Well, Kingdom Builder: Harvest hasn’t come out yet, and all the various Queenies are literally difficult to find, so this might be my last Donald X. game review for a while, but here we go. It’s nice to finally get to these anyways, since I bought them all around Christmas when they were being sold for, like, $10.
In Kingdom Builder: Marshlands, you ignore the classic advice that you shouldn’t build your castle in a swamp. You’ve heard there are new riches to be found in the marshlands, so, I mean, why not? However, there’s some weird stuff going down, so you’ll need to be careful, lest you get mired in … well, the mire. Can you build the strongest kingdom in these parts? Or will it all just sink into the swamp a few times?
Still only a few differences between this and any other Kingdom Builder’s setup, so check those out for the differences that are specific to those expansions. As usual, you’ll start with four quadrant boards (there are four specific to this set):
As always, mix the four pieces you pick up and push them together into one big board:
Your experience may vary, especially if you use other boards from other expansions.
There’s actually a new Terrain type in this expansion: Marshlands. It, however, comes attached to other Terrain cards, so you can play with them even if you don’t have any Marshlands areas in play. They just work like normal Terrain Cards:
So new in Marshlands is not that each Quadrant Board has two different locations (that’s Crossroads); each only has one. Each, however, unlocks the ability to get a Bonus Token if you get two of that Location’s Extra Action tokens:
Thankfully, we do have new Kingdom Builder cards in this expansion, so no need to stress about that:
As always, shuffle them with the existing Kingdom Builder cards and flip three face up. If one of them is Scouts, however, draw the top card of the shuffled Terrain Deck immediately. Remove all Terrain cards matching that type (including Marshlands + Terrain cards) from the deck. Isn’t that awesome?
Anyways, once all that’s done, you should be all ready to roll, especially if your play area looks like this:
The majority of Kingdom Builder: Marshlands’s gameplay is identical to Kingdom Builder‘s, Nomads‘s, and Crossroads‘s, so I’d suggest looking at the base game’s gameplay writeup if you want a deep dive. If not, keep reading.
- 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). If you’ve taken a second Extra Action token for a particular Location, take that Location’s Bonus Action token, as well.
As with all versions of Kingdom Builder, Marshlands has added several new Locations:
And, unsurprisingly, each has a different Extra Action / Bonus Action, which I will explain:
- Temple: Remove one of your settlements from the board. On your next Mandatory action, you must place an extra settlement.
- Temple Bonus Action: You do not have to place your first settlement of your Mandatory action adjacent to your other settlements.
- Fountain: Place a settlement adjacent to exactly one of your existing settlements and none of your opponents’. Friendship is overrated, anyways.
- Fountain Bonus Action: When taking a Fountain Extra Action, you may place that settlement on a mountain hex.
- Canoe: Whenever another player takes the last Location tile from a Location hex, immediately place a settlement on a swamp or water hex. Build adjacent when possible. If you’re playing with Nomads, this also occurs if you take the last Nomad tile from a Nomad hex. If this seems only marginally useful to you, well … it is.
- Canoe Bonus Action: You may place a settlement on a swamp or water hex. Build adjacent, if possible.
- Refuge: Move one of your settlements to an adjacent hex that you can normally build on. It does not still have to be adjacent to one of your settlements.
- Refuge Bonus Action: Move one of your settlements in a straight line until you find an available hex to build on. Place it there.
That’s all of those. Now, let’s talk about the Kingdom Builder cards:
- Captains: 1 gold for each settlement adjacent to at least 3 of your other settlements. Hope you like clustering.
- Geologists: 2 gold for each mountain that is connected to another mountain by a chain of your settlements. A mountain is considered to be one or more adjacent mountain hexes, so no connecting a mountain to itself.
- Messengers: 2 gold for each hex in the shortest path between your two connected settlements separated by the longest distance. Tough to do in practice, but generally just build diagonally.
- Noblewomen: Castles, Captiol, nomad, and location hexes score like Palaces (in addition to their normal scoring). This means for each of these hexes, if you have the most settlements adjacent to it, you score 5 points.
- Scouts: At the beginning of the game, draw a Terrain card and remove all Terrain cards of that type from the game. At the end of the game, you get 1 point for every settlement you control that is on a hex adjacent to the removed Terrain type (but is not also on a hex of the removed Terrain type).
- Vassals: 1 gold for each of your settlements built next to at least one inner edge of a game board section. This one is pretty cool but I’ve not gotten to use it, yet. Sad.
Lastly, let’s talk about Palaces. They’re this expansion’s version of Castles. Instead of scoring 3 points if you’re adjacent to one, you now score 5 points, but only if you have the most settlements adjacent to that Palace. Yup! Have fun with that.
Anyways, that’s all the new stuff. Keep playing until one player runs out of settlements (keeping track of red-bordered Kingdom Builder cards as you go, if you have any in play), 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’ve tried like, four different Kingdom Builders and I still like it best at two or three. This doesn’t really change that.
- If Messengers is in play, go long. You really want to build from one diagonal to another, in that case, though it’s exceedingly difficult to do so. Either way, I’ve seen people score 30+ points from Messengers, which is huge. Go for it.
- It really helps to double-down on location tiles. The Bonus Actions are generally much, much better than the specific Extra Actions in this game, which is interesting. Not bad, just interesting. I should try playing Kingdom Builder with the expansions mixed together, at some point.
- The Temple is okay, unless you get two. Then its Bonus Action is excellent. It’s basically a “Play wherever you want” tile, which as long as you’re not drawing garbage Terrain cards, you’re probably in a good place. That + Crossroads would be a tough combination to beat.
- I guess the Canoe can be useful? I don’t really see it. I wouldn’t go for it unless you want to control the water, and even then I’d only do that if there were no other water-hex-placement Locations in play.
- Fight for Palaces. Fight for everything if Noblewomen is in play. It makes the game a bit more aggressive of an area-control game, but that’s an interesting angle you don’t see that much. Might make the Sword Nomad action (lets you remove other players’ settlements) actually strategically useful instead of just kinda a crappy thing to do to someone.
- Fountain’s ability synchronizes really well with most of the new Kingdom Builder cards (and some of the old ones). It can help you build a straight line for Messengers or Knights if you’ve kept your opponents away from you, which might be really useful. There’s also that Task card from Crossroads with diagonals… either way, it’s pretty useful.
- Refuge’s ability synchronizes really well with Hermits (from the base Kingdom Builder Game). Being able to split up your settlements is a great way to score lots of points.
- Remember that Scouts’s ability doesn’t trigger for settlements on that tile type. Don’t build on Flower Fields assuming you’re going to get a ton of points since they’re adjacent to other Flower Fields, for instance. That’s not how that works.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Adds new Kingdom Builder cards. I’m a huge fan of that, especially because some of these make even base Kingdom Builder more awesome. I’m pretty sure I’d buy an expansion that was just Kingdom Builder cards, at this point.
- Scouts is an awesome addition. Scouts is my favorite Kingdom Builder card. It makes everything a bit more confusing, sure, but also super interesting. How does your strategy change if you can’t play on Desert? On Forest?
- I think Palaces are great, as well. Sure, they make the game a bit more aggressive, but we already don’t really play with Sword, so it’s fine. In my opinion, it just adds to the incentives.
- Seems like a really solid expansion to mix in with the other components. Everything I’ve seen in this expansion seems to encourage trying it with the older stuff (Nomads, Crossroads, and the base game) and it seems like it would mix in really well. I taught some friends Kingdom Builder vanilla with Scouts and they really liked it.
- Bonus tiles are interesting. I’d be interested to see more of these in the future, but it’s also nice that each expansion adds a very new, very different thing. Makes mixing them together interesting.
- Weirdly, Geologists isn’t super fun with just the Marshlands boards. There aren’t that many mountains and a fair bit of them are part of one (or two) really large ranges. I’m kind of surprised that it doesn’t synergize better with a game of 4 Marshlands quadrant boards, but, oh well.
- Counting Captains / Messengers can get a bit tedious. Hope you like counting, a lot.
- Some of the new Extra Actions, seem, uh, “situational”, at best. I’m going to be honest, I don’t see much use for Canoe or Temple outside of their Bonus Action. Has Canoe won you the game? If so, let me know in the comments. I find that hard to believe, though.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, Kingdom Builder: Marshlands is a solid expansion! I’m a big fan of what it does for its predecessors, most of all, but I also like it as a standalone expansion. The Marshlands Terrain is interesting since it requires more time invested to build on it, and the new Locations are, as always, new and interesting ways to play the game. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s included in Harvest, but for now I’d recommend Marshlands to a Kingdom Builder fan looking for more!