous type, decided to change to the one that was ignored the last time. I also liked their ability to treat their starting base as “fortified”, which gives a +1 to their dice when defending. Mike started again, and again placed his base in North America. Then it was my turn and I chose to switch things up again, moving my start territory from Africa to the northern reaches of Asia. Ohhh, I know, I know. What a bone-head move! But it’s only a game, right?  Richard started in his favorite location, Australia; Dave switched from Europe to South America.

For his turn, Mike spread across his N. American continent. On my turn, I took a couple of territories to protect my base and broke into Mike’s continent by taking Alaska. Well, I could see it from Russia! 😉 Then Richard’s turn. Remember that Karma? Yeah, here it came, marching north from Australia. And while I was getting a butt-kicking on one continent, Mike was taking a beating from Dave on his continent. I wasn’t spread as thin and managed a bit of a defense but Mike was seriously hurt. On the next turn he could only reinforce his dwindling defenses.

Butt-kicking in Asia

Karma kicking my butt.

Now came the, possibly, second dumb decision from yours truly. I trusted Richard. Dave was on the verge of winning on his next turn. I asked Richard if he could stop picking on me for one *$#@!* turn so I could take Dave’s second base from him. And I did. But the two-faced man that I married turned around and attacked me again! World domination is not a job for the faint of heart. And so I was left with few resources and no base. A perfect setting for Dave to make a final run through America’s base and into Asia winning his final point with my base.

It didn’t take much, just one word from someone, and we were setting up for a second game. Everyone kept their factions and their start locations with the exception of me starting in the southern part of Africa. I had hoped that a more defensible starting location would be the key to my first win. Oh, how foolish of me.

Risk Legacy set up 2

The second game, trying a different strategy in the initial base location.

Double butt-kicking

Africa getting a double butt-kicking.

After the initial turn where we all take our respective continents, Dave started right in attacking Mike to his north then me. As if that weren’t enough for one peoples to endure, Richard marched his army right over to Africa through southern Asia and attacked me from the other direction.

And as history repeats itself, Mike wasn’t to fare any better this game than the last either. From northern Africa, Richard then continued through Europe to attack Mike on a second front, eventually eliminating all of his men. This forced Mike to start in a new area with a lonely 4 men. They settled in Asia in order to pick off a single man left by Richard to defend on his trek through to Africa. This was a fly bite on the rump of an elephant. There was no slowing down the war machine of my evil husband.

One man short

Outside of Mary's Town, Richard ran out of men.

On Richard’s next turn, he got 22 armies, Marched through America, taking its base; then on through Dave’s South America and taking his base; and the final push into Africa where he came up juuust short. Oh, too bad. But, really, when you control all but a few pockets of resistance, there is little doubt of the outcome. On his next turn he had no trouble taking the final point he needed to win.

At this point, I’m beginning to wonder if there is a safe place to start for me. I think next time Africa, but using the old standard, the Australian Strategy:  just sit still and add men until I have enough to break out. Or Mike and I need to gang up on someone.

In truth, the weird thing about Legacy is that the board is totally empty except for your starting locations. No maneuvering for who will take Africa or America; no single, expendable men slowing down your progress through to your target location. But it also must be noted that I can NOT ROLL DICE!!!!

Flash Point: Fire Rescue

Flash Point: Fire Rescue

After two games of death and destruction, we decided to save lives. Mike had brought Flash Point: Fire Rescue, his newest game. He had played 4 or 5 times with his nieces but hadn’t managed a win so our chances seemed slim but somehow, by the skin of our teeth, with only 2 black cubes remaining between us and a collapsed building, we managed to win by saving 6 people and a dog. It’s a pretty good co-op game, very thematic but also fairly fiddly. And… dice rolling can kill you!

We ended the day as we end many of them, with Ra: The Dice Game. Mike won by a fair margin which means we each won one game this day and beat a co-op game.  I hope that is some kind of good omen for the coming year.

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A Quick Look At 2011

Posted by sodaklady on January 1, 2012

I’m not going to do a traditional post listing every game I played this year; I think that’s boring to write so it’s probably boring to read as well. But there are a few things of note that I wanted to mention.

As far as board gaming goes, this has been a stellar year for me. In the middle of June our group of three expanded to four with the addition of Dave. And a great addition he is:  funny, smart, a gracious winner as well as a good loser, and willing to give anything a try.

Richard and I discovered the crayon rail games this year and logged an amazing 53 plays of Martian Rails. In fact it was the final game of the year, played on New Year’s eve as we waited for the year to close. We also played Eurorails 22 times. That’s a lot of crayon rails!

Two other games that got more than the usual number of plays was Defenders of the Realm and Power Grid, both with 11 plays. Defenders of the Realm was played mostly 2-player, while Power Grid has become one of the group’s favorites. Along with Ra: The Dice Game, it will never be turned down.

Cori's Wedding

A bring-your-own-umbrella wedding in the back yard.

On the personal side of the year, our daughter, Cori, got married in a lovely steampunk ceremony in the back yard, in the rain. It was the highlight of the year and will be remembered by everyone in attendance as one of the best weddings ever.

The less wonderful part of life also visited us this year; we lost my mother in July, one of our cats in September, and our Corgi in November. Those were probably the worst six months I can remember in a long, long time.

And so… a new year begins and I wish all my readers a new year filled with hope and love and laughter. And may this year be better than the last.

Posted in board games, Personal | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »