Full disclosure: A review copy of Kingdomino: Age of Giants was provided by Blue Orange Games.
Alright, I’m back from Gen Con and full of ideas about which Gen Con releases I want to talk about. Railroad Ink, Expancity, Catch the Moon; we’re gonna get a chance to go through all of those. So why not start with an expansion to one of the best games from 2017, Kingdomino?
In Kingdomino: Age of Giants, a new, taller time has dawned — greedy giants have descended upon the land to take what they consider to be rightfully theirs. You cannot defeat them, but you might be able to convince them that other Kingdoms are more valuable than yours (and less well-defended, if such a thing were even possible). If that weren’t enough, new challenges may dictate how you build up your kingdom if you want to truly stand apart from the rest. Will you be able to thwart the giants? Or is that a particularly tall order?
So the game is set up fairly identical to Kingdomino with a few caveats. First off, you can now play with up to five players, thanks to a new friend:
You’re going to add in the 12 new tiles:
These primarily concern the titular Giants:
The A – F tiles are the Giant tiles; they control when Giants arrive:
The 49+ tiles are the Footprint tiles; they help move Giants elsewhere:
More on that, later. Thankfully, you can shuffle them up and just slide them into the tile tower that comes standard with this game:
If you’d like, optionally, you can also play with Challenge Tiles:
These add additional complexity to the game. Shuffle them up and reveal two. Now, set up Kingdomino as usual and you’re ready to begin! Note that this will also work compatibly with Queendomino, too, but I didn’t test that so I’m not diving into it, here. You can see for yourself by how the boxes pleasantly line up:
That’s very nice. Also, there’s a score sheet included; you can set those aside, for now:
You’re all ready to go!
So, again, the game isn’t totally impacted by the new tiles; it plays pretty much the same as the other *domino games, with one major caveat. On your turn, regardless of how many players you have, you’ll draw 5 tiles, as opposed to 4, 3, or 4 (at 2, 3, or 4 players). Once you’ve done that, you’ll discard some number prior to revealing them:
- 2 players: Discard the middle-valued tile.
- 3 players: Discard the second- and fourth-valued tiles.
- 4 players: Discard the middle-valued tile.
- 5 players: Discard no tiles; keep them all.
Once you’ve done that, play as normal. If you’re using the Giant / Footprint tiles (and you should use one if you’re using the other), they change the game a bit, too:
- Giant Tiles cause you to gain one of the Giants. When you do, add it to one space in your Kingdom with at least one crown on it. While the Giant is in your Kingdom, that space is considered to have no crowns on it. Bummer. You cannot move the Giant to a different tile once they’re in your Kingdom, either, so choose wisely or else you’ll take a big hit.
- Footprint Tiles allow you to remove a Giant from your Kingdom and give it to any one of your opponents, who must then place it in their Kingdom following the rules for Giant Tiles above. That’s a bummer for them, but it’s good for you! Plus, these tiles are unusually crown-dense, so that’s also nice. Makes up for basically being guaranteed to go dead last.
Play continues until all tiles have been played, at which point you do your final scoring. Don’t forget about the Challenge Tiles:
They cover various things like having tile types surrounding your castle, tile types in the corners, or even the variants from base Kingdomino like having a perfect square or your castle in the dead center. They’re fun!
The player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
The major difference is in the tile placement and which tiles get removed. At different player counts the tiles will shift somewhat, meaning that certain tiles are … more or less likely to appear, based on what gets drawn in a particular round. There’s also some more contention at higher player counts for the tiles that are used for the various Challenges, which is worth noting as well. Beyond that, well, I have a preference for it at two (since, again, that avoids the bad outcome with the Giants where multiple players can gang up on one player, which I routinely hate). If you’re just using the Challenge Tiles, well, knock yourselves out. Any other player count should be fine.
- You need to really think about turn ordering. So, for instance, you want to get rid of a really bad Giant, so you’re eyeing that Footprint tile on the bottom. However, that will guarantee that you go last, and you haven’t seen all the Giants, yet. Do you think the odds are in your favor that you won’t draw any Giant tiles, meaning you won’t get stuck with a Giant? That’s worth considering.
- If you see a player stuck with Giants, make sure to try and snipe the Footprint Tiles. Not only are they super high-value tiles, but they also are the only way to move Giants around. If you’d prefer they stay where they are, well, might as well help yourself, right?
- Don’t ignore the Challenge Tiles. I’ve done this a few times. They’re worth a significant amount of points. Don’t … do that. It’ll take some adjusting since you might be used to Regular Kingdomino, but ignoring them is just going to leave a world of opportunity for your opponents.
- Taking Giants isn’t all that bad. There are some structural changes you need to do (for instance, don’t necessarily bet on getting a Footprint Tile), but there are worse things than losing a couple points.
- The helpful thing when dealing with Giants is to reframe your thinking, a bit. The first game really threw me off because I’m used to going deep in one color. Giants make that … much less viable, because having to cover a crown can sometimes lose you 7+ points (which is a lot!). Going a bit wider helps because now Giants may be able to maximally cost you maybe 2 – 5 points, which is far more manageable.
- Another useful thing to do is to create a few “dead” spaces on your board. This gives you some dump spaces to put the Giants on (and it’s exceedingly rare to end up with no Giants). You may need one or two of these, but at least you have a good shot of potentially leveraging them to get another half of the tile that you do actually want to use.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I really like the Challenge Tiles. I like them so much that I’ll probably just play them in every game from now on. They add a nice bit of variety while still preserving the simplicity of Kingdomino (which, in my opinion, is part of its charm).
- This is a half-step between King and Queendomino. Part of what frustrates me about Queendomino is that it appears to have the same DNA but it’s got a lot more complexity than I really want out of it? I mean, I’ll talk more about it in my review when I post it … eventually. Probably once I’m out from under the ol’ Gen Con review pile. That said, if you’re looking for a bit more complexity, this is probably the right place to go, especially if you don’t mind a bit of take-that from your … light strategy games.
- The challenge of when to go for a tile you need versus a Footprint tile or something is interesting. There’s an additional tension to the game since the Footprint tiles essentially guarantee that you’ll go last. If you go last now, there’s a real chance that you’ll take a Giant tile next turn. That tension can be valuable in the game which isn’t usually all that tense.
- The art remains pleasant and upbeat. I’m a big fan of the art and it’s definitely nice in this version, too. I also appreciate that they got the boxes to line up like Coldwater Crown / Unfair. That’s a nice look, even though I imagine it’s a huge pain for the artist. It’s appreciated, nonetheless.
- The Giants are very sturdy. They could have been really crappy pieces of cardboard or something, but nope, they’re nice. I really appreciate good quality components.
- The box being wildly differently sized compared to the other *domino games is kind of obnoxious. I get that it’s for the tile tower, but, I mean, it’s just a lot to deal with. I’m that person who likes to store all the boxes for various games together on the same shelf (both for practical and aesthetic reasons) and this kind of frustrates me. This will probably not be a problem for everyone, since, well, this is a me problem.
- The Giants don’t really do it for me, personally. I mean, this is just a personal preference thing, but I’m not a huge fan of take-that in games. Again, going back to the Queendomino thing, I like Kingdomino because it’s low-complexity and the blocking / take-that elements are emergent, not necessarily well-defined in advance. It’s kind of like a worker-placement game; you might take a tile someone needs because they need it, or you might take it because you want it. It feels impersonal, so it’s vague whether or not the game is a mean one. The Giants kind of … codify that element a bit more than I like, you know? They make the game mean from the start. That’s great, if you’re up for it; if you’re not, well, the game is mean either way. I’d caution you if you’re not enthusiastic about the Giants, maybe just stick with the Challenge Tiles.
Overall: 6.75 / 10
Overall, again, I’m split. On one hand, I personally don’t much care for the giants (I don’t think they’re that bad; they’re just not the kind of game that I particularly want to play all the time); on the other, I think the Challenge Tiles are good enough that I would play them in every game of Kingdomino from here until forever. So, I’ll compromise and give it a 6.75. I think the core question here is what do you want out of Kingdomino? Do you want a light, simple family game with some strategy but nothing too aggressive? If so, stick with the base game. Do you want something that’s a bit more on the strategic side with an economy and construction and things to weigh? Well, that’s Queendomino, so go for that. But if you want something that’s not quite either of those things, something that’s a bit smaller and more focused than Queendomino but gives you a taste of some of that strategic complexity that Kingdomino deftly avoids, well, Kingdomino: Age of Giants manages to thread that needle. The nice thing is that whatever your preference may be, there seems to be a *domino game for you.