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The King is Dead! Long Live the Queen!

QUEEN Domino from Bruno Cathala with art by Cyril Bouquet arrives on the royal Blue Orange scene and blows the King(Domino) out of the water.

  

We really enjoyed KINGDOMINO and so because of our many years experience (including disappointments) we were expecting to be a little less enthusiastic about QUEENDOMINO as quite often a game built on the success of its predessor doesn't quite reach the standards previously set, but every so often the interloper usurps the crown. This 2-4 player game has all the options, frustrations and entertainment value of KINGDOMINO and then some. This is not just the same game with knobs on; QUEENDOMINO is a similar style game with gold fittings.

The selection of Dominoes to play into your field (5x5 Domino halves with 3-4 players or 7x7 for 2 players) has a great mechanic. A starting player and then player order is selected by having one person hold all the King pieces (in a 2-player game this means they hold 4 Kings (2 of each colour) and then randomly drops one at a time from their hand. The order they drop is the turn order for the first turn. In that order players take turns selecting on of the face up Domino tiles which have been taken from the previously mixed, face down Dominoes, and positioned in numerical order in a column. Once these tiles have been chosen another set of tiles is drawn from the specially designed box insert and placed face up, again numerically in descending order, next to them. Player order is now taken from the Kings on the tiles, nearest the board (lowest number) going first and so on. As you can see the next selection of tiles going first gives you the best choice, but it is unlikely, except possibly in a 2-player game*, that you are going to keep choosing the top tile.

 

*In a 2-player game you each have 2 Kings and 4 tiles to choose from so ensuring you go first each time is possible without screwing yourself up if you are careful. However it is quite possible that by continually picking the top tile you will miss out on the red building construction tiles onto which you can buy purchased buildings that give you advantages during the scoring. Also you will probably not get as many Crowns on your tiles and it is these that ensure your Dominoes score.

Trying to build a 5x5 or 7x7 grid without leaving any gaps can be truly frustrating but the only penalty you suffer by not completing the grid is not having a tile or tiles to score for you at the end of the game. Speaking of the endgame this is when those Building Tiles you bought earlier can be extremely useful, or, if you have not themed your fields to match your purchases, they can be worthless. The more Crowns you have in a territory the more you score; for example a five territory with no Crowns scores zero VPs whereas a single tile territory with 3 Crowns on it scores 3 VPs. Point to remember about buildings that score per territory is that a territory with 5 tiles (by tiles I mean half-a-Domino) is just one territory and so if you are scoring per territory note that 5 single tiles separated from each other is 5 territories. There are good reasons for creating large single territories and there are good reasons for creating separate territories, these are just two of their options.

 

Naturally you are confined by the tiles drawn and your position in the turn order but even if you are often left with the last choice you can often still make the best of a 'bad' lot. Another point to remember is that your Castle tile (each player has a Start tile in their own colour and a 3D castle on it so you can always see the centre of your grid) is neutral, thus the rule of placing at least one end of a Domino against another edge or end of a Domino with identical type of terrain doesn't count for tiles attached to the castle tile.

QUEENDOMINO is for 2-4 players and having played with 2, 3 and 4 players we have come to a couple of conclusions. To begin with it is a game that actually does play as well, if not better, as a 2-player game. Then we have noticed that the scoring in a 2-player game is generally much closer a points spread than in a 3 player or especially a 4 player game.

 
QUEENDOMINO has a 'Queen' and a 'Dragon' (I guess 'Dragononimo' was a bit hard to say, besides it sounds naff) but what do they do?
You gain the Queen by having the most Towers on your grid. You get Towers from Buildings. Towers are worth 1VP each at the end of the game.
The Dragon has a nice comfortable, though foreboding looking, cavern at one end of the Building track. Once per turn one player only may burn down a Building tile from the board and replace it with the dragon (who presumably was the cause of the fire in the first place).
Knights can be sent from your supply to collect taxes - one coin per tile in the territory you place him/them (you can send 1 or 2 knights if you have them). Knights are gained from Buildings. When buying a Building take note of what is shown on the grey side as it may contain something of immediate use such as a Tower or a Knight - I really like that you can use these as soon as you collect them - the Towers are positioned in your Kingdom, the Knight can go to your supply or sent to collect taxes. The flip side of the Building Tiles are red and can only be played onto red (building sites) tiles - if you don't have a construction/building site you cannot buy a Building, there is no buying for spite of an opponent, but there is a way to screw opponents from getting a good building tile, it's called the Dragon.
Many of the actions are Mandatory but several are Optional.

 

There are some mechanics most euro games players will recongise and be comfortable with, such as the central board from which Buildings are bought. Six tiles are placed face down (grey side up) in the spaces on the grey board next to their costs, 0, 1, 2 , 3 , 4 and 5. After a full round when every player has had their turn the Building Tiles are slid down to fill the spaces of any tiles that have been bought, but if the zero cost tile wasn't taken it remains there, it is not sent back to the box or the supply. After tiles still on the board have become less expensive any remaining spaces are filled from the stack of Building Tiles. Money is scarce, but not too frugal, at the beginning of the game, but getting more depends on you building for the best in your fields, a badly designed grid will not give a good result in either VPs or Cash. Because 3 cash = 1 VP you should think extra carefully around the last few of the 12 Turns the game is played in. Take your time and work out whether it is worth spending cash on a Building or holding onto your money.

Sometimes it is pretty easy and quick to make the decision on which Domino tile to select and where to place it - if you cannot place it in your grid it is lost out of the game - but other times you may have more than one option, especially when you are the first player in a Turn. We have found that the time taken to deliberate has always pushed us considerably past the expected 25 minutes playing time.

Recap:
Played like actual Dominoes, each player places one Domino in their grid per Turn (2 in a 2-player game) and ensuring to match one end of a Domino tile to a previously played end of another Domino tile, or to the central Castle tile. Keeping within the grid is fun and takes planning, the 7x7 grid seems like it should be easier to fill, but it isn't.
Turn Order is decided by each King's position on the face up Domino tile column.
Each Domino is made of 2 tiles, sometimes the same, sometimes different, but each Domino is still 2 tiles.
Territories can be of one tile or many tiles, remember this if you are building them with Crowns (multiply the number tiles in a territory by the number of Crowns to get its value) and/or if you are basing your scoring on Building Tiles that give 2 VPs per territory of a specific colour (one territory of one tile has the same value as one territory of many tiles).
Men (aka Knights) can be used to collect taxes.
Having the Most Towers gives you the Queen but someone equaling or beating the number of Castles you have takes her from you - she's worth VPs.
Your 'grid' is known as your Kingdom. (not Queendom because your main playing piece is your King).

Grids and tile laying are not a new concept to board games, especially to euro-games, but both KINGDOMINO and QUEENDOMINO have proved that tile laying games are not passeé. These great games (I am assuming the expansion is as good as the two box set games) can be found online and in your local game store at very reasonable prices: KINGDOMINO around £14.00, QUEENDOMINO around £20.00, and Age of Giants surprisingly around £16.00 (£2.00 more than the cost of the actual game of KINGDOMINO).

 

Having only recently discovered there is the expansion for KINGDOMINO (Age of Giants) I have also found out that if all three boxes are positioned next to each other they make one continual scene; not a totally new idea (I once had the entire James Bond VHS collection that when all cases were stood up on a bookcase they formed a continual action sequence) but still very neat and a nice way of jogging games collectors into wanting and acquiring all three.

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015