Despite not actually having published any Kingdom Builder reviews, yet, I’m going for a full-Dominion strategy and just pre-writing them so I can dole them out strategically forever. (Update: this has since been rectified.) That said, I’m running out of Donald X. kingdom-buildy games to review, unless another Update Pack or Kingdom Builder: Harvest come out in the next few months.
In Kingdom Builder: Crossroads, you find yourself with options. Sure, those Kingdom Builder cards seem pretty useful, but there are even more ways to build settlements now to maximize your score. What’s more, there are eight new location tiles spread across four new quadrant boards, adding even more ways to play on your previous Kingdom Builder sets. Can you leverage all these new things to build the greatest kingdom?
Thankfully, not much changes between here and the base game or Nomads, so you can take a look there if you’re curious. Either way, you’ll start with four quadrant boards (four come with this set, or you can mix them in with the base game, Nomads, or any other expansions):
As is customary, now, you’re going to mix the four pieces you pick up and slap them into one big board:
Your experience may vary.
No new Terrain types in this expansion, so take the Terrain cards, shuffle them up, and deal one to each player, face-down:
So new in Crossroads is that rather than each Quadrant Board having the same two locations, each has two different ones, giving us eight new Locations and Extra Action Tokens:
Additionally, there are no new Kingdom Builder cards in this expansion, instead, Crossroads adds in Task Cards:
These Task Cards should be shuffled and one should be flipped face-up along with the three Kingdom Builder Cards for every Crossroads Quadrant Board you use. This means if you’re only using the boards from Crossroads, you’ll have four Task Cards. As a quick reminder, there are Kingdom Builder cards in the base game and Nomads, so you should use those as well:
Once you’ve done that, each player should pick a color. Crossroads adds in some new pieces, so give each player a set in their color, as well:
If you’re playing with the City Hall Location, every player should also get a City Hall Tile in their color:
Snazzy. Anyways, once all that’s done, you should be pretty much ready to start. If your play area looks anything like this, then you’re all set to begin:
- Draw a Terrain card.
- Place three settlements of your color 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, Crossroads, like all versions of Kingdom Builder, has added several new Locations:
Each with a different Extra Action, which I will explain:
- Wagon: You can place or remove your Wagon token adjacent to your existing settlements, if possible (which counts as a settlement for all purposes, including placement and end-game scoring), or you can move your Wagon token up to three spaces in any direction, including on Mountain tiles. How handy.
- Monastery: You can place an additional settlement on a Canyon tile. Build adjacent if possible.
- City Hall: You can slam down your City Hall tile in a flourish of population growth. It counts as six settlements for all gameplay purposes, but must be built adjacent to existing settlements and following normal placement rules (no mountains or water).
- Fort: Draw a new Terrain Card and place a settlement there. Build adjacent if possible.
- Crossroads: You always draw two Terrain Cards instead of one, and may choose one of those to build your mandatory three settlements on. On the turn you get this, draw an extra terrain card at the end of your turn.
- Barracks: You can place or remove one of your Warrior tokens on an eligible space, adjacent to at least one of your other settlements. No player may build on or move through a space adjacent to a Warrior. The best defense is a good defense, after all.
- Lighthouse: It’s the Wagon, but for water. You can place or remove your Ship token adjacent to your existing settlements, if possible (which counts as a settlement for all purposes, including placement and end-game scoring), or you can move your Ship token up to three spaces in any direction on Water tiles. You can’t move it onto land because that’s a silly idea.
- Forester’s Lodge (Why not Treehouse?): You can place an additional settlement on a Forest tile. Build adjacent if possible.
There are also the new Task cards:
Just to cover them real fast:
- Advance: You gain 9 gold if at least 7 of your settlements are built along one of the 4 game board edges. You get the Tower from the base game? Go for this one.
- Compass Point: 10 gold if you have at least one settlement on each of the board’s four edges. Go for the corners, then you only need two settlements.
- Fortress: 6 gold if you have a settlement surrounded by 6 of your own settlements. The City Hall tile automatically fulfills this, if you can place it.
- Home Country: 5 gold for a terrain area completely populated by your own settlements. I think this is the easiest one, which makes sense as it’s worth the fewest points.
- Place of Refuge: 8 gold for a location, castle, or Nomads space completely surrounded by your own settlements. Difficult, but valuable.
- Road: 7 gold if you have at least 7 of your own settlements in a continuous diagonal line. Good luck with this one.
Note that you can only score each Task Card once, so don’t bank on these being your primary scoring mechanic. You’re better off trying to use these to take the lead unexpectedly.
That’s what’s new; as usual, play until one player runs out of settlements (keeping track of red-bordered Kingdom Builder cards as you go), 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
I feel about the same about this as I did about previous versions of Kingdom Builder. As player counts increase, it feels more cramped, especially with Warriors to block off certain sectors of the board. I’d probably max out at three on this expansion if you’re playing with only Crossroads boards.
- The City Hall tile is generally pretty solid. Not only does it fulfill the “have a settlement surrounded by your other settlements” Task card, but it also just SLAMS down an area that’s all you. Looking to completely shut out an opponent? This is not a bad way.
- Use the wagon and the ship to your advantage. Being able to move them once per turn means that you can committedly get yourself to the other side of the map, should you have contiguous land or water. Just make sure you’re not opening yourself up to getting forced to start more settlements somewhere random.
- Crossroads is just generally good. Being able to choose from two terrain cards is just almost certainly better than only being able to pick one (even if they’re both the same, which happens infrequently). I’d strongly recommend going for the Crossroads location first, if it’s on the board.
- Use Barracks if you have to. I don’t personally see a ton of value in it, since I tend to not play aggressively, but it’s nice to use warriors defensively to keep an area protected (or potentially to prevent an opponent getting a location tile).
- Don’t spend too much time on Tasks. Don’t forget the Kingdom Builder cards when you’re spending half the game trying to build a settlement along each of the board’s edges. That said, pay attention to which Task cards are available, because I definitely spend half of the game making diagonal settlements before realizing that that Task wasn’t in play.
- Remember that the warriors, wagon, and ship count as settlements. This means that you can place them to fulfill Tasks and Kingdom Builder cards, especially when it’s otherwise infeasible (trying to make a straight line across water / mountain tiles, or surrounding a location). Especially late game, it’s worth putting them down, just in case.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Big fan of Task Cards. I think they’re a nice way to give players short-term goals to shoot for that are somewhere in betweeen the red- and gold-bordered Kingdom Builder cards. They’re interesting things that you likely wouldn’t normally do in a game and worth enough points that you might consider going for them. Overall, big fan.
- Two Locations per quadrant is neat. It means that you’re likely not saddled with a location you really don’t like, but you have a lot more variety. Plus, it means in larger games that there will be a lot of different abilities happening, since there are only two of each Extra Action, period.
- Lighthouse and Wagon are neat additions. They’re cool thematically, they play well, and they open up a lot of neat strategic options.
- Fort is cool. It’s nice to get the chance to randomly add settlements places, but early game it’s very useful, as you can stake out new areas with only one settlement, if you’re lucky.
- I would have liked more Kingdom Builder cards in play. I like that there are Tasks, but there are only six of them. Hopefully they’ll add more in Marshlands, which, given that I hear there’s a new Terrain type, seems pretty likely.
- You’ll be shuffling Terrain cards a lot more with this set. Crossroads and Fort both lead to a lot more cards being drawn each turn, which is vaguely annoying.
- Barracks isn’t really my style. It makes the game a bit frustrating because there’s more blocking happening, which I’m not as big of a fan of. I suppose it’s helpful if you’re trying to leave an opening for yourself on another turn, but it’s not my favorite thing that’s been added.
- Crossroads seems very good. I imagine it’s less helpful if you draw two of the same Terrain card type (which I did), but even then you’ve just taken 40% of a Terrain card’s total count out of the deck, which pretty rapidly and drastically changes the odds of your opponent drawing it. Add in the Fort and you get to see three Terrain cards every turn. That’s very good, and hard to stop unless you play extremely poorly. I’d probably go for Crossroads before Paddock, even, if I had a choice.
Overall: 7.75 / 10
Overall, Kingdom Builder: Crossroads is a solid expansion! I enjoy most of what it adds and will happily add it to the mix when I’m playing Kingdom Builder. I would not hail it as particularly groundbreaking (I feel Nomads is the superior expansion), but I think it is nice if you’re looking for more ways to play Kingdom Builder. New Locations, Task cards, and a few new piece types can also be interesting to combine with existing Kingdom Builder setups, adding even more variety to the game. If you can’t get enough Kingdom Builder, check it out!