Board games are really changing the role of the roll of the dice. Yes, I did that sentence on purpose.
Think back to games like Monopoly or Chutes & Ladders, where a roll of the dice determined everything for you: You were here, now you go here because of this dice roll. The dice were the decision makers.
But that's not the only way you can use dice. Instead of being the decision makers, dice can instead simply influence your strategic decisions. This isn't necessarily a new concept - backgammon, one of the world's oldest games, essentially does this by giving you the choice of moving one or two of your pieces on a given turn. But modern games are utilizing this in fun and creative ways. This brings us to Kingsburg.
Kingsburg is like a lot of other Euro-style games in that you're collecting resources, that you use to make things that help you score points, which wins you the game. But Kingsburg brings dice into play in limiting your resource collection options, while also giving you influence over the options the other players have.
That being said, let's get into Kingsburg.
Players: 2 to 5
Gametime: 90 minutes
Designers: Andrea Chiarvesio & Luca Iennaco (Italy)
Key Mechanics: Dice rolling, resource management, civilization building
Story: You and the other players have been appointed governors of newly-acquired frontier provinces by the King. Over five years, you will use your influence on the King's advisers to acquire the resources necessary to successfully build up and defend the provinces.
What do you do? The bulk of Kingsburg is focused on the three productive seasons (spring, summer and fall) of the game's five years. During this time, players will gather resources, soldiers and tools needed to transform and successfully defend the province.
This process begins with each player rolling their three standard six-sided dice. On the board, there are eighteen advisors, numbered 1 through 18. Each player will then take turns choosing an advisor by placing dice with pip totals equal to that advisor's number on the advisor. Once someone has picked an advisor, no other player is allowed to pick that advisor. A player can use one, two or three dice each time they pick, and players keep going until either they have placed all their dice or there's no place to put their remaining dice.
Once the dice are placed, players then receive the resources each advisor they chose provide. These could be the game's three building materials (wood, stone and gold). It might be straight victory points. It could be a soldier. Or it might even be a special token that allows a player to add or subtract two from their dice while choosing advisers in future rounds.
As you might suspect, the higher an advisor's number, the more powerful (or greater number) of resources they provide. This is one of the strategies that Kingsburg utilizes as part of the dice rolling. On a given turn, you have to decide if using all three of your dice at once to claim a high-ranking advisor is best, or if maybe you're better off picking multiple low-level advisors.
But, back to the productive season. After you get your resources, you then have the option to build a building in your province. Your 20 building options are shown on individual player boards, along with the cost in wood/stone/gold needed to build each. Buildings are graded by four levels, and you can't build a building until you've built the lower-level building preceding it in each row. For example, if you really want to build a barracks, which is a Level 3 building, you can't do that until you've built that row's Level 2 (Blacksmith) and Level 1 (Guard Tower) buildings first.
Each building provided special benefits. Some provide a lot of victory points, others might allow you re-rolls if a roll is particularly bad, or it might provide some extra defenses for your province.
"Wait, OB," you might be saying. "You're saying all this stuff about soldiers and defenses...defense from what?" Well, every winter, you can count on your province coming under siege from many different sorts of creatures, like orcs or goblins or demons or maybe even dragons. Each attack will have a strength number attached to it, signifying the amount of defense you're going to have to muster up in order to repel the attack. The defense is determined by three things: A single die is rolled to determine the number of troops the king sends to aid, plus the number of soldiers you recruited for that year through your advisers, and additional defense provided from certain buildings built. Repelling an attack grants rewards, like resources or victory points. Losing a battle may cause the loss of victory points, forfeiture of resources, or even force you demolish a building you've built.
All you get to know about the attacking prior to their revealing in winter is the potential range of their attack strength, which increases with every passing year (although there are a couple of advisors that allow you to peek at the attacker to know what you'll be facing in advance).
Also important to note are "king's favors: little events that happen between each season. These take the form of giving the player with the fewest constructed buildings a bonus die or a "king's envoy" that grants special abilities, plus a chance to do a last-ditch soldier recruitment in exchange for giving up accumulated resources.
How to taste sweet, sweet victory: After five years of time go by (in the game, not real life), look at who has accumulated the most victory points throughout the game through their building construction and successful siege defenses. That's your winner.
So what makes this game awesome?
- That your resource collection in part depends on a dice roll requires you to create a flexible strategy. You have to be prepared for what might happen if you can't get that piece of gold you need.
- The flow of play is simple enough to grasp after a couple of rounds.
- The individual player board allows quite a bit of variety in strategies. You can beef up the defense to ensure battle victories, or go high-risk for high-scoring buildings that might fall to a successful attack.
Variety is the Spice of Life: Kingsburg's main expansion is known as To Forge a Realm. It offers an expanded player board, along with the ability to add randomized rows of buildings for even more variety in what you can build therefore changing up the strategies in gameplay, character cards that provided players individualized special abilities, event cards that throw rounds for a loop, and a feature that offers tokens in place of dice rolling for reinforcements in winter.
Other Ways to Play: Kingsburg has an iOS app, but I'm an Android user so I can't give you any info on how the app plays.
Board Games With OB is a somewhat profane feature where OregonBeast gets a board game he likes and briefly explains how to play it and hopes you would be interested in playing it, too. Because board games are fucking awesome.
Previous Board Games With OB:[Takenoko] [Snake Oil] [Tsuro] [Dixit] [The Resistance] [Hey, That's My Fish!] [Ticket To Ride] [Survive: Escape From Atlantis] [Castle Panic] [Small World] [Qwirkle] [Elder Sign] [Carcassonne] [Jaipur] [Tokaido] [Blokus] [Puerto Rico] [Love Letter] [Can't Stop] [The Red Dragon Inn] [Dominion] [King of Tokyo] [Pandemic] [Spyrium] [Settlers of Catan] [Seasons] [Alhambra] [String Railway]
Images via BoardGameGeek