Usually I am all about Cult of the New, especially new twists on old mechanisms or new mechanisms, but every now and then the old mechanisms are put together in a new way and it works out just fine. The King of Frontier is a good example.
The game comes with player mats which are folded paper and perfectly functional. You can download the files at the company’s blog if you need a new one. The files also have the mats in multiple colors if that matters to you. You can also download extra score sheets. The tile are of decent thickness and the wood cubes and cardboard money are fine.
There are 88 basic tiles and 16 special building tiles. When you play with fewer than 4 you remove tiles. Cleverly you remove the tiles with a 4 leaf clover on them for a 3 player game and for a 2 player game you remove the tiles with a 3 leaf clover.
A quick rundown of the game. Each player starts with 5 tiles and plays 3 to their player mat. The others are discarded. The tiles are placed the way you would build a city in Carcassonne. Adjacent sides of the tile must match land types or city. In KoF it is allowed to place a land type or city against the edge of the board, that section will never be completed.
After, the start player chooses an action. Like in Puerto Rico, when an action is chosen all players may do the action but the active or choosing player gets a small benefit. Unlike Puerto rico, every action may be chosen multiple times in a round.
The actions are:
Develop = drawing tiles and placing
Production = producing wood, stone or wheat
Construction = construction a special building tile
Consumption = exchanging wheat equal to or less than the number of empty squares in a completed city for VP
In order to produce an area must be completed and like in Walnut Grove, resources are placed on empty squares within the completed area.
Special buildings tiles cost wood and/or stone to build. They provide VP in a number of ways.
Consumption provides in game VP. A completed city consumes wheat. You may consume as much wheat as there are empty squares in the city and receive 1 VP per wheat consumed.
The game ends when a player fills their board, all the tiles are drawn or all the VP are taken.
Points are scored for each square in a completed area, special buildings, 10 pts for filling your player mat and -2 for each open place on your mat. Add in VP earned during consumption and the player with the most VP wins.
While it sounds like a strange mash up of mechanisms from 3 very different games, King of Frontier stands on it’s own merits. King of Frontier is a solid little game. It plays very quickly even with 4. When placing tiles you have to think about completing areas, what buildings might help the most and how you might best fill the board. The actions of course are reminiscent of Puerto Rico-will production give the next player too much of an advantage? The actions also provide the player interaction.
In some ways playing KoF is like meeting an old friend after a long absence, the rules are comfortable and familiar yet there is a lot of interesting things to catch up on when you see each other.
I am happy to say that a small expansion The King of Frontier: More Buildings! consisting of new special buildings is available. The base game works well as is but a few more buildings certainly won’t hurt anything.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Joe Huber (29 plays): This game was easily my favorite discovery of 2014. For a few weeks after I received my copy, I could only admire it, as there was no English translation. But as a result when one did arrive, I was quite anxious to try the game; it looked great. Having set my expectations rather high, I was impressed when the game met them – and then, with repeated play, proved to exceed them. This is a 20 minute game, but plays like a much deeper game; I’ve seen the game end on all three end-of-game conditions, and a range of winning scores between 18 and 92. As Dan notes below, the randomness of the tile draw makes the game very replayable; even the expansion – and I’m rarely a fan of expansions – adds to the game, by providing a random selection of buildings each game, without submitting to the temptation to make the new building more powerful. This game has already reached my personal top 50 (out of well over 2000), and is still climbing.
Dale Y (1 play): OK, so I haven’t played it a lot yet, though I suspect that I will play it again a few times the next time I’m around Joe Huber… This was an interesting game in Carcassonne like building but then having the added role selection made it shine. While I don’t think that I could say that I love it yet as I’ve only played it once, this was the sort of game that I definitely started looking for my own copy after playing. The other thing holding me back is that I didn’t really feel like I had a great understanding of the buildings in my first game. Either more plays with the game or a nice cheat sheet would help this in the future.
[Note: nice translations of all the buildings from the base game and expansion are now available on BGG -Lorna]
Dan Blum (6 plays): It’s a fun little game. There’s a fair amount of luck in the tile draws, but the game is quite short; if someone has a frustratingly bad set of draws, just play another game. I prefer it to Jungle Rumble, the other recent short Puerto Rico-ish game. Jungle Rumble doesn’t have any luck, which makes it more like Puerto Rico, but for me it’s just a bit too simple for that to work long-term; I’d play it more, but I expect to get bored with it. The King of Frontier has more going on and has the luck element to keep things fresh, not to mention variable set-up if you get the expansion.
I Love It: Lorna, Joe H, John P
I Like It: Dale Y, Dan Blum
Not for Me: