Review – Kingsburg

IMG_3131A few weeks ago, there was another games night at Kai and Julie’s house. I’ve already mentioned these guys in two of my blog posts. During the night I had said that I really want to buy Kingsburg but I wasn’t going to get a copy right away since I’m being a little prudent with my money and said that I would eventually like to try the game some day.  Sure enough Kai says “Do you want to try the game right now? We have a copy of it.” In my mind I’m going “HECK YEAH LET’S PLAY IT”, but that message was toned down and filtered to, “Sure. Why not?” They kept  saying to me that this was only the vanilla copy, which I learned that day was a board game without the expansions, and highly recommended that I also get the expansion to this game when I do purchase it.

After playing that night, I think I’m going to have to tap into some of my other budgets, because this game was, for a lack of a better description, freakin’ awesome!

I understand that I’m reviewing a game that’s already eight years old, but I figure that this is one worth talking about.

...Someone said it was a good idea to put a Moon Cake while I'm taking pictures for the Blog.
…Someone said it was a good idea to put a Moon Cake while I’m taking pictures for the Blog.

Kingsburg is a die-roller, worker placement game by Andrea Chiarvesio and Luca Lennaco. In this game, you act as a governor of the King and have been asked to oversee the newly acquired territories at the edge of the realm. In order to do so, you seek the help of his advisors to get resources, build structures, and develop your military defense to protect your territory from invaders.

A full game spans five years of developing territory. A year is divided into four seasons, each having it’s own special rules. In Spring, the player who has the least created buildings will get an additional white die to add to their roll. In the Summer, the player who has the most created buildings will receive an additional victory point. In the fall, the player who has the least created buildings will get a special favour from the King, in which they may place dice on an already used advisor or build two buildings. In Winter, players must use their military to defend their territory from invaders.

Each season, except for Winter, have the same turn phases. Players will roll their dice simultaneously, which establishes the turn order, from lowest to highest sum. Then with the values they had obtained on the dice, they will seek the help of the advisors by using one die, or combinations of two or more dice. Usually advisors with higher values give you more resources and abilities, while lower values give you little. The catch is that once a player has chosen an advisor, the other players cannot select that advisor unless they have the King’s envoy, which let’s a player double up on an advisor. This particular element pushes you to strategize methodically. If you use many of your dice, you can end up with a high value advisor, but run the risk of locking out dice for lower level advisors and vice versa in the event that you choose to use one or two dice at the beginning of your turn. This mechanic also forces players to predict what their opponents are going to choose. Since the dice rolls are simultaneous and public, players can see the values of the dice and decide whether or not to block an advisor from certain players, or take advisors from players freely because there is no way their opponents can obtain the value they themselves rolled.

IMG_3129Once you’ve obtained the help of the advisors, you take the resources based on which advisors you picked and use those resources to develop structures and buildings, which give your territory additional abilities and victory points.

When winter comes, no development occurs and players now must defend their territory from invaders. Five cards are secretly placed on the game board, which show the identify of the foe the players must contend with. As the years progress, the villains become tougher to beat, as indicated by the values found on the front of the card. Players must have a military strength higher than the strength of the enemy to win the battle and receive a bonus. Otherwise players will succumb to either losing resources, victory points, or the highest level building that he or she has created.

After five years, the governor who can successfully develop their territory by building structures and defending it from enemies will be declared the winner.

Kingsburg coerces you to adapt quickly due to chance rolling on dice; you have no idea what values you’re going to get, which in turn means you have no idea which advisors you’re going to seek. However, even though there’s this chance element to the game, you still have control in how you progress forward, which I really appreciate. I’ll admit, this game had a bit of a learning curve to it. I learned quickly that my dice will get locked out unless you take initiative and prevent that from happening. I became more mindful with my opponents’ dice so I can strategize when to block players, or when to take an advisor for myself.

I’ve learned that timing is critical to this game. Playing Kingsburg becomes a mental juggling act in deciding which areas to develop. Focus solely on the construction of buildings and you may lose a lot of resources and buildings come winter. Focus too much on military, and you won’t be getting any points at all for your lack of buildings. And even in the dice rolling, you have to consider whether or not to take an advisor first before your opponent does.

Overall, the best way I can describe Kingsburg is by saying it’s well-balanced. There is a balance between chance dice rolling and mindful strategy. There is a balance between putting focus on your own needs to progress forward and screwing your opponent. There is a balance in timing, do you take the advisor now or seek the help later for fear that some other player might take them. Balance in turn order; players with higher values go last, while players with the lower values go first.

And after looking at the expansion, you want to take this vanilla game and definitely add the sprinkles and cherry to it because it offers more choices and more opportunities for players to develop their territories.

To Kingsburg: some day you will become a part of my collection. And I hope for those who read this post, this game becomes a part of your collection too, because it’s definitely one you want to have.

Pros:

  • Well-balanced game that has a focus on timing.
  • Highly strategic, even with the element of chance
  • High replay value
  • Additional expansion provides more game play opportunities.
  • Easy to teach

Cons:

  • Bit of a learning curve to understand how to play this game.
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