- Designers: Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc
- Artist: Cyril Bouquet
- Publisher: Blue Orange Games
- Release Dates: July 2019
Disclaimer: The game was provided to us for review by Blue Orange Games.
Phil: It’s the THREE WEEKS OF BLUE ORANGE GAMES!!!
Luke: That’s right, folks, for the next 3 weeks, we’re going to be taking a look at 3 of Blue Orange’s most recently released games.
Phil: Starting off with-
Luke: Our least favorite.
Luke: Hey, I’m not saying it’s bad (which it’s not), but I am saying that it’s our least favorite of the 3 titles we’ll be taking a look at. I think that’s honest.
Phil: Well yes, but it also puts a bad taste in the audience’s mouths from the get-go.
Luke: Fine, then how about this; Kingdomino Duel is a fine game in the Blue Orange repertoire, but we’re going to be talking about how its parents, Kingdomino and Queendomino, are not just older, but hardier, healthier, and overall more thoughtful choices to bring to the table.
Luke: Kingdomino Duel is a $15, 15 minute, pocket-sized roll-and-write iteration of the originals. Players are going to take turns rolling 4 dice, participating in a brief snake draft before combining their 2 selected dice to form a domino. Players will then place their domino on their sheet with at least one symbol adjacent to another of the same type, drawing in the appropriate symbols.
Dice are composed of various shields, which replace the green fields and icy blue waters of Kingdomino as the terrain types. Some shields are accompanied with x’s, acting as the crowns that facilitate scoring. If a shield doesn’t include an x, you’ll instead make a checkmark on a shared powers sheet; if you earn enough of the appropriate checkmarks, you’ll earn a special ability that your opponent can no longer access.
Phil: Once a player builds a suite of these powers, they can do some crazy stuff, splitting their dice, ignoring regular placement rules, or getting extra checkmarks.
Play continues until a player’s sheet is full or someone cannot make a legal placement anymore, at which point players will score each “region” of shields (squares x checkmarks) plus any bonus points provided by abilities. Whoever built the best kingdom wins!
Luke: There are a number of players who I’ve seen enjoy this game largely due to its quick playtime and smart back-and-forth, and I can see how some would find a sense of tension and competition here, but for us, there wasn’t much encouraging us to return to this title.
Phil: Many of the actions feel scripted, as there are frequently optimal plays that present themselves, which makes for an experience of going through the motions. That’s not to say those plays are always the most obvious, but you are frequently restricted by where you can place dominos or what die-faces were rolled, providing you with only a handful of options.
Luke: This is perhaps what lends itself to its short timeframe, which is certainly a nice feature when combined with its fairly small tablespace. Learning and playing the game for the first time will take no longer than 25 minutes max, a hard feat for most games on the market.
Phil: But is a quick, okay experience worth the effort and energy?
Luke: Not when Blue Orange already has a great alternative on hand. While we don’t frequently hear about Kingdomino or Queendomino at smaller player counts, it provides a rather fulfilling experience in 20 minutes.
The draft feels a bit more interesting, with more options available in a given round than usual, meaning you have to pay particularly close attention to what you’re pulling. Not only that, you but draft 2 tiles per round, meaning you’ll find yourself caught in weird, interesting draft orders.
Phil: It also allows for the game to move that much quicker, with half the rounds as usual. The only downside is that you won’t see every tile in the game, meaning you could end up with rounds where players get stuck with terrains that have been largely unused for the game. The luck of the draw can be frustrating to some, but we didn’t mind it much.
Luke: Frankly, that little bit of unpredictability can lead to some funny or interesting moments that will draw players in to do weird or unique things with their boards.
Verdict: While all 3 have been made in part by the same designer, Kingdomino and Queendomino have a more satisfying play loop, with a more colorful and intuitive experience. Kingdomino Duel, while a quick and smart reimplementation, feels pale in comparison. If we were to pick one of the 3, we’d suggest Queendomino most of all.