Tag Archives: Kingdom Builder

Episode 45 – Hordes and Awards

While every episode of The Little Metal Dog Show is special, this one has an extra sprinkling of diamonds on top of an already tasty serving. First of all, Jonny Roberts joins me to talk about Organised Play in the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game as well as the forthcoming Nationals tournament. Following on from that, I’m honoured to welcome the Daddy of Deckbuilding, Donald X Vaccarino. Probably best known as the creator of Dominion (amongst so many more games), he’s a two time winner of the coveted Spiel des Jahres, including this year for the rather charming Kingdom Builder. We cover his better known titles – of course – as well as other games like Nefarious and the upcoming Gauntlet of Fools.

This episode’s links:

Direct Download – http://littlemetaldog.podbean.com/mf/web/4m2i2b/LMD_Episode45.mp3

Story Realms on Kickstarter – http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/springboard/story-realms

WoWTCG Official Site – http://wowtcg.cryptozoic.com/

Zapped Giants (UK Community site for WoWTCG) – http://www.zappedgiants.com

Donald X Vaccarino’s BGG page (complete with his Secret Histories of Dominion) – http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgamedesigner/10525/donald-x-vaccarino

Gauntlet of Fools on Kickstarter (get in quick, it ends on September 13th!) – http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2012515236/gauntlet-of-fools

Continue Magazine (complete with articles by me! A bargain at £1.99 / $2.99) – http://www.continuemag.com/



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King of my Castle – Kingdom Builder review

Let’s kick off with the obvious – Kingdom Builder is a bloody awful name. Actually, that’s a bit harsh. It explains exactly what you’ll be doing in the course of the playing the game, sure, but it’s far from inspiring. Look at Donald X. Vaccarino’s other games; Dominion brings about thoughts of grasping for power, for example, while Nefarious makes me think of cruel and unusual scientists desperate to take over the world. Kingdom Builder though? Ummmm… yeah.

Anyway – to the game itself. Between two and four players are set the task of… well… building up kingdoms. Set-up is nice and quick; the play area is constructed of four separate large tiles, each of which made of hexes depicting different types of land as well as lots of castles. Each of the randomly chosen tiles also has areas that bestow special abilities on a player who manages to build in a hex adjacent to it.

Three cards are flipped up before play starts that state how gold (the points in Kingdom Builder) will be allocated at the end of the game. These could require that you build in each of the four sectors of the board or you’ll score your longest straight line of buildings, for example. In all, there are ten different ways that you’ll be scoring, and with only three chosen in each game (along with eight separate large tiles you’ll build the board with), there’s plenty of opportunity for replays.

Kingdom Builder in action (photo by Gary James on BGG)

How do you earn these points then? At the start of each player’s turn, they’ll flip a card off the deck that shows one of the five terrain types that you can place your houses on: Grassland, Flower Fields, Forest, Desert and Canyons. When you’ve shown your card, you must place three of the houses from your supply on the corresponding terrain wherever you please. However, if you’ve already got something on the board that’s either adjacent to or already built on that type, you must extend what’s already there. Your choices will be somewhat impaired by the Mountain and Water spaces which can’t be built upon but there are Castles dotted about the place that give you bonus gold when scoring comes around.

And in reality, that’s essentially all there is to Kingdom Builder – flip your card, place your houses, aim to meet the three objectives. So why did the Spiel des Jahres committee choose to add it to the pantheon of excellent games that have been celebrated in previous years? I’d say it’s down to that simplicity. Early games will leave you saying “Is this it? That’s all I have to do?” but there’ll come a moment when you realise that it’s a bit more than just putting stuff on the board. You’ll work out ways in which you can cut opponents off, discover how to use the areas that no-one can move into to maximise your placement, and learn which bonus powers you should race for.

Four player set up… let’s BUILD SOME KINGDOMS.

That isn’t to say that it’s a complex game that will require players to devote hours of play and study to get into it – KB is really about a deep as a puddle, albeit one after a decent shower – but it’s a splendid way to pass the time. A perfect game for people new to the hobby as well as those families that the SdJ winner’s status appeals to, it’s got just enough need for strategy in there for more experienced gamers who are after something that won’t tax their brains too much. Of course, the haters will say that the Spiel des Jahres is being watered down again with such an accessible title taking the prize, but ignore their whining. It’s well worth playing even if it’s far from the most complex release that Queen have ever put out.

What you’ll get when you pick up a copy is a (very) lightweight Euro that you’ll enjoy more when you sit down with people who are looking to play something for fun. If you’ve got someone who’s ridiculously over-competitive in your group, leave it on the shelf and try something else. Kingdom Builder strikes me as the very epitome of a ‘new’ SdJ winner; easy to get your head around, family friendly, nicely produced… it will do very well, of course. Yes, the relative simplicity may put off some more experienced gamers, but they’ll be the ones missing out on this fun little experience.

Kingdom Builder was designed by Donald X. Vaccarino and was released by Queen Games in 2011. Two to four players can sit around the table for this one and games should take around 30-45 minutes. If you’re looking for a copy, you can pick one up for around £33 from the good folks at Gameslore, Spiel des Jahres award not included.


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Spiel des Jahres 2012 – The Nominations!

It’s that time of the year again where a panel of judges huddle around their big table at a secret location somewhere in Germanyand fight it out to decide the shortlist for the Spiel des Jahres. As always, despite it only having been announced a couple of hours ago, the usual bickering has sprung up in various corners of the internet where The Hardcore Gamers declare that everything isn’t as good as it used to be and why was this game nominated and the SdJ don’t know what a good game would be if it bit them on the ass.

Despite the accolade being called the Game of the Year, these people forget that… well, it really isn’t for them. Since the award’s inception back in 1978, its focus has been on nominating and promoting games that are good for families and friends to play together. Sometimes the winners cross over into the kind of things that even the nerdiest of gamers will enjoy – think Ticket to Ride, Dominion and the like. Sometimes the jury picks a comparative stinker (I’ll mention no names) and the world ends YET AGAIN – for those Hardcore gamers at least.

The SdJ panel, every single year, manages to pick a selection of good games. Face it. Sometimes they may not be world beaters, but they’ll at least be fun to play and people – NOT HARDCORE GAMERS – will have a laugh with each other. I’ve seen people complaining that Dominant Species didn’t catch a nomination and I’m now wondering what on earth is wrong with them. It’s a heavy as hell game that takes three or four hours to get through. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but there’s no way on earth that little Jurgen will settle down for an evening with Papa und Muti when that hits the table…

Of course, last year saw the unveiling of the first Kennerspiel des Jahres, the award for a more advanced game which went to the mighty 7 Wonders. This year’s selection is solid (see below) but again, you’re never doing to see something with 24 page rulebook in 10 point type on the list. Many of the complainers won’t have even played the whole list – I know I certainly haven’t – but that’s not what the SdJ and the accompanying awards are for. They exist to raise awareness, to show off some games that deserve a bit of a mass market boost, and not to pander to some bloke who thinks that anything released after 1995 is crap.

Now after all that, what were the actual nominations?

Well, for the Spiel des Jahres, I reckon it’s a good selection. Donald X. Vaccarino’s Kingdom Builder (Queen) seems to be the early favourite and I’m inclined to agree with the sentiment as it hits all the marks for a good family game. A game of spreading your dominance over certain areas determined by card draw, it’s not overly complex, kids will find it easy to pick up and the random goal selection at the start of a game adds a fair bit of replayability. I’ve played it a few times and while it never shook my world, it was a pleasant way of spending time, especially as an end of the night closer.

Eselsbrucke (Schmidt Spiele) – aka: Donkey Bridge – is a story creation game with an element of memory thrown in for good measure. By using randomly generated pictures, players must make up tales then see if their opponents can recall what the objects were. I can’t recall any other games based around using mnemonics, but Stefan Dorra’s involvement could be enough to see this steal the prize.

Finally, Vegas by Rudiger Dorn (alea) is a total push your luck dicefest. Rolling different numbers allows you to place your dice on various mats, each representing a different casino that contains a certain amount of money. At least one dice must be placed after each roll, then – once everyone is done – whoever has the most dice on a mat claims the cash. It looks like one of the lightest ever nominations for an SdJ, but who’s to say that’s a bad thing? Everyone loves chucking dice about, don’t they?

The Kennerspiel is a bit trickier to call. K2 (rebel.pl) would be my call as I really enjoy Adam Kaluza’s game of conquering the mountain, dealing with the elements and – of course – trying to screw your fellow climbers over. I’m actually a bit surprised to see it put into the slightly heavier category but hope that it’ll actually give the game a well deserved boost in publicity. The combination of hand management and making the right call at the right time – plus the fact it’s playable in less than an hour even with five people – means I’d love to see this take the award.

Village (eggertspiele) has been getting some great press and actually has an English language run due out through Tasty Minstrel Games soon. I’ve had my eye on it for a while and think that it looks like a rather solid Euro, but I must admit a little surprise that it got on the shortlist ahead of Ora et Labora. Hopefully I’ll get it to a table soon and will see why the jury took that call – but the reasons can only be good, surely?

Franz Vohwinkel’s Targi (Kosmos) is a game that I actually know very little about. Again, I was a little surprised to see a strictly two player game on the list (though Friday, Friedemann Friese’s solo game about life on a desert island also made the longlist) but this one looks… I don’t know… a little dry? It seems to follow the ‘get resources, make money’ model, but I won’t venture a full opinion until I get to see it in front on me.

Finally, the younger gamers get a look in with the Kinderspiel des Jahres and there’s only one winner in this for me: Schnappt Hubi! from Ravensburger. This was the first game I played at Essenlast year (with the assistance of a very helpful German lady who translated everything for me and my fellow gamers) and I loved it. You’re trying to hunt down Hubi the ghost as he wanders around a haunted house that you build through the turns. The game is centred around an electronic device that lets you know if you’re bumping into a wall or passing through it safely, involves mice and rabbits, and I want an English version NOW PLEASE RAVENSBURGER PLEASE NOW.

Die kleinen Drachenritter (HUCH! and friends) translates as “The Little Dragon Knight” and looks like it’d be a hit in our house. Stacking games go down very well despite the fact nearly everyone who visits is around thirty years old… Anyway, players have had their gold taken by a dragon and must build piles of stuff to reach a certain height, but piece placement is limited by rules involving colour matching. Definitely one I want to check out.

Finally, for those who enjoy their games with a slightly more disgusting vibe, Kosmos present Klaus Teuber’s Spinnengift und Krotenschleim (“Spider Venom and Toad Slime). Another memory game, it involves recalling where certain required ingredients have been placed to help out a bunch of scatty witches. Correct selections will let players add tokens to the cauldron which will eventually trigger the appearance of monsters – and who doesn’t enjoy that? Again, I want to try it, if only because its designer is a former four times award winner, including taking the 1995 SdJ with Settlers of Catan.

Another year, another bunch of fun sounding games that I can’t wait to play. The Kinderspiel winner will be revealed on June 11, while the two grown up prizes are announced on July 9. But who will it be?

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First Play Friday: Ora et Labora and Kingdom Builder

New year, new feature! First Play Friday is new to LMDS and is pretty straightforward. While it won’t pop up on the site every week, I plan on regularly giving a few opinions on games that I’ve managed to try out for the first time that week. Of course, these aren’t going to be full reviews – they’re more like early impressions after getting to experience a game for the first time. Complete reviews may well follow soon after, mind you, so keep an eye out!


First up, Ora et Labora, the brand new Euro hotness from Uwe Rosenberg with the English language edition coming from the fine folks at Z-Man Games. I may well have my gamer’s licence revoked for admitting this, but I’ve never played Rosenberg’s much loved Agricola. I know that it’s meant to be an incredible game (if only because Tony from Surprised Stare Games keeps saying so) but the chance to get a game has never arisen. I plan on changing that in future (and quickly) because Ora et Labora is brilliant. There’s an awful lot going on for a game about clergy building stuff, but not enough to totally destroy your brain.

We played the France variant of the game with four people – two variants come in the box that apparently have slight differences, the other one being based in Ireland. The game starts slowly with players collecting basic resources to create low level buildings, developing engines to make bigger and better things, eventually getting some big point items. With some resources also usable as energy or food, the amount of options that you have can initially appear quite daunting, but I have the feeling that after a few plays strategies will make themselves more evident. Thankfully if your opponents pick up buildings that you’ve had your eye on you can still use them by paying out your hard earned cash (or wine, I later discovered), meaning that your long-term plans can’t be ruined by someone else grabbing what you hoped would soon be yours.

There’s a great mechanism with doling out resources too, a wheel that moves on one step every turn that incrementally increases the amount of stuff that’s available of each type. If a resource is chosen, it’s moved to the zero space and begins slowly growing again. The wheel also marks the passage of time in the game so you know exactly how long you’ve got left to get your ideas into action – something that I pretty much screwed up, but the fact that even though I did that *and* lost by a good sixty points but still want to play again is surely a very good sign. With so many ways of getting points, I’ve already got a few ideas for next time I get to give it a shot.

I also tried out Kingdom Builder from Dominion designer Donald X. Vaccarino, a game I saw a lot of people picking up at Essen 2011 but didn’t get to play myself. It’s very light indeed but that’s not a bad thing (especially after two hours in medieval France). With a quick set-up and even speedier run-through of the rules, the four of us set about placing our little houses on the board. You play a single card each turn and put your buildings on the matching area type, occasionally grabbing bonus tokens that can be used once every go and bend the rules ever so slightly.

Scoring happens at the end of the game and is dependent on three cards that are drawn from a wide selection – in this instance it was all about making long lines of buildings, dominating one of the four quadrants that make the board, and then getting bonus points for the lowest amount of buildings in one section. You also get points for having a building near city spaces marked on the board, something which I failed to do quite spectacularly. Still, an interesting little game that while I probably wouldn’t fork out hard cash for I’d certainly keep an eye out for it in a trade.


Watch out for the latest episode of The Little Metal Dog Show which will be available next week. There’s a look back at some gaming highlights for 2011 as well as what’s on the radar for 2012, plus an interview with celebrity gamer Rich Sommer from the mighty award-winning TV show Mad Men! Next week should also see the release of The Dice Tower’s Best Of 2011 show which has contributions from pretty much everyone from the Dice Tower Network including me. Keep an eye on Twitter (where I’m @idlemichael – do add me!) for more updates as and when. Have a great weekend!

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