Four mighty rulers compete to create the most wonderful dominion of them all. They stand proud at the top of their keep and survey the blank canvas of their lands below them. They want to create beautiful lakes full of fish to cater for many fishermen, large forests with mighty trees that will keep their many woodcutters supplied all year round, expansive meadows full of content sheep and happy farmers, giant fields bursting with healthy grain that hard-working millers will turn into flour in their many mills, expansive mines which overflow with precious ore and make the people rich and some wonderful swamp that… well… does something amazing too. Whoever creates the most productive realm will become the Kingdomino by Coiledspring Games.
Yes, it looks cute and is clearly aimed at the whole family – young and… well, ostly young. Bright colours, cartoon illustrations, very thick cardboard tiles that could almost withstand the chewing of a teething baby without a dent, a little 3D castle made out of four cardboard pieces stuck together and a rulebook that is desperately trying to look bigger than it needs to be, given that the game really only needs two rules.
At the time of writing, the complexity rating for this game on Board Game Geek was 1.21 out of 5. All you do in Kingdomino is place rectangular tiles in a Domino fashion, so that the touching ends of two dominos have the same land type on them. Easy. I mean, this is clearly a game for kids and cannot be taken seriously – or so it wants you to believe. Don’t be fooled though. First of all, you don’t just take the dominos from a stack. You have to choose which of the available tiles you want to place on your next turn, which is fine – but the problem comes when you consider that you leave the other tiles for your opponents. Sure, there might be a great tile that fits perfectly into your kingdom, but the tiles you leave will give another player an even bigger lead. So you have to make sure that you don’t just take the best domino for yourself, but take the one that would give an opponent the biggest advantage. Hate drafting comes to mind.
Of course, it’s up to you how you play and it will depend on who you’re playing with. It’s just something to bear in mind, because even though a game of Kingdomino can be a lot of light fun, it can also turn into a spleen-venting contest with giant fans set to hurricane level.
Yet, playing the game purely by hate drafting will not give you a win. After all, if you use the additional rules, you aim to create a perfect 5×5 square realm with your castle bang in the centre, which gives you a juicy 15 points, which is probably a good 30-50% of your total points. You can really only achieve that if you choose tiles that fit your kingdom well, rather than denying others the tiles they need.
In fact, even if you play without the additional rules and aren’t worried about gaining an extra 15 points at the end, you’re going to lose out on point multipliers if you don’t go for crowns that fit your kingdom and instead reserve a tile that will help your opponents. So playing your own little game and making the best realm you can is often the better plan – and it makes for a much more enjoyable experience for everyone.
I have now played the game many times, either just with my wife or my wife and daughter. In fact, our daughter requested we play it again on a few occasions, which is high praise indeed, given she is now a teenager for whom games are no longer anywhere the top 100 of things that interest her. So, no, Kingdomino isn’t only for children, even though it definitely can be. You can easily play it with an eight-year-old and have a fun time – but you can also play it with your friends, as it offers enough advance planning and thinking to give your brain cells a little workout, without draining you completely.
Kingdomino is definitely a game that we’ll play again and again in the future. It’s so quick to set up, the components are of amazing quality and the game plays in such a short time, that it’s a great filler for any day and any time of day.