Dominos is a classic game and I truly mean classic.
The game of Dominos was first seen in the 13th century in China and later transformed into what we know as the modern version of dominos in 18th century Italy.
There are hundreds of different ways to play with any standard set of dominos. You could also simply stack them up, build cool towers out of them, or….
You could give Kingdomino a try. Kingdomino takes this classic gaming system and adds a kingdom-building theme to the mix.
It’s bright, it’s colorful… but is it fun?
Let’s find out.
A Brief Overview of Kingdomino
Kingdomino uses the same mechanics as classic Dominos by matching similar faces on a tile together. And that’s where the similarities end.
Instead of pips on the domino tiles, there are different types of landforms that you’ll use to create your kingdom. How you build out your kingdom will determine your final score.
It’s an excellent lightweight game that’s very easy to set up and very easy to learn. The whole game can be explained in a few minutes, which translates into more time playing and less time buried in a rulebook.
Versions & Expansions
Kingdomino: Age of Giants
The Age of Giants expansion adds a bit more player interaction and attacks to the game.
The hill giants are getting rowdy and have decided it’s time for them to come down and see what these new kingdoms are made of. Mixed in with the original tiles are some new Giant tiles. Whenever they are used, players are forced to place a giant meeple in their kingdom that covers one of the crowns on their tiles, making that whole section worth zero points.
There are footstep tiles that move the giants from your kingdom to any of your opponents’ kingdoms. This addition definitely changes up the feel of the game from happy little kingdom-builder to a “Dang it, Kendra! That’s the 3rd giant!” kind of game.
- Game expansion for Kingdom I no (Spiel des Jahres winner) by...
- Allows for a 5th player to join in the game
- New rules! the Giants add interaction play between the players
Queendomino is the more mature version of Kingdomino. (Naturally.)
It basically plays like Kingdomino but with much more complexity. There’s a queen, a dragon, an entire economic system, and knights. That’s a whole heck of a lot more than what you’ll find in Kingdomino.
So the first question you may have is, “Which one is better?”
It honestly depends on your personal preference. If your board game shelf is overflowing with big-box Euros and you’re looking for a simple game you can pick up and play in a short amount of time, then Kingdomino is probably more your speed.
If your table is full of players who scoff at simple games, Queendomino is probably going to hit the table more often. Both are easy to learn and fill a similar role in your game shelf but Queendomino is the more refined and complex version.
- Queen domino is both a standalone game and an expansion of the...
- It offers more complex challenges, a new territory, and a way for...
- 2 to 4 players can play Queen domino traditionally, but up to 8...
This is a new entry into the series and I haven’t had the chance to check it out yet.
Duel looks like the love child of Kingdomino and Yahtzee. Players have two dice to roll and will take the results together forming the “domino” tile. Once the domino tile is finalized it’s recorded on a sheet of paper. It’s basically the minimalist travel version of Kingdomino designed for 2 players.
Kingdomino: Giant Version
There’s also a giant version of Kingdomino. Same game, just giant.
If you’re still unsure whether you want to give Kingdomino a try, you can always check it out online for free. Board Game Arena has a lot of free games that you can play online with other players and it’s completely free and legal.
Playing online is a good way to learn the rules or test out the mechanics to see if you’re going to like the game, but I don’t think there will ever be anything that quite takes the place of cardboard and cards.
Kingdomino is relatively simple which means there are not a whole of components to the game. The domino tiles are made from sturdy cardboard and feel pretty hefty. You won’t find any of the cardboard components flimsy or lacking, so they should last you a good while.
The game also comes with two custom meeples for each color. They’re standard meeple quality but with an extra design flair on them that makes them feel a little more special.
Blue Orange Games is a company that produces very pretty games. They’re the ones behind the very popular Photosynthesis with the cardboard tree cutouts. If you’ll recall from our review of Photosynthesis, the cardboard trees have space in the box so they’ll only need to be built once.
Kingdomino gets the same quality treatment. Each player has a color-coded castle that sits on their starting tile and the box has a space for each one. It’s always nice when designers add these little elements but also design them well enough that they’re an addition to the gaming experience, instead of a hassle.
Component storage is perfect in this game. Everything fits well in the box, has its place, and the box is the perfect size. They didn’t just throw a few components into a giant box like we’ve seen in some board games. It drives me crazy when they do that.
Overall production and components are of high quality and unless you spill something directly on the tiles, they’ll last you for many games to come.
How to Play Kingdomino
If you can match up similar tiles, you can play Kingdomino. It’s that easy to learn.
The actual instruction manual is a single fold-out page.
Each player starts with a single tile. This tile represents your kingdom and you’ll get to put a fancy little cardboard cutout to place on top.
Each turn, players draw domino tiles from the pile equal to the number of King Meeples in play. Each tile has a picture side that is split into 2 separate images. Just like a domino, but with images instead of pips.
On the back of every tile is a number from 1-48. All of the tiles should be shuffled before the game starts and when drawn, are placed in numerical order.
Players then take turns choosing which tile they want by placing their King Meeple on it. It’s a simple bidding mechanic that is also used to determine turn order in the next round. The player that chose the tile with the lowest number will go first next turn.
Your Kingdom tile can connect to anything.
There are a few rules after that.
Tiles can only be played as long as at least one side is touching a matching side. The other half can connect with a mismatched picture as long as the other side is matching.
Players are unable to simply build out a really long string of tiles forever. The playing field limit is a 5 x 5 grid. Trying to place a domino that would push your kingdom beyond these limits would be an illegal move and cannot be done.
There is a 2-player variant where the grid is expanded to a 7 x 7 grid but for 3-4 players, the grid stays at the standard 5 x 5 size.
Your castle tile does not have to be in the center of the board. If things work out, you can have it placed anywhere in your 5 x 5 grid. You do however have the possibility of gaining some bonus points if it’s in the center.
If you get stuck with a tile that you cannot place… well, it sucks to be you. Discard it and end your turn.
Ending the Game & Scoring
When the last domino tiles come out of the box, the end-game round is triggered. Everyone gets one final round before players proceed to scoring.
Scoring is all about the crowns. Some of the domino tiles have a little crown in the corner. These are the score multipliers for the different sections of kingdom that you’ve built.
Each connected matching area in your kingdom is considered a “property” and those are scored by the number of spaces multiplied by the number of crowns you have. The keyword here is connected. If you have 4 forest tiles on one side of your kingdom connected and a completely separate section of 3 forest tiles across the board they will be scored as 2 separate entities. They aren’t added up together.
So if you had a property of 4 forest tiles and 2 crowns, the total point value of that property would be 8.
If you somehow managed to make a massive property, but have no crowns… you’re screwed. As we all know, zero multiplied by anything is still zero. You get zero points unless there are crowns in the property.
There are a few chances for bonus points too. If your castle is in the center of your kingdom, then you’ll receive an additional 10 points. If you create a perfect 5×5 grid without any empty spaces, you’ll receive an additional 5 points.
Your First Game of Kingdomino
For your first game, you’ll need to set up your castles but as I mentioned earlier, they only need to be built once. They fit right in the box afterward and never need to be broken down again.
The number of players determines the number of dominos that will be used throughout the game. That way, each domino you select needs to be carefully considered, or you may end up with gaps in your grid.
- 2 players: Use 24 domino tiles
- 3 players: Use 36 domino tiles
- 4 players: Use all 48 domino tiles
This should ensure that everyone has the potential to fill up their full grid as long as they don’t have to discard any dominos.
Kingdomino is going to be a challenge the first time you play. Not because the rules are hard and the gameplay is difficult, but it’ll be challenging to build the perfect city.
Remember that the building area is limited. During my first game, I was trying to create a perfect square on my board and didn’t quite get there. It was frustrating for me to see my kingdom out of whack but it was more of a weird OCD thing than the actual difficulty of the game.
If you’re playing with only 2 players, then you’ll also receive 2 King Meeples instead of just 1 and you’ll be performing double the amount of actions on each turn.
Pros & Cons of Kingdomino
- Easy to learn
- Solid construction
- Everything fits in the box
Kingdomino is an excellent lightweight game. It sets up quickly and can be enjoyed in a short amount of time from start to finish. The artwork is nicely done and it gives players a complete gaming experience in a small box form.
All of the components are solid. I wouldn’t throw them at a wall or play on a table without coasters, but that’s just me. The domino tiles were my major concern when I first saw the game, but after opening up a box and handling them you can feel how solid they are and they aren’t likely to warp. I do also really appreciate the fact that Blue Orange Games made space in the box for all 4 of the castles to be placed without having to disassemble and reassemble them before each game. It’s a minor perk, but it’s always nice to see the attention to detail like that.
- Limited player interaction
Kingdomino has very limited player interaction. The only real times that players are interacting and talking is during tile selection. Other than that, you’re basically in your own little world (or kingdom).
The Queendomino expansion adds a lot of variety and different mechanics that forces player interaction, whereas the base game alone doesn’t have a whole lot of interaction.
Kingdomino is a twist on the classic game of Dominos.
The dominos had their pips replaced with pictures of different pieces of your kingdom and players will draft domino tiles to complete their kingdom in the most efficient way possible for points.
It’s very easy to learn and quick to set up. It’s a lightweight game that’s perfect for a short gaming session or to get your group in the gaming mood before one of the big box heavy-hitters.
I really like Kingdomino. I put it into the same category/role as Carcassonne (except Carcassonne has a ton of expansions). I put them in the same category because they fill similar roles on my board game shelf. If I want to just sit down quickly and play a game of something without having to refresh myself on the rules, if there’s not a lot of time to play something else, or if I’m about to sit down for a day-long gaming session, Kingdomino is an excellent choice.
A Gateway Game
It’s a great gateway game because it uses a very similar and simple mechanic that most newbies can pick up quickly. There’s not a whole lot of things to keep track of and yet there’s enough strategy involved in your own kingdom that players won’t be bored waiting for their turn.
It’s also very pretty for such a simple game. It’s always fun to see how everyone’s kingdom has turned out by the end of the game. If you look closely at the tiles, the artwork itself is rather whimsical and there are a few references of other games hidden within some of the tiles. I really have to once again give a hand to Blue Orange for not skimping on the production and artwork.
I haven’t mentioned it yet, but it also won the Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) award in 2017. If you’re a big gamer geek, you’ll know that that’s one of the most prestigious awards a board game can receive.
Little Player Interaction
It has almost everything going for it. The only downside I can really point to is the player interaction. By nature of the game, you’re kind of in a separate world from your opponents. Sure, the tile-drafting mechanic determines what tiles are available to you and the one tile you need could be picked up by another player, but I do sometimes feel like I’m playing a solo game.
It’s a tricky thing in a game to balance, especially when each player is building in their own area and opponents have no direct actions that can be taken against each other.
That could also be a plus, especially with the younger crowd. I remember my brother and I arguing a lot and attacking each other exclusively in games when we were younger. This mitigates possible animosity and allows everyone to happily build in harmony. If you’re into that sort of thing, however, you may want to check out the expansion where you can send giants into your opponents’ spaces.
Have you played Kingdomino? Drop a comment below and let us know your thoughts on the game.