This series focuses on a small part of a game we love
Last week I played Kingdomino for the first time, and the second, and the third… I’d been itching to play after hearing a lot of hype on the various gaming groups I follow. It also won the Spiel des Jahres (http://www.spiel-des-jahres.com/en/faq) this year, which is a decent guarantee that you’re dealing with a pretty well-polished game, albeit one that’s aimed at families rather than trendy city-dwelling Millenials like me.
Word on the scene was Kingdomino is a colourful, rapid tile-matching game that people just can’t get enough of!
The description above sounds simple because the game is simple! If you were to watch people playing this game, it would appear as though there wasn’t a great deal going on. If this was a review then the overall tone would be positive but the phrase “Not enough meat on the bone” would be repeated several times, along with other equally irritating cliches and bad puns.
However, this isn’t a review. This is about the one mechanic in the game that single-handedly lifts it from a Good Game to a Great Game. The Tile Selection.
When the Tiles are drawn they are arranged in front of all players and the players take it in turns to choose a tile by placing their meeple on the tile they want. In the next round, another set of tiles are laid out and the process is repeated.
Here’s the trick, the tiles are numbered on the reverse, and are laid out in numerical order with the lowest number at the top. The higher the number on the tile, the better the tile is, so the better tiles will end up lower in the order when placed. When choosing from the next set of tiles, the player with their meeple on the lowest numbered, and therefore worse tile from the previous round gets to choose their tile first in this round.
These simple rules elegantly accomplish so many things at once. It prevents the game becoming a simple question of ‘Which tile is best for my tableau?’ and then just taking that one. You might end up choosing to take a slightly worse tile now for potentially greater gains from being higher in the pecking order next turn.
Even when you get stiffed over by everyone and forced to take the worst tile at the top, you’re getting the benefit of going first next turn. Which makes it feel a lot less like you’ve just been screwed.
It also manages to add an extra layer of planning. Which happens when you move your meeple from the tile you picked last round to the tile you picked this round. Doung so prompts you to add the tile you picked last round to the tableau in front of you, but you do so already knowing what tile you’ve picked for the next round . This means you know what you’re next tile is going to be as you place This mechanic encourages a lot more predictive strategy and forethought than might otherwise be present had it just been a ‘turn by turn’ game.
So, that’s my elevating mechanic from Kingdomino. The layers added through the deep tile selection system are entirely the reason it isn’t just a simple game and almost certainly the reason it’s able to adorn its it cover with multiple, well-deserved accolades.