Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2016) designed by Bruno Cathala was the 2017 Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) winner. The game has also been a winner in the RockyMountainNavy house. We love this simple domino-like tile-laying game, so much so we also invested in Queendomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017). Of the two, we tend to prefer playing Queendomino as it is more a “gamer’s game” whereas we use Kingdomino as a gateway or filler game. This summer when Mrs. RMN and the Boys visited family in Korea they took an extra copy of Kingdomino to play and leave with the niece. It was very popular. So when I saw an expansion coming on sale I was interested.
In Kingdomino Expansion Age of Giants the major change is the addition of Giant meeples. Thematically, certain tiles bring the Giants to your kingdom, and others chase them away into another player’s kingdom. Mechanically, Giants cover up scoring crowns and take away VP. The expansion also features a neat Domino Dispenser (tower) that makes dealing the tiles that much easier. With the additional tiles a fifth player can also be added.
I really liked the Giant meeple idea so that alone was enough to sell me on the game. To be honest, as much as we like Kingdomino it was dropping in popularity in part because the RMN Boys and myself had “solved” the game. We had reached the point that every game we play ends up with the scoring bonus for Middle Kingdom (bonus points for having your Castle centered in your grid) and Harmony (complete grid with no gaps). It is the very rare occasion that we don’t get the full 15 point bonus. The Giant meeple mechanic looked to be a great way to reinvigorate the game.
In looking at the publisher’s blurb for Kingdomino Expansion Age of Giants I totally glossed over this part:
End of game bonuses are eliminated, instead, before the start of each game, players must draw 2 challenge tiles. These provide additional ways to get points. For example, get 5 bonus points for each lake tile that surrounds your castle, and get 20 bonus points if your castle is located in one of the 4 corners of your kingdom.
This, my friends, it the true hidden gem of Age of Giants and the real reason Kingdomino will be back on the table with a vengeance. The game includes 17 Challenge Tiles, each with a different bonus scoring condition. Middle Kingdom and Harmony are just two of the possible bonus scoring means; there are 15 others.
Upon getting Age of Giants we immediately played several games. In our first game we all fell back on our “solved” approach – and failed to actually score many points. Midway through my second game I realized I had to “unlearn” what I “know” about Kingdomino and state with a new strategy to fit the scoring bonus. Rather than playing Kingdomino by reflex, I really had to think!
Bottom Line: The Challenge Tiles make Kingdomino really fun again.
Designer Bruno Cathala deserves great respect for what he has done with the Kingdomino line. From the “basic” Kingdomino to the “gamer’s” Queendomino to the renewed challenges in Kingdomino Expansion Age of Giants, a game for every skill level of gamer is present. This entire series of games are deservedly core members of the RMN gaming collection.
Featured image courtesy Blue Orange Games.