In a freak Amazon sale, I managed to get three of the current Kingdom Builder expansions (not Harvest, since it hasn’t come out as of writing) for about $35, which is … pretty good? So here we are, having played it just enough to write up a quick review.
So, Kingdom Builder: Nomads. Some nomads have come to town offering to teach people their wander-y ways, and you figure hey I’m building a kingdom might as well, I suppose. That said, whispers abound of new lands for you to take for your own, and hey, you’ve seen the old lands, maybe the new lands are pretty good? Will you be able to build the greatest kingdom?
So choose four and slap them together into one mega-board. I played with only Nomads boards for a game, but you might want to mix them up with the regular Kingdom Builder boards.
Now, you’ll have to use the standard Terrain cards from Kingdom Builder (though I hear that there are some new Terrain types in the later expansions):
Now, there are four new sets of Extra Action tokens:
So put those on the Location hexes that match them. I’ll explain each in Gameplay. If you’re using the Quarry (looks like a quarry) location, there are also 25 stone tokens that you’ll want to set nearby, but it wasn’t interesting to take a picture of 25 grey discs, so here we are. There are also a lot of Nomad tiles:
I’ll talk more about those in Gameplay as well, so shuffle them up and put one action side-up on each of the silver Nomad hexes on the board (they’ll have the same picture as the picture side of the tokens).
Finally, there will be a few new Kingdom Builder cards (and some updates for Merchants and Workers so that they are consistent with the new Nomad hexes):
I tried the new ones, but you should shuffle them with the old ones and draw three. Once you’ve done that, give everyone a set of settlements (they added red, so you can play with up to five people … for some reason), and you should be ready to start!
The majority of Kingdom Builder: Nomads gameplay is identical to Kingdom Builder’s, so I’d recommend giving that a once-over to familiarize yourself.
- Draw a Terrain card.
- Place three settlements on hexes matching that terrain, building adjacent to existing settlements, when possible.
- If you place next to a Location hex, take the Extra Action token on that Location hex (if there still are any). You can use that extra action on subsequent turns before or after taking your mandatory action (placing three settlements).
Now, Nomads has changed the game up a bit, starting with those new Kingdom Builder cards:
The red-rimmed cards can score mid-game, if the conditions are met. This means that rather than tally your points at the end, you can earn points by fulfilling their conditions instantly. Neat! The three new cards are:
- Ambassadors: Earn one gold every time you place a settlement (mandatory action or extra action) adjacent to one or more of another player’s settlements. Everyone loves friendship.
- Families: Earn two gold if you place your three mandatory action settlements in a straight line (horizontally or diagonally). Normally that’s not like, the biggest deal, but now it’s two points every turn if you do that. That’s pretty useful.
- Shepherds: Earn two gold if, when you place a settlement (either as a mandatory action or extra action) on a certain terrain type, there are no empty terrain tiles adjacent to it of that same type. Basically, if you place on a Forest, you want to make sure there are no empty Forest tiles next to it. It’s worded slightly confusingly.
There are also the four new Location hexes:
- Quarry: Remember those stone tokens? You can place up to two on spaces of the same type as your Terrain card. As with most Kingdom Builder things, these must be adjacement to settlements of yours. They’re not owned by anyone, generate no gold, and cannot be moved or removed. Choose carefully. That said, they might be useful if you’re trying to Shepherd…
- Garden: Very similar to some of the original Kingdom Builder locations, this lets you build one extra settlement on a flower field on your turn. As always, build adjacent, if possible.
- Village: This lets you build a settlement on a space that is adjacent to at least three of your settlements. Doesn’t play super well with Families, and you can’t do this to build on Mountains or Water, as per usual.
- Caravan: This one is straight-up silly. This lets you move any settlement you’ve built in a straight line (horizontal or diagonal) until you hit an obstacle, such as water, mountains, a location / castle / nomad hex, a stone token, or another player’s settlement. You can just slip slide around the map like you just broke out of a penguin high school.
Not to be outdone, as well, the new Nomad hexes are different from Castle hexes, which they replace:
Instead of earning you three points at the end of the game, nomad hexes give you a first-come, first-serve, one-time ability. You take the tile and must use it on your next turn, or it’s wasted. Once it’s used, it’s also removed from the game and not replaced, so … choose wisely. There are several different kinds of effects:
- Some let you place three additional settlements on specified terrain, from the normal five to also mountains and water. Go crazy.
- One type lets you move one to four settlements a total of four spaces. You can’t move onto mountains or water, but any normal terrain type is fair game. You can, for instance, move two settlements twice, or four settlements once, go crazy.
- Another type lets you ignore the adjacency requirements for the next settlement you place, either as part of your mandatory action or during an extra action. This let you place anywhere along the edge for the tower, or lets you potentially claim two Location hexes in one turn. Don’t underestimate it!
- One suddenly makes the game aggressive. The Sword returns one settlement belonging to each player (your choice) to their supplies. This can be used to strip someone of an Extra Action token in what is unquestionably a surprisingly aggressive play for Kingdom Builder. You do you.
- The last one just gives you three points instantly. Woo.
But yeah! That’s all the new stuff. Keep playing until one player runs out of settlements, then finish out the round so all players have had an equal number of turns. Once you’ve done that, tally points for gold-bordered Kingdom Builder cards. Red-bordered ones no longer score at the end of the game. Most points wins!
Player Count Differences
So same with Kingdom Builder, the game takes longer and it feels more crowded as you add more players, so I’m not sure why they added a fifth player, here. I mean, don’t get me wrong, red’s a great color to add to the mix (I think — haven’t actually checked red against orange for colorblind stuff), but it feels like five would make it even more crowded. I’ll assert again that two is nice and strategic, even if you don’t collide that much; three is a good length and feels aware of other players; four’s a bit crowded. Since the board doesn’t get any larger with five, I feel like I’d probably never try it at that size. Oh well.
This is actually interesting because of how Nomads shakes things up. Sure, standard Kingdom Builder strategy applies, but there are definitely new things to consider:
- Quarry + Caravan can lead to interesting results. You can use the quarry to set up walls to stop your caravan or block other people’s caravans, which can be pretty useful.
- Quarry is also helpful for other things. You can use it to block off location hexes, making sure you’re the only person who gets them, or use them to block off terrain types to place for Shepherds, earning you extra points.
- Double Caravans is incredible. You can zip around the board with reckless abandon, limited only by geometry. It’s as good as a double Paddock from the base game, but with (generally) a lot further reach. Highly recommend.
- Even a single Caravan is still highly useful. You can, for instance, use it to move a settlement away from the terrain type you just drew, allowing you to place anywhere. Just be careful you aren’t just kicking your settlements into the abyss or something.
- Keep an eye on the Nomad tiles. If you see a Sword in play, for instance, make sure that you don’t just have one settlement on a location hex, otherwise you might lose it.
- Nomad tiles are great, even better if you’re using the Nomads Kingdom Builder cards. They are pretty strong single-turn abilities, and I’ve scored 16+ (as high as 19) points in one turn augmented by one or two of them. They’re still useful without the Nomads KB cards, but they’re definitely advantageous if you can use them to score immediately, rather than long-term.
- Don’t be afraid to play aggressively. Quarry, Sword, and even Caravan somewhat encourage aggressive play, even moreso if you have Ambassador and get 1 gold for building next to another player. Get right up in there.
- Village + Citizens is another great combo. Village rewards you for placing dense settlement areas, and so does Citizens. If you can combine the two, you’ll certainly reap the rewards.
- Caravan + Knights is also pretty great. Since you can kick settlements in a straight line and Knights rewards a straight line, might as well go for it. Scored 30 points on Knights on my last play with Caravan. It’s highly useful for establishing a line and then closing in on it from both directions.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Lots more variety. I like the extra boards and new locations, but I do kind of wish there was a bit more to it? It feels a bit small for an expansion.
- I like the new scoring options. They’re really cool! And they make having a scoreboard actually useful. They do make scoring a bit complex during your turn, so I’d recommend doing it one at a time (place a settlement, score if applicable, place a settlement, etc.) instead of trying to balance scorekeeping with placement and strategy.
- Caravan is awesome. Probably my new favorite Extra Action, moving it past Paddock from the base game. It’s great.
- Nomad tiles add in some interesting incentives. I like the cost-benefit analysis you have to do to decide if you should go for long-term scoring points or try to get a Nomad tile to boost your short-term game. I think it depends on a lot of variables, so I wouldn’t always recommend it, but there are definitely times when it’s better to go one way over the other and vice-versa, which is nice. It feels well-designed.
- Adds in significant player interaction. This also leads to one of my mehs, see below, but Ambassador and Caravan both reward players who are paying attention to the placement of other players and factoring that into their strategy, which I like. It feels like they managed to succeed in taking a game with very low interaction (like Mystic Vale) and add in some interaction without making the game terribly hateful.
- Fifth player doesn’t feel useful or needed. Yeah I just can’t see myself playing with this. It’s like six-player Dominion. It’s a great game, but why.
- Could have used more Kingdom Builder cards. Three’s kind of low, but oh well, here we are. Hopefully Crossroads adds some more. Gotta keep increasing that complexity.
- Marking on card backs for the Kingdom Builder cards. I don’t know why they did this, but they put the language flag on the back of the Kingdom Builder cards, so you can pretty easily tell if your cards are from the expansion or not, which is frustrating from a shuffling perspective, especially since there are only three Kingdom Builder cards.
- Can reward much more aggressive playstyles. Shepherds really incentivizes you to snipe tiles that your opponents have left open for two points, which can cause some frustrations. Quarry is all about blocking, and Sword (the Nomad tile) has literally no purpose outside of aggression. The nice thing about these is that the game is modular enough that you can just not play with things if they upset you, but just thought I’d mention it. It’s definitely a step up in deliberate player interaction, but it’s not all positive (or neutral, even). It can be a bit cutthroat, which isn’t my favorite.
Overall: 8.75 / 10
Overall, Kingdom Builder: Nomads is a great expansion! I think it adds new stuff to the game and makes me want to go back and revisit it, but in a way that still feels fresh and interesting. I like a lot of the locations added, I think the Nomad tiles are cool, and I’m intrigued by the during-game scoring cards. If you like Kingdom Builder, I’d say this is likely a must-buy expansion if you’re looking to move past the base game. At its core, it’s more Kingdom Builder, so if that appeals to you, go for it, but it’s also got some interesting spins on gameplay that significantly change up the game.