Tag Archives: Kingdom Builder

8th March 2016

While Burgundy finished his ham, egg ‘n’ chips, the rest of us continued our political discussions from two weeks ago.  This time we discussed the length and timing of the school day, the inevitability of double-parent working households, the cost of childcare and whether or not parents should be paid to stay at home and look after their little ones.  We were expecting Black and Purple, but eventually, someone suggested playing a quick game, to which Blue commented that you could guarantee that they would arrive just as we finished setting up.  A brief debate about what to play followed before we settled on one of our old favourites, Walk the Plank!, a simple pirate themed “programming” game where players try to push each other along a plank and off the ship.

Walk thePlank!
– Image by boardGOATS

Since everyone had played Colt Express fairly recently, the rules were quick to reprise:  everyone simultaneously chooses three cards and the order in which they are going to play them, placing them face-down; starting with the first player, players then take it in turns to play one card until everyone has played all three.  With lots of aggressive options the game is always quick and fun, and the last pirate standing is the winner.  We had just finished the summary when Black and Purple arrived, but since it is only a short game we carried on.  Blue started the game by immediately shortening the plank and before long there was no plank left (a situation we allow through a “house rule”).  When Green Green played a “Drag to Sea) with only one pirate left which was perched precariously on the edge of the boat, it was inevitable that he would take Blue’s only pirate with him for company, leaving everyone else with two pirates each.

Walk the Plank!
– Image by boardGOATS

It didn’t last, however, and before long Magenta’s last pirate received the Big E from Burgundy and joined the others watching the goings on from Davy Jones’ Locker.  With all the carnage in the first round (eleven pirates down in just fifteen cards), there were just two players left with two pirates each all on the ship.  Although the rules say the last two players share the victory this seems strangely friendly end for an otherwise savage little game, so we always play to the death. The second round began a little cagily with both players extending the plank, but then Burgundy was paid out for his treachery to Magenta when, in a moment of stupidity, one of his two remaining pirates dragged his pal off the end of the plank, leaving Pine the clear victor with two pirates still standing.  It was an exceptionally short game thanks to the early vindictiveness, but in truth, it is a much more fun game when it is played that way.

Mijnlieff
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor thepackrat

Despite the compressed nature of Walk the Plank!, Black and Purple still managed to squeeze in a little two-player abstract game called Mijnlieff (pronounced “Mine-Leaf”).  This is a beautiful little game made out of wood and designed by the designer of Dodekka, Andy Hopwood (Hopwood Games).  Black described the game as “fancy Noughts and Crosses” since the aim of the game is to form lines of three, but since there are different types of pieces and your opponent controlling where you can play it is much more strategic.  The game is played by placing wooden tiles on a four by four board.  Each Player has eight pieces with two each of four different symbols where the different pieces dictate where the other player can put their next piece.  For example, when a Greek cross (or “+” symbol) is played, the next player must place his piece on an empty square in an orthogonal line from the piece just played.  Similarly, playing a saltire (or “×” symbol) forces the next player to place his piece in a diagonal line from the piece just played.

Mijnlieff
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor thepackrat

Game play is really quick, so much so that despite Walk the Plank! finishing in record time, with Purple taking it by three points to Black’s two.  With everyone finished, we had a quick show of hands as to who would like to play the “Feature Game”, Kingdom Builder.  When seven hands went up, Green asked who was very keen to play it and nobody looked interested.  The most enthusiastic was Burgundy who had played it before, so Magenta swapped seats with Green to make a foursome with Blue and Pine.  On the face of it, Kingdom Builder is also a simple game, played by placing small wooden huts (Settlements) on a board made up of different terrains laid out using a fine hexagonal grid.

Kingdom Builder
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari

At the start of the game, each player is dealt a terrain card and on their turn, they have to place three settlements on that terrain type.  As far as possible, the Settlements must be adjacent.  At the end of their turn, the player discards their card and draws a replacement.  Play proceeds in clockwise order until one player has run out of Settlements, then the round is completed and scores are tallied up.  While these are the basic rules, there are also specific rules that change for each game, and since the board is made up of four modules chosen at random from a set of eight, the number of possible layouts is vast. Each module board also has three special hexes on it: two with a gold scroll-work border (Locations) and one with a silver scroll-work border (Castles).  The Castles give points for players with an adjacent building at the end of the game while the Locations give an in-game benefit.

Kingdom Builder
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor SpaceTrucker

At the start of the game, each Location has two hexagonal chits on it which are taken by the first two players to build next to it.  These chits give players extra actions that they can take on their turn, but the nature of the Location and corresponding action is dependent on the boards chosen.  In this game we had the Tower, the Tavern, the Barn and the Paddock.  These allowed players to add an extra Settlement along the edge of the board; add an extra Settlement to where a player had a row of three or more Settlements; move an existing Settlement to a space matching the active player’s current terrain tile, and move one Settlement two spaces in a line from its current position (i.e. jump).

Kingdom Builder
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Points are awarded at the end based on the rules cards and a subset of three are drawn from a total of ten at the start of the game.  For this game, we draw the Knights, Discoverers and Citizens cards which gave two points for each settlement a player built in the horizontal row where they had the most Settlements; one point for each horizontal row in which they had at least one settlement, and one point for every two Settlements in each player’s largest settlement area.  Thus, to score one well, you needed a horizontal line, a vertical line and a clump, all with a limited number of huts.  To make the problem even more challenging the board layout had a large mountain range across the middle with a couple of awkwardly positioned rivers.  We all blamed Burgundy for his awful “choice” of boards and layout…

Kingdom Builder
– Image by BGG contributor pphh

Although the rules are prima facie quite simple we got into a bit of a tangle with the modifications caused by the Locations.  Blue kept forgetting that the Tower and the Barn were subject to adjacency restrictions and Pine struggled to see the point of the Barn at all.  Blue made an appalling start, while Burgundy’s best laid plans were stymied first by Blue and then by Magenta.  Meanwhile, Pine had got two groups of Settlements and was trying to build a vertical ribbon development to connect the two.  As Burgundy’s supply of Settlements dwindled faster than anyone else’s, Pine desperately needed to draw a desert terrain card, but kept drawing woodland cards which were nearly useless for him.  In the final round everyone tried to make the best of their limited number of remaining Settlements before totalling up the scores.  It was very, very close, but Blue finished with a round fifty, just two points ahead of Magenta, with Pine and Burgundy both within two points of her.

Kingdom Builder
– Image by boardGOATS

Kingdom Builder isn’t a long game, so Black, Green and Purple decided to opt for something short and light so settled on another old favourite, Splendor.  This is a fairly simple card game with a very loose gem merchant theme.  On their turn, a player can either collect chips (gems), or use chips to buy gem cards.  Most of the gem cards are effectively just a permanent source of chips, i.e. can be used to buy other cards, but the higher value ones also provide victory points.  Nobles can also give players points and these are claimed by the first player to collect certain combinations of gem cards (e.g. three each of onyx, sapphire and diamond).  The game finishes at the end of the round when one player gets to fifteen points, and the winner is the person with the most points.

Splendor
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Three of the four randomly selected Noble cards required a set of three green emerald cards as part of their requirements, with differing selections of the other colours; white diamonds, red rubies, blue sapphires and black onyx. The fourth Noble required four cards of each white diamonds and black obsidian.  With the first card selections it was clear that both Black and Green had studied the distribution of cards required to win Nobles tiles and were fighting hard to get the green emeralds that were available. Unfortunately, the number available was quite small, but nothing compared to the scarcity of rubies. The first of these was nabbed by Purple and Green, who failed to get the second was left unable to get the remaining one which was an expensive, high scoring, level three card.  Early on Black marked his intentions by reserving a level three (taking the bonus “wild” gold chip).  Meanwhile Purple was busy building a large supply of diamonds while Green concentrated on the low level emeralds and sapphires. With half a dozen cards each, scores were low and close, but quick glance across to Kingdom Builder showed they were still going through the rules…

Splendor
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Black reserved another high value card, Purple had managed a large haul of diamonds, both cards and chips and green had got his three green emeralds, now joined with three sapphires. Rubies still refused to come up with any kind of regularity which meant that players priorities usually changed quickly when one did come up.  Green was the first to obtain a noble when he got his third diamond card.  He did this with mostly non-scoring cards and so this only put his score on a par with the others.  The game entered a new tenser phase when Green quickly picked up his second noble after taking a third ruby card, though even he couldn’t quite believe he had managed to get three of them.  Black finally paid up for one of his put away cards and now the points were close to the end.

Splendor
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Black was just two points from getting the fifteen needed to trigger the end-game, and a study of the available cards showed Green that Black could get it with a diamond card on his next turn. Green persuaded Purple that she needed to take the diamond card using her gold chip (she couldn’t afford it otherwise) as she would not get another go if she didn’t and could not afford the high value one she was saving for anyhow.  Luckily the replacement card was not one which Black could afford so he had to take chips instead pushing the game into another round.  Green grabbed a high value level three card taking the bonus gold chip (giving him all he needed to buy it on his next turn) and Purple bought her high value card. Black bought his last reserved card, which put him on sixteen points giving Green one last turn. With a flourish he paid for his reserved card card which gave him three points and claimed the final noble for another three, giving him a winning total of seventeen points.  It was a few moments, before Green noticed and the others didn’t spot it at all, but Green’s last card was not a black onyx, but a fourth ruby – he had not got the noble after all.  Perhaps it was a touch of colour blindness from the excitement of the end-game, but Black was the winner after all with Green and Purple finishing in joint second.

Splendor
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Kingdom Builder should only take thirty to forty minutes, but for some reason it took nearly twice that, so Green, Black and Purple moved on to play Tobago, a really pretty game in which the players possess different parts of treasure maps and try to use narrow down the possible locations faster than everyone else in order get to the treasure first.  The idea is that on their turn, players can either can either play a card on one of the four Treasure Maps or move their little 4×4 truck up to three “legs” (a leg being anywhere within the current terrain, or a move from one terrain to another).  Playing a card narrows down the number of possible places that the Treasure could be, for example, “in the jungle”, “not next to a hut” or “in sight of a statue” etc..  Each clue card placed must narrow down the possible locations by at least one hex, cannot contradict a previous Clue, and cannot eliminate all possible locations for the Treasure.  Eventually there will only be one possible location, after which, the first player to get there retrieves the Treasure.

Tobago
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Lord Warlock

When a Treasure is retrieved, everyone who helped narrow down the treasure location by playing a card gets a share proportional to the amount of effort they put in.  Initially, each player gets a Treasure card for each clue card they contributed.  They look at the card(s) secretly before they are shuffled together with one drawn blindly from the deck. A card is then drawn at random and, starting with the player who found the Treasure, it is offered to each player in turn until someone takes it.  The order corresponds to the order they made their contribution, so some players may have made multiple contributions and therefore may get multiple chances to take a Treasure card.  Once a player has taken a treasure, that contribution is considered fulfilled.  The Treasure varies in value, but there are also two “Cursed Treasure” cards (also known as “Baad Treasure”).  If one of these is turned over, the remaining Treasure cards are not distributed and anyone left in loses an amulet (if they have no Amulet, they lose their most valuable Treasure card instead).  The appearance of Amulets is triggered every time a Treasure has been found and they can be collected by players moving their 4×4.  The player with the most Treasure at the end of the game wins.

Tobago
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

Green’s strategy was to contribute as many Clues as possible, Black went for a drive to dig up treasure and Purple complained of having a terrible set of clue cards (to be fair she had a lot of “not in …” cards, which did prove difficult to place on the “in play” Treasure maps, but for some reason she was reluctant to start a new one). It was a slow start, but after the first treasure had been found and the Amulets started to appear we got into our stride a little more.  About half way through the game, Green checked the rules on what to do with the discarded Clue cards and instead found a small rule which stated that the one who takes the last Treasure card immediately places the first Clue on the now empty treasure “map”. We felt that this might have speeded the game up a little and implemented the rule.

Tobago
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Lord Warlock

Green and Purple were the first casualties of the “Baad Treasure”. They both had Amulets, but annoyingly a six point and a five point treasure were both lost.  The second time round we were all affected and everyone lost an Amulet, but the lost cards were not high value so it felt less of a loss somehow.  With only three treasure cards left in the deck (game ends when they are exhausted) placing Clues was quite tricky. Only one of the treasures would be found, and placing your clues on the others would result in nothing, but which one would be “found” first?  In the end it was a treasure only Green and Purple benefited from.  In the final scoring, Purple came out the richest finishing with thirty-eight, and Black came in second just four behind. So for all her complaining about her hand, she had made it work to her advantage. It also looked like Green’s strategy to spread clues thinly across all Treasure maps and let others do the actual finding, had failed as it made him almost certain to lose out when the “Baad Treasures” came up.

Tobago
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor jayboy

By the time Kingdom Builder finally finished, Tobago was well under way, with no sign of finishing soon.  Magenta took an early night, so while Pine was at the bar, Burgundy and Blue discussed the options.  Given the time available, it was a toss-up between two games that Burgundy said he couldn’t get the hang of: Isle of Skye and Blueprints. Blue gave him the choice and in the end, he chose the latter as we’d not played it for a while.  This is a clever little building game where players are architects who must use different coloured dice (representing different materials) to build different structures from their blueprints.  The idea is that on their turn, each player chooses a die from the central pool and adds it to their building.  Each die must have the same value or higher than any it is placed on top of.  At the end of their turn, they roll a replacement from a bag, thus replenishing the dice supply.  Once each player has placed six dice, their building is evaluate depending on the colour of the dice they used, how many they are and their position etc.  For example, black dice score more if they are placed high up, whereas orange dice score more if they are surrounded by lots of other dice.

Blueprints
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

The person with the best building wins the round winning the Gold Award which is worth three points at the end of the game.  Points are also available for Silver and (depending on the number of players) Bronze.  There are also Special Awards (which are worth two points at the end) which go to players who fulfil other specific criteria, such using five dice out of the six in the same colour or having a building with a height of five or more.  In the first round, Burgundy demonstrated exactly how he couldn’t get the hang of the game, but failing to make the Special Award he was trying for and also not scoring highly enough to take either the Gold or Silver awards.  The second round was notable for the number of black fours that were rolled, and how, despite that, Pine somehow managed to take the Special Award for using four dice with the same number, but with fives while Blue failed to do the same with fours.  Going into the last round, both Burgundy and Pine tried to collect green dice, leaving Blue the pick of the rest, her third Gold Award, second Special Award and a clear win with thirteen points.

Blueprints
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor dotKeller

With the evening coming to a close, there was just time for a quick filler.  Black commented that there was always “the old favourite” and since Pine claimed he’d not actually played it (though the logbook proved he had), there was no opposition to a quick closing game of 6 Nimmt!.  We reminded Pine of the rules:  players simultaneously choose a card, then simultaneously reveal them before playing them in ascending order placing each on on the highest card that is lower than the card being played.  When the sixth card is added to a row, the first five are taken and the number of heads contributes to the player’s score, lowest score wins.  The thing that makes the game so compelling is that any grip is incredibly tenuous and once it begins to go wrong it tends to escalate horribly.  In the first round, Green seemed to pick up everything and in the second it was Burgundy’s turn.  Black and Pine had two mediocre rounds and Purple made the only clean sweep.  It was Blue who got lucky this time though with two very good rounds totaling just two and four, so she took the game with a combined total of six, slightly ahead of Purple with twelve.

6 Nimmt
– Image by boardGOATS

We tend to play a variant over two rounds with half the deck in each round and not resetting the table in between.  This led to a bit of discussion as to why things tend to cascade.  The problem is that there are always some rows that get blocked off as they pick up a couple of high scoring cards as well as a finishing with a high face value card.  This means the chance of a player being forced to add something to (and take the row) is small, and nobody will take it voluntarily as the hit is too great.  In our game, three rows got blocked off early on in the first round which meant we spent nearly the whole game playing cards on one row.  The problem is that once a player has used, say, a low card that card is no-longer available, so the player is likely to be in the same position next time  too.  In the case of a six player game, things are exacerbated because it is the sixth card that triggers the pick up.  Thus, in our game, the first first player would take the singleton, leaving the next four players to add to the row and the player with the highest card to take the row and no better off for next time.  That doesn’t really detract from the fun though and it is still wonderfully stressful in a good way, so justifiably one of our favourite fillers.

6 Nimmt
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcomes:  Sometimes some games just take much longer than expected.