As you read this review, it might begin to sound like a love letter to Kingdomino…that’s because it is. Kingdomino is one of my favorite games, easily making my top 5 of all-time list. A lightweight competitive game that makes a player feel like their choices matter each round is so hard to find theses days, and so many games are produced each year that a lot of them just fly under the radar. But this game does that perfectly without taking an hour (or more) to elicit the same emotional response as a game like Carcassonne does. It has a small box that will fit on anyone’s shelf, and has a really cute table presence with cute castles that are the base of each person’s kingdom. And I’m not the only one who loved it: it won the coveted 2017 Spiele De Jahres- Kennerspiele, marking it as one of the best games of this decade for younger audiences (or audiences of all ages).
Kingdomino was designed by well-known designer Bruno Cathala and published by Blue Orange Games. It’s a 2 to 4 player game where players try to match up different terrains in order to score points for the best kingdom. Crowns on the dominos are multipliers and you gain points for chaining together different kinds of terrain. I would say that it’s similar to Carcassonne (which is another of my favorite games). For instance, If I had 3 water tiles touching each other and 2 crowns also on the tiles, then at the end of the game I would score 6 points for my water tiles. The game is played until the last dominos run out based on the number of players you have. Dominos/Tile numbers may vary as your player count varies.
Domino Your Role
This is a fast-paced game where the player flips over randomize Dominos and pick turn order based on who chose the lowest domino value last. The person who picks the highest value the last turn goes first the next. As each domino is double-sided, one side has terrain and the other has a number. On a player’s turn, they are choosing a domino face up. After that other players take the domino of their choosing. Once everyone has chosen then they try to match it to either your castle or another terrain of the same kind. I’ve never had a game last longer than fifteen or twenty minutes. Playing it twice in a row is a very common thing in my house as we are all extremely competitive. Once a new player has learned it they generally want to play a second time because it’s an exciting mix of tension and calculation the building of your kingdom.
I played a three-player game yesterday and we could only build a 5 by 5 domino grid. It put real pressure on us to choose our moves carefully, and keep our turn order in mind for the next round as we all had a strategy in place for a particular terrain. Carefully placing tiles is essential, due to the fact that you have to leave room for growth very early on in the game or it will lead to having little to no choices as the game gets into the later turns. Nothing is worse than being stuck with a domino that you can’t use or score.
It’s Good To Be The King
In my humble experience as the current house champion of Kingdomino, I always try to hoard the mines as they seem to have the most crowns and chain me the most points. I have also seen the water tokens be used to score the most points at the end of the game. The back of the rule book shows exactly how many tiles are in each terrain type. The more limited the tile type the higher the number of crowns can usually be seen on the tile. I have seen all kinds of wins so just do whatever feels best to you at the moment.
While I love the gameplay, the art on this simple yet competitive game is probably my favorite thing because of its subtle fantasy flare. The double water tiles have a Loch Ness monster on them! The double fields have the shadow of a large dragon soaring above! I have taught this game to beginner gamers and hardcore hobby gamers alike, and I have yet to have someone not absolutely love it. This game is truly a staple of my collection.
Usually, this is where I would thank the game company for giving me a copy of the game to review, but I already owned and played Kingdomino well before contact with Blue Orange was made. So now instead of saying thank you for a review copy, I get to say thank you for publishing one of my favorite games. I am very excited to try Kingdomino Duel as soon as I can get my hands on a copy of it. I have also heard good things about Queendomino as well, I look forward to checking it out as well. And you can be sure I’ll be putting my full reviews up right here on The Fandomentals!
Images thanks to Blue Orange Games