I Pledge My Service To The King, Until The Next Wedding - Kingsburg Review

Brownie points if you understood the title reference! :-)

Well you've already seen my review on Alien Frontiers and I mentioned Kingsburg in that review. Kingsburg came out before Alien Frontiers and incorporates the same style of dice worker placement mechanics, thus it gets compared to Alien Frontiers regularly and it's a tricky decision for many players to decide on which game they would rather fork out the cash for.

Hopefully once you've read both my reviews and possibly even checked out my YouTube channel for the How 2 Play videos on these games, you'll have a decent idea of which game you would prefer, if any. I devoted a section of the Alien Frontiers review to comparing both games, I have included that later on in this article so that you don't have to keep flipping back between the two.

"Admit it, that's a nice looking cover"

Designer: Andrea Chiarvesio & Luca Iennaco (2007)
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
# of Players: 2-5
Ages: 13+
Play Time: 90+ minutes
BGG Rank/Rating: 180/7.26
Dice Tower 2013 People’s Choice Rank: 52
Category: Dice Worker Placement with City Building
  
Hands Up All Those Who Want To Help Me

In Kingsburg you are competing for victory points by building up the best city in the kingdom whilst staving off the constant onslaughts of the enemies. In order to build up your city and military force, you're going to need to enlist the help of the King and his advisors, each of which provide a different mix of resources, military forces and other bonuses.

Each player rolls three dice and the turn order is set by order of lowest to highest. Each player then takes it in turns to place their dice on the advisor spaces depending on the numbers rolled and what their main objectives are. Advisors operate on a first come, first serve basis so like normal worker placement games, you can block other players particularly from the lower value advisors that only require one die to use.

Once all the advisors have been used, the players then can build up parts of their city and have several routes they can take to do so. This repeats 3 times per year until finally at the end, they have to survive a raid from various fantasy enemies like goblins and undead. If they have the military strength required, they gain rewards, otherwise they risk losing resources and even part of their city.

"Lots of choices available, but is it enough?"

The game plays out over a period of 5 years after which, blimey would you know it, the person with the most victory points is the winner.

Silky and Smooth

The first obvious fact of this game is that it's gorgeous to look at. The board is filled with lavish, colourful artwork without being too cluttered and thus retaining functionality. The dice themselves are a little basic though, oh they're good quality and chunky, but it would have been nice to have seen some custom dice included. And yes I know that they do now exist, but have you seen the price of them? You're talking £30-£40 to get all of the colours easily - as Zee Garcia once said "You know what else is good, another WHOLE NEW GAME!" On top of that yet again you get cubes for resources, so an opportunity to trick the game out with some better ones.

"I tricked the game out with Euro tokens - normally you just get cubes"

The game play of Kingsburg flows very smoothly. Each phase is carefully laid out in sequence and each year is essentially rinse and repeat after that in a linear fashion. This makes the game easy to pick up for newer players (more so than Alien Frontiers) and keeps the game structured. But when every player knows the game, turns play out very quickly and the game length is kept short and if you're running short on time, then simply agree to end the game after Year IV instead of V. It's certainly a fairly "light" game for a Euro.

Each building row has a unique trait associated with it (some aid combat, some grant re-rolls, etc), though 5 rows can get a little repetitive over multiple players as the variation only lasts so long - see the paragraph coming up on To Forge A Realm on how to fix this.

The Perils Of Using Dice

Dice however bring in their own inherent flaw particularly in any Euro game - randomness. You have to accept that with this game (and Frontiers for that matter) that rolling badly will have a negative effect on your game. That's not to say that rolling consistently high means you always win though - using all of your dice on one advisor can sometimes be inefficient compared to using two and this helps to balance things out. But rolling consistently low is not going to give you good odds of winning unless you can quickly build the buildings that grant re-rolls for poor numbers.

"The many foes you may have to face, though it's less epic than the artwork makes it out to be!"

Whether this bothers you is down to your perspective. I like randomness and luck when it's not the be all or end all of the game, unless it's a super-quick filler. In both of these Euro games mentioned, it plays a part, but not too large a part to spoil the experience.

Filling A Niche

The game says 2-5 players however there's a niche where the game plays at it's best and that's with four players. The game still flows smoothly, but there's enough tension for spaces on the board without their being too much. In a 5 player game, there's so much competition for spaces that it can get rather heated, but if you like that, then go for it. 2 players is pointless, it's just practically solitaire as you rarely block anyone. 3 players is fine, you can still block lower value advisors quite nicely and the game takes barely 60-90 minutes to finish. But four is where it's at. Ignoring AP players, it's the perfect balance of game length and worker placement tension.

To Forge A Realm

This is probably one of the biggest potential issues you may have with Kingsburg. The game is good and worth getting, BUT it does suffer from longevity issues. Eventually with only 5 rows of fixed buildings you would find yourself not pulling this game out on a regular basis for fear of seeing the same stuff over again. Alien Frontiers gets a lot better with Factions, but can survive longer on it's own merits.


That's where To Forge A Realm comes in - the only expansion to the game and one which fetched I think a No 3 spot on my Top 10 Essential Expansions list. I may cover this in another review some day, maybe a video one, but in essence, it adds extra modules to the game such as event decks and player powers which I always like in games, but it also adds extra building rows and the choice of replacing up to two rows with alternatives meaning that your building choice is different from other players.

Once you add that in, Kingsburg shoots up in the rankings, it was exactly what this game needed. If you are buying this game, you have to own that expansion. That doesn't necessarily mean you have to get it while buying the base game straight away, the base game is still fun, but be aware that it exists and that you may decide to get it later.

Fantasy vs Science Fiction (Edited From Alien Frontiers Review)

Now we come to the big question. Alien Frontiers vs Kingsburg - Can I Own Both Or Is One The Clear Favourite? Well to be honest, there really isn't a clear favourite here. Both games are good and use the idea of placing worker dice to gain special abilities, but I feel that both games play out very differently and have their own pros/cons to the extent that you could feasibly own both in your collection. I for example have both and don't feel like leaving one or the other to gather dust.

The luck mitigation in both games is achieved in different ways (Alien Frontiers has alien tech cards and Kingsburg has the +2 tokens and building effects) and each has their own glaring luck issue (Alien Frontiers ship-building is essential to victory and rolling consistently low in Kingsburg won't do you any favours).Therefore you can't distinguish one on randomness either.

"Courtesy of BGG - Alien Frontiers - which do you prefer?"

Both games have room for improvement that are resolved by expansions, both are of good production quality, both have good artwork, both are Euro's - it's a nightmarish pair to separate.

However I believe that the flow of play is very different. Alien Frontiers requires you to place all of your ships and resolve all of their effects in an optimum order before the next player has their turn or can even roll their dice. This means that players will strategise what they want to do on their next turn but might have to suddenly change tactics once their turn starts because of what the other players have done, which can cause additional AP issues. Kingsburg on the other hand has everyone roll their dice at once and then place them one set a time. As such there is less downtime between players and you can only AP so far when comparing say 3-4 choices you could potentially have with 7-8!

The flow is smoother using Kingburgs timer track, however this does mean that the end-game trigger is fixed so you know it's coming. In Alien Frontiers, it's less evident because the endgame doesn't occur until the last colony is placed, though depending on how quickly this is done will affect the whole game length.

Alien Frontiers definitely has more meat to it what with all the different stations you can use on your turn and the alien tech cards to go with it. Kingsburg is a lighter experience, but to its advantage this means that explaining the game is much easier than with Frontiers. The iconography on the advisors is repeated and fairly self-explanatory, but in Frontiers you have to explain every station and moon section before you can start - watch those eyes glaze over!

As you can see, this is a difficult topic, but you will have noticed that I've mentioned a lot of different aspects of each game. That alone should show that they are both separate games in their own right and thus it is possible to own both and still enjoy both. That said, if budget is an issue then see if you can co-ordinate with other players, one buys Alien Frontiers and the other buys Kingsburg. That would work well and trust me, both are worth playing.

Verdict

Kingsburg is a solid Euro and a worthy contender to Alien Frontiers, BUT if you were to sit me down and hold me at gunpoint to say which I prefer, I would by a small margin go with Alien Frontiers mainly because of the retro theme, the added "meat" and the fact that Kingsburg requires the expansion to truly shine.

But that's not to say Kingsburg and Alien Frontiers can't both be in your collection as they play out very differently and Kingsburg definitely takes the crown (no pun intended) on being the easier of the games to both play and teach. Kingburg's rules are very simple and even non-gamers should pick this up pretty easily so perhaps you could call this a gateway game to "dice worker placement" as we've already got Alien Frontiers and now Euphoria to add to the genre.

Both look incredibly gorgeous on the table and you can trick out Kingsburg with some better Euro tokens if desired like I have - if I can replace cubes I will!

However to get the real longevity out of Kingsburg, you really do have to grab the "To Forge A Realm" expansion for this game. It featured on my Top 10 Essential Expansions as well as the Dice Towers so we're not kidding you here. On its own, it's still a good game, but the lack of variation is going to be a killer eventually.


You Will Like This Game If:

  • Worker placement is a mechanic that you like in your games.
  • You enjoy rolling dice and using them in unique ways
  • You want a simple game that flows smoothly from round to round.

You Will Not Like This Game If:

  • It's too simplistic and you're looking for something with more meat
  • You're not keen on having to fork out for the expansion "To Forge A Realm"
  • You don't like random/luck elements in your Euro games

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