English language edition
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The realm of Kingsburg is under attack! Monstrous invaders are gathering at the borders, aiming to invade and plunder the realm! Your king has chosen you to take charge of a province on the border: you will manage your province and help defend the realm.
To accomplish this, you must influence the King's Advisers and the Royal Family to obtain gold, wood, stones, and soldiers to expand and defend your lands. But you are not the only governor seeking the aid of the advisers! The other players also seek to collect the best resources for their own territories. Can you outwit them to get what you need?
Building a new statue of the King will certainly please him, but your soldiers also need new barracks and the master of the Merchant's Guild wants you to build a new market! Can you neglect your defense long enough to expand your economy instead? Will you train more soldiers or build stronger walls? The choice is up to you!
In the end, only one Governor will earn the King's rewards uncountable. Will that Governor be you?
After all the buzz I heard about this game and my odd infatuation with dice games in general made this a no brainer purchase for me. In the past year I have played a lot of Euro Dice games, ranging from the Alhambra Dice Game, Yspahan, Stone Age, and the Settlers Dice game, enjoying all of them. So on with the review.
The Components: You get a very nice big board with great looking artwork. Cardboard tokens depicting the different player colors available. Small player boards that depict the buildings you can acquire and their respective game bonuses. The player boards are thin but seem very durable. I have been tempted to laminate them and use dry erase markers to mark which buildings I have acquired instead of placing the cardboard tokens on them. A lot of dice of different colors depicting the player colors and white bonus dice. You also get a deck of enemy cards. The cards are of good quality and easy to shuffle.
The Rules: The rule book is very strait forward and easy to understand. There are several examples given to help clarify the rules. It is also a short rule book with only 8 pages with large print so it isn't a bear to get through. They were also nice enough to place all of the building bonuses in the back of the rule book with some clarifications on their abilities.
The goal of the game is to have the most victory points at the end which you get by influencing the King's Advisors, constructing buildings, and winning battles against invading enemies which happen at the end of each round. The game plays in five rounds (called years) which are broken into six phases some depicting seasons of the year.
Your first phase is called Aid from the King. This is where the last place player gets a bonus die to roll when he is trying to influence the King's advisors during the spring season. If there are tied players for last place then the all receive a good of their choice instead. The one thing people seem to miss is at the beginning of the game all players are tied for last place so thus everyone gets a resource of their choosing.
Phase 2 is Spring. The actual seasoned named phases all work the same except for winter. Everyone rolls their dice to decide the turn order going from lowest roll to highest. This is followed by the players placing their die or dice on the advisors based on if they meet their criteria. The advisors are all numbered from 1 to18 which is the number you have to have rolled to put your dice or die there. You can place all of your dice on one or split them up as you want but since you alternate placement you run the risk of someone taking an advisor before you can get there since they are first come first serve. The advisors powers increase as the total you need to have to place your dice increases. If you have a bonus die that you were able to roll it can only be placed with your other dice but not by itself. Once everyone places their die then you gain the favors from the advisors starting at 1 and going up. These favors range from goods, troops, victory points, and other bonuses. After this then the players use their resources to acquire buildings on their player boards. Your player board has five rows that are divided into four columns. You must build your buildings from left to right and gain the various bonuses rather it be victory points, troop bonuses against attack, and various other abilities. You are only allowed to build one building per season except in winter where no building occures.
Phase 3 is the Kings Reward. In this phase the player who has the most buildings is rewarded with one victory point. Ties for first are also rewarded.
Phase 4 is summer which operates just like the other seasons except winter.
Phase 5 is the kings Envoy. The player with the fewest buildings gets the envoy token; with no one getting it in case of a tie. You have until this phase comes up again to use the token. The token allows you to do one of two things. Place your dice on an advisor who already has dice on them or it allows you to build twice. Once the envoy has been used or when this phase comes up again he is returned to the board.
Phase 6 is Autumn and works like the other seasons.
Phase 7 is recruit soldiers. In turn order you can hire extra soldiers at the cost of two resources per soldier to help fight off the coming invasion.
Phase 8 is winter. In winter there is no acquisition of resources or building only an invasion. You turn over the top card of the enemies deck. Then the first player in the turn order rolls one white die to determine how many troops the king has sent to help the fight. You then add that to your troop total and the bonuses you get from your buildings. If your combat total is higher than the card you get the reward listed on the bottom. If your combat total equals that of the card then you barely win and get no reward. If your combat total is less than the card you then lose the battle and lose whats listed on the card rather it be buildings or resources. Buildings are lost going from right to left on your player board so you will lose your most expensive and important buildings first. The victorious player who had the highest army total gets a bonus victory point. The army totals are set back to zero then the year on the year track gets progressed. With the player with the most victory points at the end of year five winning the game
The Game Play: There is a nice flow to the game and plenty of decisions. You are really having to plan ahead and decide how you want to build your player board and plan your route to get the most points at the end game. There is a push your luck factor with the armies; you know the low and the high range of the invading force at the end of the year but can push your luck hoping for a lot of aid from the king or a weak enemy. There are several paths to victory with each of them seeming balanced. Though you are at the mercy of the dice rolls you rarely feel like you are getting screwed over by a random element. I like the fact that the lowest total rolled goes first so it allows a bad roll to not get screwed out of resources since a higher roll has more flexibility on what it can do. It has both several catch up mechanisms for the last place player and still rewards the leader which is a very nice touch.
I have played it with the amount of players ranging from two to four. I haven't played a five player game yet but I will say it plays well with two to four players. There is a slight variant with two platers where you roll a set of three dice and place them on the board depending on their total and then roll a set of two dice and place them on their corresponding total before the players get to place their dice. This makes for a tighter two player game and keeps the tension level right where it should be like in a game with more players.
In Closing: I think this is a very good game with decent amounts of strategy. I am happy they are planning an expansion for it and the fact that it is being picked up by Fantasy Flight for a much wider release. This game has become a regular play at the house and I look forward to many future plays of it. I would recommend it to any one who liked games like Stone Age, Yspahan, To Court the King, and the Alhambra Dice game. I think even people who normally don't like dice games would like this one.
Games being released by a collaboration of publishers seem to be increasing in popularity. Perhaps this is being done as a way to spread the financial costs amongst a variety of entities, or give the game more widespread distribution. Kingsburg is one such game, being a cooperative release by both Stratelibri and ElfinWerks. In addition, it is also a collaboration between two Italian designers, Andrea Chiarversio and Luca Iennaco.
I was keen on trying the game, as it seemed to be quite clever and was visually appealing. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to play during the Spiel in Essen. My first experience, however, didn’t exactly “wow!” me. I found the game to be fine, but just not terribly exciting. Still, I didn’t want to judge it on just one play, especially since that one playing was during the convention, where it is notorious for games to be played incorrectly. I’m very happy I didn’t judge the game with just one playing, as it has now risen to become one of my favorite games from Essen 2007.
The theme of Kingsburg is an all-too-familiar, yet popular fantasy setting. The king is expanding his territories, and players represent his governors who are charged with the task of developing those areas and protecting them from rampaging enemies. Players must call upon the aid of a variety of the king’s advisors and court members to aid in their tasks. The governor who has best achieved his task in five years – five turns – will win the favor of the king.
The game is lavishly produced, with fantastic artwork and an abundance of quality components. The main board graphically depicts the king and seventeen members of his court. Each is assigned a unique number (1 – 18), and each will grant specific rewards, usually in the form of resources or victory points. There are also various spaces on the board to track of the phases, turns and turn order, house the resources, special tokens and enemy deck, and track the players’ military strength and victory points. In spite of all of these tracks and information, the board remains uncluttered.
In addition to three dice and a supply of building tokens, each player receives a province board whereupon they will track the buildings they construct in their territory. There are five building “tracks”, each containing five buildings. Various combinations of resources are required to construct the buildings, and once erected, they will convey special benefits to the player. These benefits include bonuses when fighting enemies, victory points, the ability to manipulate the dice, or even the granting of an extra die. Choosing which buildings to construct is a vital cog in a player’s strategy.
Each turn consists of eight phases, three of which are identical “productive” phases. In these phases, players roll their three dice – plus any bonus dice they may have received – and then assign them to members of the king’s court. A player may divide his dice amongst the court members as he sees fit. For example, if a player rolls a 2, 3, & 6, he can choose any of the following options:
The tricky part is that players must alternate placing each set of dice. Since each advisor can only have one set of dice placed upon him, it occurs frequently that some players may not be able to place all of their dice. This is a very tense and exciting part of the game, as it allows for players to be a bit nasty when placing dice so as to deny certain advisors to their opponents. Indeed, occasionally players are left unable to place one or more of their dice as all of the advisors onto which they might have been able to place them have been claimed.
After all dice are placed, players claim their rewards. Most advisors grant resources in various combinations. Some will also grant victory points, tokens that allow the player to increase the value of a set of dice by ‘2’, additional armies for defense, and/or allow the player to peak at the enemy that will invade at the end of the turn. All are valuable, but players must attempt to select advisors that will provide the benefits they desire to help support their overall strategy.
Players then have the opportunity to construct ONE building. Players may construct a building on any of the five tracks, but they must construct them in order on each track. There is a danger of concentrating on one track, as some enemies will destroy a player’s most valuable building if they are victorious in battle.
In the penultimate phase of each turn, players have the opportunity to surrender resources to add to their defense strength. This can be important, as the enemies that invade the territories increase in strength with each passing turn. Players will know the potential strength of the enemy, as is depicted on the reverse of the cards as a possible range of values. However, unless they choose an advisor during the turn that allows them to peak at the impending enemy, they will not know the exact strength, the race of the invaders (goblins, zombies, demons, etc.), or the rewards or penalties depending upon the outcome of the battle.
Battle is handled in a very swift and basic manner. Players will each have an individual defense strength that grows based on the defensive rewards granted by advisors utilized that turn. To this is added an amount of troops supplied by the king, which is based on a common die roll. Further, some buildings grant additional defensive strength. The top enemy card is revealed, and every player whose defense value exceeded the strength of the enemy receives the indicated rewards. Players who did not equal or exceed the attacker’s strength suffer the indicated penalties, which can be quite harsh. The wise player will attempt to insure that he can best the enemy, particularly in later rounds.
The three other phases of each turn are quick assessments to determine who has either the most or fewest buildings constructed in their territory. In the first phase, the player with the fewest buildings earns an extra "white" die for the first productive phase, while in the fifth phase this player receives the king’s envoy, which can be used to construct a second building or place dice on a court member that has already been claimed. In the third phase, the player with the most buildings earns a victory point. Obtaining an extra white die can be quite beneficial and add great flexibility when placing dice. The envoy is also quite valuable, and earning both is sure to reap handsome rewards!
The game continues in this fashion through five turns, with the player with the most victory points earning the king’s favor and winning the game. A typical game takes from 1 ½ hours – 2 hours to complete, which is right about perfect for this game.
I really can’t explain why the game didn’t grab me the first time I played. Perhaps because there is nothing strikingly new, or maybe I was worried that the limited number of buildings and tracks could cause the game to grow stale. The latter concern might still be valid, but with nearly a half-dozen plays under my belt, that hasn’t occurred yet. Instead, I find the game fun and exciting, with lots of factors to consider and balance. I don’t think there is one perfect strategy, as I’ve tried several and all have seemed to fail!
There is no denying that some luck with the dice does come in handy. Rolling high numbers is advantageous, so a string of high rolls could prove to be a benefit that is insurmountable to those less fortunate. However, such swings of fortune tend to even themselves out over the course of the game, as each player will roll the dice fifteen times.
Several folks have commented that the dice distribution method is reminiscent of To Court the King, and I agree. However, for my tastes, it is put to much better use here, and the surrounding game is far superior. To be fair, however, To Court the King is intended to be a light filler, whereas Kingsburg is meant to be a light-to-middleweight main course. I feel the game fulfills its objective extremely well, and it has proven to be popular in a variety of social settings. There are enough decisions to give the game a strategy feel, yet they are not too taxing to cause the game to be a mental chore. Further, it is easily learned and understood, allowing novices to compete immediately with more seasoned players. That’s not an easy feat to achieve, but Kingsburg succeeds.
I’m very happy I gave the game a second chance, as my opinion has improved dramatically. I hope this is a good sign of things to come from this Italian duo.