Kingdom Builder is a game for 2 to 4 players published by Queen Games and designed by Donald X. Vaccarino. In this game players create their own kingdom by skillfully placing their settlements on the landscape. The player who creates the best Kingdom according to its inhabitants will get the most gold and win the game.
In the setup you first create the landscape by placing four random landscape tiles in a rectangle. You take one of the other four landscape tiles and use its back as a score track, the rest goes back into the box. The summary cards of the locations are placed next to the appropriate landscape tiles used in the game. On each location on the landscape tiles you place two of its corresponding location tiles (oracle, farm, tavern, tower, harbor, paddock, barn or oasis). The terrain cards are shuffled in one draw pile. Three kingdom builder cards are drawn at random and placed next to the board, these specify the conditions for earning gold. Each player gets one scoring token and forty settlements in their playing color and draws one terrain card from the draw pile. The start player token goes to the oldest player (or is chosen at random) and you are ready to start playing Kingdom Builder.
A player’s turn consists of two things that can happen in any order, a mandatory action and one or more extra actions. The mandatory action as it states is mandatory (surprise, surprise). You simply reveal your terrain card and build exactly three settlements on the corresponding terrain on the board. The extra actions are optional and come from location tiles you gather during the game. An example of these extra actions are build a settlement on grass or desert, build a settlement on the edge of the board, move a settlement to a water space and so on but will fall in one of the two categories: build an additional settlement or move an existing one to another location. When a player builds a settlement next to a location tile that player gathers one of those tiles and places it before him granting an extra action to that player. After a player has done the actions he wants to perform during his turn he simply places his terrain card on the discard pile and draws a new terrain card giving the turn to the next player.
As you can tell a players turn is pretty straight forward but there is a catch. You always have to follow the building rules. The first rule states that you cannot build more than one settlement on a terrain space. The second rule tells us that the settlement must be built on the corresponding terrain space.
The third rule is the defining rule of this game and it forces us to build our settlement on a space next to another one of our own settlements if possible. When this is not possible you can choose any corresponding terrain space on the board.
When one player has built its last settlement the round continues until the player to the right of the start player has had its turn. Now it is time to see who has gained the most gold. This is defined by the three kingdom builder cards in play. Some give gold for every settlement next to the water or the mountains, others for connecting locations or making one big settlement or a lot of little settlements and so on. You also get three gold for each castle you have a settlement next to. The player with the most gold in the end is declared the winner.
As you can tell from the short rules explanation this really is a simple game to play. You play the card in your hand, place settlements on the corresponding terrain, do something extra and that’s it. In essence this is indeed all you do but choosing which terrain space you are going to place a settlement on is of huge importance. When placing settlements you want to keep in mind what scores gold on the end of the game but you also want to place settlements next to locations so that you get those extra actions and last but not least you do not want to build settlements next to a lot of other terrain types because it will hinder you in your options on subsequent turns. This constant balance between gold, extra actions and leaving your options open gives for a great experience every time. Do not get me wrong, it is a real easy game to play and you pick it up in mere minutes but after some plays you will start to see that your decisions might have more implications then you had initially perceived. We just love to play this game and usually play it two to three times in a row because it takes no longer than 30 minutes to play. This review only covers the main Kingdom Builder because there a lot of expansions for it and even a Big Box Edition that includes the main game plus four expansions and ramps up the player count to five players.
Play with Honor