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KINGDOMINO from BLUE ORANGE is a 2-4 player game from the critically acclaimed designer Bruno Cathala. It is augmented with excellent artistry from the pena nd brush of Cyril Bouquet.
The game has been very well imagined and produced with a rules booklet that has rules for every country: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and Russian; the 28 pages using just three pages each for text, illustrations and examples, with a player aid for card type and numbers on the back page. The box has a plastic insert that has been specifically designed to hold the components securely and safely and those actual components, being mainly double-sized landscape tiles, are made of heavy and durable card stock. 

The game mechanic is so easy and yet so wonderfully clever and thoughtful. Based on Dominoes, okay extremely loosely based on Dominoes, each tile has two sides, each showing one (occasionally both sides are similar) of the different terrain types: Wheat, complete with a Windmill on some tiles, Blue Water, Forest, Mines, Grassland and Stoney Wasteland. Similar to Dominoes, but more like Carcassonne, they have to be placed so that at least one edge matches the side it is placed against.  

Each player has their own colour Identification figure and a Start Tile which is a plain green tile with four exit paths. On this Start Tile they place their mighty castle, a 4-piece card construction. The Start Tile's sides accept any type of terrain abutted to them though during count-up for scoring the Stat Tile counts for nil.

The idea of the game is to build up a 5 x 5 square of tiles around your home or Start tile by placing the tiles so that, as mentioned, at least one side of the tile butts up against a similar type terrain (Grass to Grass, Water to Water etc.). Some of the cards contain one or more small Golden Crowns on one side, these are essential for scoring as you need at least one of these for each series of adjacent terrain to score them. No Golden Crowns No points!

The game mechanic for obtaining the tiles is simple and neat. Depending on the number of players tiles are removed from the shuffled face down mass and returned to the box unused and mainly unseen - you can always see the numbers on the backs of the some of the tiles and no doubt the card-counter players will soon have memorised what terrain sides can be found on the flip side of each of the 48 terrain tiles.  

Stack the remaining tiles facing away from the players landscape orientation in the box, numbers facing the players. Decide on a start player and then draw one tile for each person playing and lay them face up, side by side on the table in a row. The first player then decides which tile they want and places their wooden piece on it. The next player clockwise then chooses a tile and so on until all players have chosen a tile. Now draw the same number of tiles from the box and place them face up in front of the first row, forming a secondary row. The player who has chosen the designated first tile, this is usually the tile farthest to the left, but is always one of the end tiles, then selects one of the newly placed tiles and places his wooden piece on it, claiming it but not taking it. Instead they take the tile their piece has just left and position it adjacent to their personal Start Tile. Once all players, probably no longer in clockwise order but definitely in order of the tiles as they are chosen, have taken one tile the process begins again.

This way players always take one tile only each round and select their tile for the next round. Before taking a second, third or any other tile, the previous tile selected has to be placed in their own Kingdom and always adjacent to at least one same side and never deviating from the 5x5 grid. It may, and does often, occur that the tile you are forced to take (generally because you have the last choice but sometimes because of the randomness of the draw) doen't fit your scheme in any way, shape or form. In this case the tile is removed from play and your 5x5 will have a gaping hole in it. It is not unusual to have Kingdoms with 2 or 3 such holes.

The game ends when the last tile is placed or discarded - you cannot discard a tile if you can legally lay it but there is generally not any advantage in discarding tiles even if they aren't going to score.

The scoring is easy to. You count each area of adjacent same tiles and multiply it by the number of Golden Crowns that are within its borders. So for example, four Yellow Wheat fields adjacent to each other with NO Golden Crowns on any of them will score ZERO, whilst four Yellow Wheat fields adjacent to each other with 2 Golden Crowns on any of them will score EIGHT points. Count up all your areas, yes a single terrain piece with Crowns on it does score, and add up all your points; the player with the most points is the winner.

Experience has taught us one thing, and that is the Mines are always worth having even though there are less of them and especially if you can get more than one of them adjacent to each other. This because they have only one tile with no Golden Crown whereas the other terrain types have large multiples without said Crowns. One 3 Crown Mine next to a 2 Crown Mine is worth 10 points (3+2 x 2) whereas you would need 10 Yellow Wheat fields, one of which having a Crown, to equal that. The strength of the Mines doesn't spoil it though, in fact they actually make it more fun because you are often forced to make a frustrating decision about which tile to claim next.

Remember that going first allows you first claim on the next tile but you have to be very lucky to have the exact tiles you need continually appearing in the first slot of the row. Brilliantly deceptive, this is a game you can play over and obver without getting tired of it or playing the same game twice. There is a bonus for building with your Start tile exactly central in your 5x5 grid but it is not that huge an advantage if the tiles fall so that you can build well with it to one corner or side.

Excellent game and if you look round the internet shops you can pick it up for an excellent price; Thirsty Meeples Cafe for example have it at just £12.50 and I've played games that cost 2 and 3 tiles the price that aren't as good.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2021