Dale Yu – Review of Kingdomino Origins

Kingdomino Origins

  • Designer: Bruno Cathala
  • Publisher: Blue Orange
  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 8+
  • Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by Blue Orange

kingdomino origins

The original Kingdomino won the Spiel des Jahres back in 2017.  The simple domino laying game was elegant in its simplicity, yet gave players a great challenge in drafting the right tiles and then finding the right places to place those tiles.  There have already been a number of expansions and extensions to the Kingdomino family, and I’ve played (and kept) most of them.

This year’s entry into the Kingdomino universe is Kingdomino Origins.  This version is set in prehistoric times, and you are trying to expand your tribe by bringing fire to different regions of your world (which again is a 5×5 grid of squares).  This version of the game is a bit more complex, and it comes with three layers to the game: Discovery Mode, Totem Mode, and Tribe Mode.  Each Mode adds on to the previous, so I’ll explain them in sequential order.

Discovery Mode

This version is similar to the original Kingdomino, but has a new twist in the volcano tiles.  As in Kingdomino, players vie to build the best 5×5 grid of dominoes (each starts with a single square piece and then has the chance to add 12 dominoes to the grid).  There are 48 numbered dominoes that are shuffled and then placed in a draw pile – you can use the box for this purpose.  The dominoes have six different possible terrains on them (grassland, lake, desert, jungle, quarry and volcano), and some of the squares have fire icons printed right on them.

To start the game, the first four tiles are drawn, and then they are placed in numerical order on the table (with the lowest number tile being at the top of the column) and then flipped over.  In the first round, the player pawns are drawn out in random order, and as each pawn comes out, the owner chooses which domino to place his pawn on.  This version of the game also has 10 Fire tokens – have these available on the table for players to pick up as they need.

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Once all four dominoes each have a pawn on them, four more tiles are drawn from the box, and again they are placed in a column in numerical order, again with the lowest number at the top of the column.  Now, you look back at the column with the pawns on it.  The player who occupies the topmost tile now places the tile underneath his pawn.  Then, that player chooses any available domino in the new column and places his pawn on it.  This continues until all pawns have been moved from the old column to the new one (and each player has had the opportunity to play the domino on which they once stood).

When placing a domino, you must be able to place it so that it either touches your starting square or is orthogonally adjacent to a previously placed domino that landscapes at the connection.  Note that you do not need to match ALL landscapes on the table with the new domino – only one match is needed.  You must also place your dominos so that you don’t exceed a 5×5 grid size.  If you are unable to legally place your chosen domino, you simply discard it and lose your chance to play a domino.

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If your domino has a volcano terrain on it, you get to throw fire from it when you place it – depending on the type of volcano.  If it has one crater, it launches 1 fire up to 3 squares away. If it has 2 craters, it throws 2 fires up to 2 squares away.  If it has 3 craters, it throws 3 fires a single square away.  When fire is being thrown, you trace a path from the volcano square; the path can be orthogonal or diagonal and can change direction as it moves.  Put a fire token of appropriate type on the destination.  Also, you shouldn’t put a fire token on a volcano space because it won’t do you any good.

At this point, a new column of dominoes is drawn, again organized in numerical order and then players move their pawns from one to the other.  At the end of 12 such rounds, the game ends and players tally up their points.  You look at each contiguous area of a single landscape color and then multiply the size of the area by the number of fire icons (either printed on the tiles or from the Fire tokens thrown out by the volcanoes)  It is possible to score nothing for an area if you have no fires in it. You can also have multiple areas of a landscape type in your grid, but you obviously will not score as much as you would for a single larger area.  The player with the most points wins the game.  Tiebreaker goes to the player with the largest single area.

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If you like, there are also a few optional scoring rules (which we play with in all games).  First, you score 10 bonus points if your hut is in the exact center of your 5×5 grid – regardless of whether the entire grid is complete.  Second, if you do have a full 5×5 grid (which means you didn’t discard any tiles), score 5 bonus points.  It is possible to score both of these bonuses.

Totem Mode

Totem Mode uses all the rules of the above Discovery Mode but adds a few more things to the game.  Now, each time that you flip over a new tile, place a wooden resource onto each terrain square with a white resource symbol on it (mammoths on grasslands, fish on lakes, mushrooms or jungles and flints on quarries).  You never place anything on deserts or volcanoes.  You also don’t put anything on terrain squares that have fire icons preprinted on them.  These wooden resources will travel with the tiles as they are selected and placed in your area.  Also take the 4 Totem tiles and place them on the table where everyone can see them.

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As the game is played, after you place a domino in your area, check to see if you have more Resources of a type than any other player. If so, take the Totem for that Resource and put it near you.  You will keep it until someone has more resources than you of that type.  Note that if your volcano throws fire onto a tile, the wooden resource on that tile must be discarded (because you can’t have resources on any square that has fire).  If this causes you to lose the majority, you must pass the totem to the player who now has the most of that type.

At the end of the game, the regular scoring occurs as outlined in the Discovery Mode rules.  You will also score 1 point for each wooden Resource you still have on your board.  Additionally, the owner of each Totem at the end of the game will score bonus points as written on the tile (between 3 and 6 points each).

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Tribe Mode

This version uses all the rules from the Discovery mode as well as the wooden resource markers from the Totem Mode, but it does not use the Totem tiles.  In setup, draw tiles like usual and place the wooden markers on them.  Then place the cave board on the table – shuffling the cavemen tiles to form a draw pile and then flipping the first 4 face up.

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This version gives you a third action each turn.  You still place your domino and choose a new domino like always, but now before your turn ends, you also have the opportunity to recruit a caveman.  There are two different types of cavemen – hunter/gatherers which will help you score points depending on the resources around them and warriors which have spears on them. Warrior tiles will be scored as if they were their own terrain type where you multiply the number of warrior tiles by the number of spears on them in each group.

When you recruit cavemen, you have two options. You can spend any 2 different resources to choose one of the four face up tiles and then place it anywhere in your grid that doesn’t have a fire symbol, fire token or wooden resource.  Alternatively, you can spend four different resources to pick up the draw pile and choose any tile from that stack, shuffling the remains when you replace it.  Like wooden resources, you will have to discard any cavemen if their square gets a fire token placed on it.

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At the end of the game, you score your terrains like normal.  You then score each hunter/gatherer based on the wooden tokens or cavemen tiles surrounding it (the scoring criteria for each is printed on the tile itself).  For the warriors, they are  scored as if they were their own terrain type where you multiply the number of warrior tiles by the number of spears on them in each group.

My thoughts on the game

Well, I really liked Kingdomino, and it has been one of my go-to gateway games since it came out, but I’ll be honest that it hasn’t gotten much other play outside of those intro games as there isn’t quite enough there to hold my interest.  This new version definitely gives you a bit more to think about, and each of the three modes offers something a little different – depending on your mood and desired complexity.

Surprisingly, I ended up liking the most simple of the three modes (Discovery) best.  Adding the complexity of using the volcanoes to throw fire where you want it, was enough to make the game interesting enough for me – definitely an improvement over regular Kingdomino.

I thought the Totem mode was pretty good, adding the majority scoring for each of the resources.  That was a nice increase in complexity, though also adding a bit to the fiddliness.  

The strategy is still much the same, now instead of awaiting the two and three crown tiles to come up, the big plan here is to wait for the volcano tiles to come up so that you can put the fire where you want them.  You will have to leave appropriate space in your grid to let you throw the fire to the places you want them to be – but I think players will have a bit more agency in developing their scoring areas with the movable fires as opposed to the fixed crowns.

There are some interesting decisions to be made as adding fire to a tile ends up destroying the wooden resource; and for most people in my group, this was the sweet spot.  

The Tribe mode did not fare as well in my opinion.  The Cavemen tiles do offer more ways to score and new reasons to place tiles in particular places; but for me, this made a quick and elegant game a bit too long and clunky.  I can definitely see that some people will like this added layer, but for me, Kingdomino wants to be a light and quick game, and this addition pushes the game in a direction I simply don’t want it to go in.

But – this is the beauty of Kingdomino Origins – and why I think it will replace Kingdomino in my collection.  The game allows you to play any of the three versions, and therefore, it can meet the needs of just about any group.  Depending on what sort of game you’re looking for, you can play the version that fits that game night.

And, now that I think about it, and examine the box, I think that I’ll actually just end up consolidating all my Kingdomino in this box.  There is probably enough space to bag up the tiles from the base game and add it to this box, thus giving me all the forms in one place.  Yeah, I’ll have to commit the offense of throwing the super nice molded vac tray away in order to make it all fit – but I’m a bit bagger anyways, so I don’t hold any loyalty to vac trays.

For those who love Kingdomino, this is a nice improvement in the sense that it gives you a few new ways to enjoy the general idea.  The most basic version still is somewhat different from the original, and for some, this may give you cause to want to keep both – but for me, this one likely could replace the original.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y
  • Neutral. John P, James Nathan, Steph
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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