Kingdomino: A Prince among games

I was sitting around a table b********g about games with gamers instead of gaming, and one of them said that he wished he loved anything like I love Kingdomino. Someone pointed out that he was sitting next to his girlfriend, and she replied that she wished she loved anything like I love Kingdomino, too. I don’t know that I can explain that, but I will try.

Setup/Teach/PlaytimeEase of TeachAgeProductionToyness
Theme ImmersionPlayer CountPortabilityMechanicUniqueness
12-?2Draft, Tile Laying4

I’ve heard it called painfully, joylessly, simple: you draft domino style two-sided tiles into a tableau you’re building around a twee little three dimensional castle, and score points based on the contiguous areas you build. The drafting mechanic is clever, with tiles laid out in order of their value and turn order determined by the tile you take on the previous turn. So if you take the most valuable tile in one round, you’ll be going last the next round. There are crowns on the tile that act as a multiplier, giving you points based on the number of crowns in a territory multiplied by its number of tiles. That’s pretty much the game.

So simple, but I find it elegant, and deep. This is especially true as you increase the size of your tableau, as the simple task of assembling a grid out of rectangles begins to break your brain. I’ve tracked more plays of it than any other game I’ve played. The takaway: this is a game I can teach and play and set up and tear down in 15-20 minutes, and play with my friends who don’t usually game. Kingdomino won the scpeil de yaris, which means something, including KD being too light for “gamers” to consider. I find it very impressive that I have trouble getting KD out at game nights, but not on a kitchen table.

So I get to play it with my best friend, who I’ve successfully taught two other games in four years. It’s easy to play, in the best and most comprehensive sense. And I’m still engaged, although I leave game night pissed if I haven’t played a ninety minute euro. I do now prefer, after a warm-up, to play 7×7, which is a suggested two player variant on the base game, in which you create a 5×5 grid. This is the favored play style of the games’ designer, Reiner Kinitzia, and mine, although I also like to go bigger.

Eleven by Eleven

A 7×7 grid with two players is the most you can get out of the base game- if you only have one copy. I’ve played an 11×11 two player game of Kingdomino, and a 7×7 seven person game, the latter being my grandest accomplishment of GenCon 2018.

Technically it was a mixed game, containing both Kingdomino tiles and Queendomino tiles. Queendomino is a gamified, slightly more complicated variant, and adding one set of it to two sets of Kigdomino tiles let me run the game. Also made it wildly unbalanced. And incredibly fun, although you never know how much fun is really sleep deprivation when you don’t wrap a game until six in the morning. We were the only gamers left in the football stadium they open up for the con. A security gaurd came over just to ask what was keeping us going. The team I demo with has already, (CGE imps!),  asked for a repeat this year.

So Kingdomino’s simplicity means that you can play it with almost anyone, and expand it redonkulously.  I’ve played it more than any other hobby game, and I still enjoy it. It’s cute, it’s portable, it’s cheap, (until you start compulsively buying more and more copies). In the debate between playing for the game and playing for the people, I tend to fall on the people side, and Kingdomino helps me remember that. In fact, I’m going to go try to find some copies I can trade for.


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