February 10, 2009

Kingsburg is a fantasy themed game from Fantasy Flight Games in which 2-5 players take on the roles of governors managing frontier provinces in the hopes of gaining the favor of the king and fighting off the barbarian (and orc and goblin etc.) hordes.  It plays in about 90 minutes and is recommended for ages 10 and up.  Design by Andrea Chiarvesio and Luca Iennaco.


(Images courtesy of www.fantasyflightgames.com)


Players begin their turns by rolling three dice and then take turns placing any combination of those dice on the board which is divided into counselors numbered 1-18 as a portion of the board shows below.  You may split up your roll or add it all together however you wish.  For example, a roll of a 3 and two 4s could be added together and placed on the number eleven counselor,  or the two 4s could be placed on the number eight counselor and (assuming it wasn’t taken when it was your turn again) the remaining die placed on the number three counselor.  Each counselor grants a certain number of resources or possibly soldiers or bonus tiles to be used later. 


The resources (gold, stone, and wood) are in turn used to build from a list of buildings which each give different effects such as allowing one to roll extra dice or gain military strength to fight against the invaders which arrive every fourth round.  (Players are given a card with all available buildings at the beginning of the game, and keep track of which they’ve built by placing counters on the appropriate building.)  The buildings also allow for the accumulation of victory points (ranging from 0-9) when built.  You cannot play a building unless all prerequisites in the building tree line have been constructed first.


At the end of each round, an enemy invades and you attempt to fight them off with your soldiers gained from different buildings or temporary mercenaries gained from certain counselors.  Failure to beat back the invaders results in the loss of your best building and the VP gained from it as well.


Much of the gameplay derives from blocking off your opponents by placing your dice tactically.  Once a number of dice is on a space, others can’t place there.  But the game is a nice mix of long-term strategy and tactics, as the buildings allow for some longer planning.  Luck does enter into the equation, of course, as is the case when dice are involved.  However, there are ways to mitigate this somewhat with the effects of buildings. 

I tend to gravitate toward any line that steers away from luck, so I have a hard time branching out and trying new strategies in this game.  On paper (in my mind at least) it appears that there is one strategy which is superior.  Obviously the dice have something to say about this.  But I can’t help but feel compelled to build certain trees every time.  Nonetheless, the tactics element of the game is great fun, and maybe with enough plays I’ll be able to branch out a little more and try new buildings.  An expansion with characters and new buildings is planned for 2009 so that should add another layer of depth to an already solid design.


Presentation/Components: 10/10 This is simply one of the most beautiful boards I’ve ever seen.  Aesthetically, the game is gorgeous.

Theme: 7/10  The theme is a tad bit pasted on, but possibly only because this game could work in so many different settings.  The strong fantasy theme could turn some non-gamers off, but it was a plus for me.   The armies which attack you each round my be the weakest thing in the game thematically, simply because the attacks usually don’t generate any real tension, but it doesn’t detract from the majority of the game.  When the invading armies do happen to win a battle, the consequences are dire, especially late in the game.  It just doesn’t happen that much, and I’m pretty sure that if it did, the game would be way too swingy and punishing.

Mechanics: 8/10 I would classify this as a mid- to lightweight Euro, falling somewhere in between.  The rules are concise and easy to pick up.

Replayability: 8/10 With many branches of buildings you can try and ample tactical options, a lot of value here.

Fun Factor: 9/10  Possibly the game’s greatest strength, as long as you don’t mind a healthy dose of luck. 

Overall: 8/10


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