In Totem Mode there are resources added to the game of Kingdomino Origins. Grasslands get Mammoths, Lakes have Fish, Jungles hide Mushrooms, and Quarries yield Flint. If a Volcano erupts and throws fire into a territory with a resource, that resource is destroyed. A very interesting game mechanism is that at the end of every turn, the player with the most of each resource gains the Totem for that item. The most Mammoths is worth 3 points, most Fish is 4 points, most Mushrooms 5 points, and most Flint is 6 points. This Totem can pass back and forth every round. At the end of the game, the player holding the Totem gains that many bonus points.
All-in-all the rules for resources in Kingdomino Origins are very simple, but once again that “simple” set of rules adds another layer of challenge into the game. Do I sacrifice a resource for that Fire? Do I try to have the most Flint? This “simple” extra layer is on top of the demand for a centered homeland in a 7×7 territory (normally 5×5 but 7×7 in a two-player game).
Compared to the last time we played Kingdomino Origins, at least this time I completed a perfect 7×7 territory. Last time that was the margin of my loss. This game I thought I was doing well with plenty of Fish and Mushrooms. When the final score was tallied, I was flabbergasted by RMN T’s score…43 points ahead of me! How did he get that many more resources?
Alas, while I had been concentrating on trying to maximize resources, RMN T never lost sight of the basic scoring mechanism in Kingdomino Origins. While I worked to collect the most Fish and Mushrooms, RMN T used very cleverly placed Fires and built a territory with two huge scoring lands at 55 and 49 points each. That focus on the basics, coupled with just enough resource competition, gave him that run away win.
Once again, Kingdomino Origins has shown that the game we are very familiar with can present a new and more challenging version without onerous additional rules. I have the feeling that Kingdomino Origins will become our two-player, go-to Kingdomino title to play. RMN T and myself already agreed that next week we will try gameplay mode 3. Tribe Mode that adds Cave People to play.
Kingdomino, designed by Bruno Cathala and published by Blue Orange Games in 2016 is a RockyMountainNavy family favorite. We use it as a gateway game to introduce others to hobby boardgaming. We have gifted it maybe a dozen times. Over the years we acquired several different versions; Queendomino (2017), Kingdomino, Age of Giants (Expansion, 2018), Dragomino (2020) and Kingdomino Origins (2021). So popular is the game that when RockyMountainNavy Jr. packed for college he took the family copy (not to worry, we have several extra on the gifting shelf).
With RMN Jr. off to college, RockyMountainNavy T and I now face off against each other on Saturday Game Nights. This last week we decided to bring outKingdomino Origins and play a two-player game. We set up the game, and I took a quick glance at the rules for the first of the three gameplay modes in the box—Discovery Mode. There, in the very first lines of the rules, was something that I had totally missed before; “2 player game rules specifications can be found at the end of this booklet.”
Hey…I’ve got this!
Two player Kingdomino is very straightforward. Each player has two Kings and you remove 24 of the 48 tiles before play. When making a domino selection, you can choose any of the remaining tiles. Simple.
As I read, I discovered Kingdomino Origins uses, “Special two player rules – Neolithic.” There are two subtle rules changes that made a big difference in our play:
Use all 48 dominos to make a 7×7 territory (this is called the Mighty Duel variant in Kingdomino)
When choosing tiles at start, the Chief that goes first gets to choose tiles 1 and 3 OR tiles 2 and 4.
We rarely play Kingdomino with two-players (Kahuna by Gunter Cornett from Kosmos in 1998 being the usual 2-player go-to quick boardgame). The few times we played 2-player we usually don’t play the Mighty Duel variant. We also have never seen the alternate starting order as laid out in theKingdomino Origins Neolithic gameplay mode. It was enough of a change to make this play far more challenging.
It has been years (and I mean years) since I have not completed a perfect 5×5 or 7×7 territory (called Homo Hablis in Kingdomino Origins or Harmony in Kingdomino). I picked wrong one round (!) and ended up with an unusable tile, thus missing my perfect 7×7. The five points missed was enough to give RMN T a 2-point win.
Disappointment hasn’t felt this good in a while.
We both haven’t played a brain-burner game of Kingdomino in years. The game is usually more a fun pastime than a serious thinking challenge. Not tonight. We both wracked our brains on a simple 7×7. It was glorious.
Welcome back, Game Night. You’re off to a great start!
It’s no secret I love some “heavier” wargames, and its no secret that the RockyMountainNavy Family has also played some heavier boardgames. That said, both the RMN Boys and myself like some lighter games, especially to use as “fillers” on weeknights. For my birthday the RMN Boys gifted me a copy of Star Wars: Jabba’s Palace – A Love Letter Game (Z-Man Games, 2022). This week, looking for a quick game we could play while we all were home in the evening together for once, it got pulled out. The resulting play was most excellent!
I introduced the RMN Boy to Love Letter way back in 2012 with an English edition blisterpack. At first the RMN Boys were hesitant to play this “love” game, but the easy rules and quick gameplay won them over. A few short years later the youngest RMN Boy took Letters to Santa (2012) to school and it was a big hit at indoor recess. The oldest boy even has a copy of Love Letter: Batman (2015). Yet, while new versions are appreciated, we never stopped playing the original.
Our first play of Star Wars: Jabba’s Palace was a bit of a journey of discovery. The game now comes with four different “agendas”—win conditions.—to choose from. We went with the very straightforward “Exalted One” as it is the most similar to standard Love Letter (high card in hand at end of round wins round). What we hadn’t experienced before was the two factions, in this case Rebels and Scum, and how that changes up the cards and their interactions. Suffice it to say we really, really enjoyed the new twist on play!
With a short window of time to play we changed the winner to the first to three tokens. Sure enough, after six rounds were were tied 2-2-2. By now the RMN Boys were getting the hang of the cards. After eliminating me early (seems my lot in life) the two boys faced off against one another. With Luke Skywalker (Rank 7) already showing on the table, RMN Jr. smugly laid down the Rancor (Rank 6) and read the card: “All players with the lowest number in hand (except 0) are out. Count up out loud from 1 to find the lowest.”
“One”. His grin was so wide at this point it was sickening. RMN T was absolutely stone-faced.
“Five!” Said with a hint of glee…but RMN T never flinched.
“Six?” Some doubt in the voice.
“Seven?” Genuine confusion now.
“Eight.” Again RMN didn’t flinch. Very confused, RMN Jr. lays his card, Jabba (Rank 8), on the table.
RMN T now had a wide smile on his face as he laid his card on the table. Han Solo. Rank…0.
For the first time in the evening Mrs. RMN came to the table to see what had happened. Maybe it was RMN Jr. pushing back from the table and loudly muttering while walking around in disbelief. Maybe it was my side-splitting laughter. It wasn’t RMN T who said nothing but was wearing a grin a country-mile wide.
Yes, Jabba’s Palace has definitely entered the filler game rotation!
To say that games are part of the RockyMountainNavy Family DNA is maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but in many ways it’s very descriptive. Memories of my youngest days include playing family games like Othello and Waterworks. I have been playing wargames and role-playing games since 1979. In the mid-2000’s Mrs. RMN encouraged me to start gaming with the RMN kids. Indeed, the first post on this blog was on March 6, 2007 and featured a family game, Gulo Gulo (Zoch Velang, 2003), which is still a favorite of the RMN Family more than a decade later. Through that time we have played many games with family and friends, and Mrs. RMN has used games for helping teach her students. Recently, Mrs. RMN travelled to see family in South Korea (after a long COVID-driven hiatus) and brought back a game for the family.
Yut is listed on BoardGameGeek as Yut Nori, an ancient Korean racing game dating back to circa 500 AD. Our copy is a standard “tourist” edition published for foreigners who want to play the game.
Opening the box one finds the cover turns into the game board and the different sticks and markers.
The rules are…in Korean? Oh no!
Whew…English rules are provided (as well as Japanese and Chinese…like I said, an “export” version of the game).
The bulk of the rule book for Yut is not rules, but how Korean fortune-tellers use the sticks to tell your fortune. My mother-in-law is a big “believer” in fortune-tellers, often seeking their advice on what seems like a weekly basis.
Mrs. RMN’s eldest sister knows that we are a gaming family, so she took it upon herself to add a bit of a special “upgrade” to our game.
For our family Yut game Mrs. RMN’s eldest sister made this game board in a very traditional Korean style using silk and hand-stitching.
Mrs. RMN has many memories of playing Yut at holiday gatherings with the family. I too have memories of sitting around a board with plenty of beer (or Soju) and playing with my brothers-in-law. The RMN kids have few memories of this game, but Mrs. RMN wants to share her (our!) heritage with them. We will be putting Yut into the holiday family gaming line up to not just help remember the past, but to make memories for our future too.
Kingdomino: Origins by Bruno Cathala from Blue Orange Games (2021) is the newest version of the Kingdomino family that breathes a welcome freshness into the design without losing the essential fun elements of the game.
Yet, when I first saw the box art for Kingdomino: Origins the game was an auto-buy from that moment. I didn’t even look to see what rules changed…it was a new Kingdomino game and that was enough to sell me.
Kingdomino: Origins is actually three games in one. The first game, Discovery Mode, is classic Kingdomino with the addition of volcanoes that can throw fires. In Origins fires are the “crowns” of earlier versions and how you multiply your regions for scoring. Taking volcanos give you fires to throw to add bonus scoring. For long-time Kingdomino players this shook us up from our staid ways; whereas before we understood that certain tiles were lesser in number but more valuable, now a volcano can take that low-value tile and make it worth much more. A truly new level of strategy originated in this mode of play.
Totem Mode is the second game of Kingdomino: Origins. Here the game uses the volcano rules and adds resources. The player who has the most of a given resource gains a Totem which is an endgame scoring bonus. But watch out; placing those fires from the volcanos destroys resources in that space. This uncovers another level of strategy; placing fires for bonus scoring weighed against destroying a resource that can also be a bonus score. Simple rule change—deep strategic shift.
Tribe Mode in Kingdomino: Origins builds again on the previous two modes and adds tribal members as a bonus. In this mode you have volcanos and resources (but no Totems). The new rule addition is the ability to recruit a caveman by spending resources and placing the caveperson on your hunting ground. Depending on who the caveman is they score you a different bonus depending upon the surrounding tiles. The strategic challenge of the game goes up a (small) step as now you must find places to throw fires, take resources from, and place cavemen to maximize your scoring.
The first RockyMountainNavy family playthru of Kingdomino: Origins was actually three games; one each Discovery, Totem, and Tribe modes played back-to-back-to-back. As experienced Kingdomino players learning the new rules was easy; on the other hand discovering and implementing new strategies was challenging (in a very good way). I can easily imagine Kingdomino: Origins becoming the new “Kingdomino gateway” game for our family and friends as learning/teaching Discovery Mode is not that much more difficult than classic Kingdomino. Totem Mode is not a huge step up, and even going to Tribe Mode is an easy learning curve. Even at full-on Tribe Mode I still feel this game is easier to play than Queendomino. While learning Kingdomino: Origins is easy the new strategy challenges make it very interesting and engaging—both for veteran gamers and novices alike. As an added bonus the graphic art is tremendous fun too.
Fair warning: Kingdomino: Origins cannot be combined with Kingdomino or Queendomino. I have seen criticism of that game design decision. My message to those naysayers—play Kingdomino: Origins, all three modes. I think you’ll discover that there is enough game here that you don’t need to combine it with the earlier versions. Kingdomino: Origins stands on its own—you don’t need to go bigger to have an easy to learn, deep strategic game experience.
If you are a follower of my blog, you might recall me making occasional references to Mrs. RockyMountainNavy and her students. In this year of COVID schooling she really leaned in to help the young daughter of a friend. Miss A is in first grade and, coming from a family that speaks nothing but Korean at home, is an at-risk learner. As a first-grader, this was the year she needed to really learn to read. So Mrs. RMN tutored her. Well, actually she did more than that. Miss A was at our house two of the four online school days each week while her parents worked and Mrs. RMN tutored her as well as helped her with online learning. We also played lots of games—but only after the school day or her tutoring was finished. But before I tell you about a game let me tell you a bit of the backstory.
Miss A started the year as an English as a Second Language (ESL) student in a Title I school. That’s a school where over 40% of the students qualify for reduced price or free lunches. Although Miss A’s teacher tried, online learning is NOT what those economically—and often educationally—disadvantaged children needed.
Mrs. RMN basically did all the teaching for Miss A this year—and it shows. She had taught all four of our children to read, even our Autism Spectrum boy. She went back to school to study Early Childhood Education. In other words she knows what she’s doing. She has a phonics reading program she knows and believes in. We have all the sight words cards a child needs. We have a children’s library with literally a thousand books (that’s just K-3…and I kid you not for we bought through the Scholastic Book Club for something like 15 years straight). All the books are marked with their Accelerated Reader level so we could make sure Miss A was reading the right books for her stage of learning.
Miss A is doing so well in reading that she left the ESL classes. She is doing so well in reading that she is at the top of her regular class—far ahead of many of her peers. The tutoring Mrs. RMN provided was certainly helpful, but also the environment we gave Miss A was very important. Where her fellow students lacked books to read because the school or local library was closed Miss A had hundreds to choose from (we try to get her to read 8-10 books a month – or or two or three each week). Where her fellow students lacked social opportunities, Miss A had “three older brothers” in the RMN Boys. Miss A also had plenty of opportunities to play games and benefit from all the great learning and socialization skills they build.
Last week Miss A completed the phonics readers that Mrs. RMN uses—all 68 books. It’s a great achievement so we decided to reward her. We made a nice certificate and printed it on heavier card stock. We also decided to buy her a game because as often as she is at our house she has picked up gaming too.
Of course, after we gifted Dragon’s Breath: The Hatching to Miss A we had to play it with her. Actually, she had to play it with me as I am her “game teacher” while Mrs. RMN is her “school teacher.” Thus, it fell on me to quickly learn the game and teach it to Miss A and Mrs. RMN.
Here is how HABA describes the Dragon’s Breath: The Hatching:
“Oh no! The nest, complete with dragon egg and sparkling stones, is frozen inside an ice column! Help Dragon Mom melt the thick layer of ice, but be careful that the egg doesn’t fall out of the nest! Earn points by collecting the fallen sparkling stones and placing them on your amulet.”
Dragon’s Breath: The Hatching is a light dexterity, set-collection game. Players take turns being the Dragon Mom and melting the ice tower full of crystals and topped by the Dragon Egg. As the Dragon Mom blows (melts) the ice tower, the player removes a ring and watches as crystals fall. If the Egg drops then Dragon Mom covers one of two holes on the treasure box. The other players now take turns collecting the different color crystals that fell and place them on their cards. As a card is completed, it is retired for scoring and replaced by a new card. The Dragon Mom player does not have cards to collect, but instead can put one or two crystals in the treasure chest on their turn, effectively keeping them away from the other players. A round consists of removing the three levels of the ice tower, and the game ends after each player has been the Dragon Mom once. At the end of play, scored cards are added up with the winner being the player with the highest score.
Miss A absolutely loved Dragon’s Breath: The Hatching because of the “cute” Dragon Mom wooden character and all the “pretty diamonds.” Both Mrs. RMN and myself realized the game could have a darker side since the Dragon Mom player effectively “hate-drafts” crystals to keep them away from others. Miss A realized that too, and was always very sad when she lost out on a crystal, but squealed with glee every time she kept a crystal away from me! In other words, she loves the game.
I am very proud of Miss A who has come so far in this horrible year of COVID schooling. I am also very proud of my wife and all she has done for Miss A this year. In a year where schools failed our children, Mrs. RMN has worked wonders to keep Miss A not only on track, but to push her ahead. Miss A is very proud of herself because she can read. She is also proud of herself because she does good in school. We constantly tell her she can do anything because she is smart. We also have given her a passion to play games. In this year of COVID, I think Miss A will not only enjoy Dragon’s Breath: The Hatching but also remember it for a long time.
AT THE ROCKYMOUNTAINNAVY HOUSE WE USUALLY PLAY GAMES AT THE HOUSE. However, two weeks ago we tried something a little different. It was a Friday night and Mrs. RockyMountainNavy and RockyMountain Jr. were tutoring a student. The young lady is an only child and both her parents work hard and get little couple time to themselves. Seeing that this particular Friday was Valentines Day, Mrs. RMN suggested we take Ms. C to dinner with us after tutoring so her parents could have a date. We are strong proponents of ‘couple time’ and are fortunate that the RMN Boys are older so they can take care of themselves giving us a chance for our ‘couple time.’ We recognize that not all families are as lucky.
That night we ended up at a local bar-restaurant, Ono Brewing Company (@OnoBrewCo). This is a self-serve brew pub that has a food truck-like small restaurant, Odd BBQ (oddbbq.com) inside. Having been here before, we saw a shelf with boardgames on it. We even saw other patrons bring their own games to set up and play, so we knew the place is both family and boardgame friendly.
Ms. C expresses great interest in boardgames. She even lamented to me once that, “I like to play games, but my parents don’t.” So we always try to leave a little bit of time at the end of her tutoring to play a boardgame. Two week before, the moms and kids had gotten together (I was at a Bachelor Party) and the RMN Boys taught Ms. C Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder, 2004). The Boys told me she really liked the game, but this night I knew the table was going to be smaller and time shorter. So we took along Ticket to Ride: New York (Days of Wonder, 2018).
It was perfect.
The smaller footprint meant the game easily fit on our table. We had eaten at a casual pace so we only had about 20 minutes to kill before we had to leave to get Ms. C back to her parents. Most importantly, Ms. C totally enjoyed the game. I mean she was really into it! As she played, she had that Michael Jordan-tongue thing going as she looked at her cards and the board and considered her options. The RMN Boys were playing very casual but Ms. C was super serious! In the end she came in second of three players but you could tell that she really enjoyed the game.
This very casual boardgame play was satisfying on several levels. First, it was the right game for the space and time available. Secondly, but more importantly, it was the perfect game for Ms. C and the RMN Boys to enjoy. Given the great level of enjoyment we all had, I have the feeling this game, and maybe the newer version, Ticket to Ride: London (Days of Wonder, 2020) will land on tables outside the RMN home more often.
IN A HOUSE FULL OF BOYS, IT IS A BIT AMAZING THAT ONE of the more popular filler games on our shelf is all about romance.
Love Letter (AEG, 2012) is thematically about delivering letters to a princess and wooing her; the reality is this game makes Game of Thrones look like a children’s nursery. Back-stabbing and double-crossing others is the norm. The game is not about love, it’s about using your power nakedly to eliminate opponents and win the prize.
The simple 16-card game of Love Letter won the 2013 Golden Geek Award for Best Family Game / Best Party Game / Best Card Game/ Most Innovative Game. I certainly agree with the last two categories. Love Letter was the first 16-card game we played and the innovative nature astounded us. I will agree that it is a good party game…with adults. I am not so sure about the family game aspects because it is very easy for the game to devolve into a bloody power contest. Some younger players may not fully understand what is happening and get hurt.
I also appreciate that Love Letter has been rethemed. RockyMountainNavy Jr. always takesLetters to Santato school during the holidays for a quick play around the lunch table; it’s so much fun even high schoolers can get into the game. Indeed, for my challenge I actually played a game of Love Letter: Batmanwith Middle RMN Boy. It’s the same mechanics of Love Letter, except with villains.
These days Forbidden Island sits on our shelf of shame, unplayed and surpassed another cooperative game title, Pandemic (Z-Man Games, 2008). In some ways that is very sad as both games are by Matt Leacock, the godfather of cooperative games, and both are good at what they do. Interestingly, I see that Pandemic is rated for ages 8+, yet I don’t think anybody calls Pandemic a children’s game. So why does Forbidden Island not get more love at our gaming table?
Forbidden Island was the first cooperative game that reached the RockyMountainNavy house. It is not a bad game, but in this house a cooperative game needs to build a strong narrative for it to reach our gaming table more often. Alas, this is a weakness of Forbidden Island. Of the several cooperative games in the RMN collection, Pandemic and Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game (Fantasy Flight Games, 2008) are well regarded, and played more often, because of the highly dramatic story that plays out in the game. Other cooperative games, like Forbidden Island or Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier Game (Mattel, 2016) are more like puzzles with a thin story behind the game mechanics. They aren’t bad games, just not dramatic enough. For us, it is the thought (expectation?) of a great narrative that brings certain cooperative games to the table.
RockyMountainNavy Jr. recently expressed an interest in Forbidden Sky (Gamewright, 2018). The game is the third in the Forbidden Island/Desert/Sky trilogy and claims to carry the narrative of the first two games forward. Not owning or playing Forbidden DesertI cannot comment on the carried-narrative portion. Maybe, just maybe, there is something to this. The question will be is the lure of carried-narrative enought to get a new game, much less two older ones, to the gaming table?