- For ages 8 and up
- For 2 players
- Approximately 20 minutes to complete
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Pattern/Color Matching
- Strategy & Tactics
- Risk vs. Reward
- Visuospatial Skills
- Hand/Resource Management
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Build your kingdom one roll at a time
- Gamer Geek mixed!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek approved!
You have won the realm, but now you must rule it, and to do so, you must divide it among your loyal royals. And while you want to reward each for their service, you know that each royal will not provide you the same level of prestige you seek. “Divide and conquer” was your motto when on the battlefield, leading your troops. Now you must do the same with the politics of the land. Some would say it was easier to fight and bleed for the realm in times of war than manage it during times of peace.
Kingdomino Duel, designed by Bruno Cathala, Ludovic Maublanc and published by Blue Orange Games, is comprised of four custom six-sided Domino dice, a 100-sheet notebook (double-sided), and two pencils. The dice are made of solid plastic and larger than your average six-sided die. The 100-sheet notebook is made of your standard paper thickness and very colorful. Excellent quality in this little game.
Entering the Realm
To set up the game, first give each player one notebook sheet and tear off one more to be shared by the two players. The notebook sheet has two sides. One side represents the kingdom and is noted as the “Map” side, with each square representing a different domain in the kingdom. The other side looks like it was taken from a book of spells and is referred to as the “Spellbook” side. Players should place their personal notebook sheet in front of them with the Map side face-up. Place the third sheet off to one side of the playing area with the Spellbook side face-up. Give each player a pencil at this time, as well.
That’s it for the game set up. Determine who will be the first player and hand them the dice.
Building Your Kingdom
Kingdomino Duel is played in turns with no set number of turns per game. A single-player turn, which involves both players, is summarized here.
Step One: Roll the Dice
The current player who has the dice rolls all four. Players only get one roll.
Step Two: Setting the Dominos
The dice in this game represent the different values of a domino. Like your traditional domino, there are two values. To acquire and determine what values those are, the players now select two of the four dice.
The player who rolled the dice gets first to pick and selects one of the four dice, placing it beside their Map. The second player now selects two of the three remaining dice, setting those by their Map. The first player takes the last dice. Each player will now have two dice representing the two values on their domino.
The dice will have one of six possible coat of arms symbols on its face. Also, it will display zero, one, or two “X” marks. The die face with the “?” is meant to represent a wild coat of arms value of the player’s choice. These coat of arms symbols are also shown on the player’s Map and the shared Spellbook notebook sheets.
Step Three: Fill In the Map
Each player now places their selected dice on their Map using the following Connection rules:
- A coat of arms on the dice must connect to the center “castle” in one of four spaces if they are not already occupied by a previous domino coat of arms symbol.
- Connect at least one of the coat of arms symbols on the selected dice to a previously placed coat of arms on the Map.
- All dominos must be connected orthogonally (horizontally and vertically; never diagonally).
When it’s determined that proper placement of the selected dice is possible – and BOTH dice must be able to be played as a “grouping” (or domino) – then the player takes their pencil and shades in the shield symbol with the proper coat of arms symbol. If the dice used has an “X,” they place an “X” in one of the circle spaces, as well.
Of course, if the player cannot play both symbols, they do not mark their Map this turn. Remember, the dice are considered a single domino.
Step Four: Fill in the Spellbook
Each time a player fills in a coat of arms on their Map that does NOT contain an “X,” they add a checkmark to that coat of arms in the Spellbook. Dice with the “?” used during the player’s turn, despite note providing an “X,” are the only exception here. These dice do NOT allow the player to add a checkmark.
Each player has their own line in the Spellbook. To make it easier to remember, add the names of the players at the top and only fill in the column that belongs to you. The priority of the checkmark goes to the player who rolled the dice for the turn. Meaning, if both players would complete the same row on the turn, the player who rolled the dice completes the row first.
The first player to fill in the entire row is awarded the spell, which can be used at any time during the game, but only once. The other player is permanently “locked out” of ever learning and having access to that spell, meaning that the Spellbook adds an exciting race element to the game.
Spells include the following:
A) Play a “domino” without following the Connection rules.
B) Separate the dice to fill in your Map (essentially dividing the two values into any two squares that the player likes, but they must use the Connection rules).
C) If the player is rolling the dice, they may select their two dice right away, giving the other player the two dice they did not select.
D) Allows the player to turn the dice face value of one of their selected die to any value they choose.
E) Once earned, the player must IMMEDIATELY choose a coat of arms. Each different domain on the player’s Map earns the player three prestige points at the end of the game.
F) Once earned, the player must IMMEDIATELY add one “X” to the coat of arms of their choosing noted in their Map.
Step Five: End of Turn
The turn is now over. The player who rolled the dice this turn now passes them to the other player. The next turn then begins starting with step one noted above.
Special Castle Bonus
During the game, either player may activate a one time bonus. This is not a Spell and is available to both players, but again, it can only be used once.
When the player chooses, they can add one “X” to either of the two dice they selected. This includes dice with the “?”. Once the is bonus is used, color in the top of the tower in the middle of the player’s Map, indicating that the bonus has been exercised and is no longer available.
It should also be noted that the die the bonus “X” assigned CANNOT be used to fill in a space on the Spellbook if it didn’t have one to begin with.
Closing the Kingdom
The game comes to an end if either of the following conditions is true at the end of the turn:
- One player fills in the last remaining coat of arms in their Map
- Neither player can place their domino during the turn
Once either of these conditions is found to be true, the players determine their final score by calculating their prestige points.
Different domains define each kingdom, wherein its coat of arms identifies a domain. Each domain is worth as many prestige points as the number of matching coat of arms multiped by the “X” marks in that domain. A kingdom can have one or more domains that are separated by other domains. If such is the case, each of those domains is calculated separately, and the total is determined by adding them together after determining the total prestige points each of the separated domains provides. Prestige points are recorded on the player’s Map notebook sheet.
For example, a domain with four coats of arms of the same type connected orthogonally with three “X” marks in total would be worth 12 prestige points (4 x 3 = 12). Likewise, the same domain but without any “X” marks would be worth zero points (4 x 0 = 0).
Once all the prestige points have been calculated and added together, the player with the highest value of prestige points wins the game. If there is a tie, the player who built the most extensive domain (a series of unbroken orthogonal squares with the same coat of arms symbol) wins.
To learn more about Kingdomino Duel, visit the game’ web page.
The Child Geeks enjoyed themselves a great deal, finding the game to be easy to grasp and fun to engage. According to one Child Geek, “The game is all about making your best choices based on what you pick for the dice. But you also have to use the dice, and there is another choice. Do you go for the spells, or do you go for the points right away? I liked the different choices and how much fun it was to make them.” Another Child Geek said, “I thought the game was hard at first, but you learn that each turn is really all about making the best choice on what you see. I didn’t have to plan anything other than just being really serious about my turn.” When all the kingdoms were built, the Child Geeks gave Kingdomino Duel their enthusiastic approval.
The Parent Geeks also found Kingdomonio Duel to be a lot of fun. As one Parent Geek put it, “I really enjoyed the game. It was fun to talk through each of the turns with my daughter and later laugh at my wife for the silly mistakes she made. I didn’t laugh when she won. There is an important lesson there, I’m sure, but I failed to learn it because I was having too much fun with the game.” Another Parent Geek said, “A great roll-and-write game that I found to be easy to learn and fun to play. Fast, too, but you always felt like you were a bit rushed. Turns can happen fast, and if you don’t ask for the time to think things through, you will make mistakes!” After all the games were played, the Parent Geeks voted and gave Kingdomino Duel their full approval.
The Gamer Geeks were of a mixed mind when it came to game. One Gamer Geek who enjoyed it said, “A good game. A solid game. Classic in the sense when it comes to roll-and-write like games. Roll the dice and make the tough choices based on what you have. Light and not overly deep but very engaging.” Another Gamer Geek who did not enjoy it said, “Way too much luck involved here. If you don’t roll an “X” mark or fall short of closing a spell, you are at a severe disadvantage. It felt like the game heavily favored one player over the other, too. Frustrating.” When the last dice was rolled and the final mark made, the Gamer Geeks voted and gave Kingdomonio Duel a mixed approval.
Kingdomino Duel was a lot of fun. I wouldn’t consider it overly challenging, but it did keep me thinking from start to finish. The game is not excessively deep, but the decisions you have to make are always meaningful. Yes, there is a great deal of luck involved, but I’d say that is part and parcel to any roll-and-write game on the market today. You have an element of luck that determines different outcomes (the dice rolls), and then players must make logical choices based on what is provided. You are welcome to plan ahead if you like, but doing so is nothing more than a “what if” game. You don’t know what you have until your roll, and even then, you don’t have anything to act upon until you get your dice.
There will be turns towards the end of the game where nothing can be done. I liken this to bad planning on my part rather than the dice rolls. However, and to a few of the Gamer Geeks’ points, it does start to feel like luck plays a bit too much into it, and randomness becomes the enemy. During one game, there were three turns in a row that I couldn’t do anything. That doesn’t feel good. But in the game’s defense – not that it needs it – the same chances of me getting what I needed were always there. The only difference is that as the game continues, players can build themselves into a corner. This requires each player to be smart about where they place their coat of arms. Yes, it feels excellent to group your domains, but diversity will help you gain a measure of flexibility, too.
Exciting choices to be made, and for those who have never played the game before, you won’t understand the impact of your choices until the end of the game. Which, as it turns out, makes every game after the first more enjoyable. I observed that each player, when playing the game the first time, just placed their coat of arms where they thought it would score a lot of points. Halfway through the game and it was apparent that they were starting to lose ground in their kingdom. All subsequent games with the same players showed that more thinking was involved, proved by longer stretches between turns.
Do try Kingdomoino Duels when the opportunity presents itself. It will challenge you as well as entertain!
This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.