Thursday, October 6, 2011

Building Your Kingdom in Kingsburg

I recently had several occasions to play a combination dice-driven/placement game called "Kingsburg." This is not your typical placement game because it allows players to create their own path to victory based on the buildings that they build.

The dice rolling and placement element of the game can be sort of cut-throat. Each player throws 3 dice (though there are sometimes extra) and then uses the results. There are advisors each numbered 1-18 on the board. In turn order (from the lowest number to the top number) Each player may make a placement. He can place all of the dice, one die, or two dice on one of the spaces (once a space is taken, no other player can select that advisor) Each advisor grant a different benefit. An advisor may grant one or more resources, military strength, or even a die-roll modification chit (which can be used to add +2 to a dice placement, but not alone).. Often, a player will have one die left over because the turn order allowed another player with the same die result to place before him. While this is something I normally don't like in placement games, something I call getting cheated by the turn order, in this game it seems to work because player's choices are all limited to what their die results are. A player might choose to make a choice that body checks another player, but he can only do so based on his die roll so it is not simply making a placement in order to be cruel to another player.

At the end of the "season" (the name for a round in play) each player can use the resources he has gained to "build." The buildings he builds can provide extra benefits like increased military strength, the ability to affect a die roll, a possible reroll, increased victory points, etc. Each player has a mat (shown below) and can build on any level, but cannot build to the right until he has built the buildings on the left.

At the end of the year, all players have to fight the "monster" card. Some players may know how strong the monster is because they were permitted to look at the card based on their dice placement. Each player who has a strong enough military strength + the die roll (same roll for one player) to beat the monster gains a benefit. Each player who is defeated by the monster suffers a penalty-- which may mean losing a building or victory points. The blue section at the bottom of the card show the Victory points gained by players who defeated the monster.

Two samples of monster cards are shown above (these are among the stronger monsters).. the number at the top, next to the name, indicates the number that the player needs to beat in order to defeat the monster. The middle section of the card show the penalties for losing against the monster. For example, it is a straight -5 Victory point loss if the dragons defeat the player while if the demons do so the player loses 1 bulding and number of victory points. When a monster kills a building it always kills the rightmost (most expensive) building. If two buildings are both in the same column then the buiding highest on the player's mat is the one that is eliminated. Also, any victory points that the player obtained for building that particular building are also lost. Players have to provide military strength to add to a single die roll in order to built the monster.

This game mechanics reward cuthroat die placement! Still, players are forced to balance the choices of building for Victory points or other benefits and building for military strength to protect from the end of the year and the monster's attack.

For our group, it was an interesting change of pace. The game does not have a steep learning curve and plays fairly quickly, though we haven't managed to complete a game in less than an hour and forty-five minutes or so. While browsing boardgamegeek I see that there is an expansion available and I'm wondering what it has to offer. In the meantime, we'll probably get a few more plays of this one under our belts in the near future. It isn't the greatest game I've ever played, but for now, it is one that is worth playing. It combines a lot of neat elements into a nice building game that works for me, a player who normally doesn't care for building and placement games.