Kingdomino, from Bruno Cathala, has experienced continued interest since its introduction in 2016. It feels like it’s grown into a property like Azul, in that it takes concepts people loved about the original and grows them into new but familiar games.
Kingdomino has gone through a few changes since its inception, and this is the next step. Kingdomino Origins takes us out of the Kingdom and into the Cretaceous with this new experience from Blue Orange Games. There’s an ongoing debate online amongst people who have opinions that this will replace the OG. What do you think?
Kingdomino Origins presents players with three different ways to experience the game that adds versatility and complexity, depending on what sort of game is desired. While each of these options presents something different, what remains familiar from its Kingdomino roots is the process of selecting tiles and matching those lands with others in your Kingdom to gain the most points.
This mode brings you into the prehistoric setting and introduces volcanoes and fire to the game. Fire functions the same as crowns did for Kingdomino. Fire occasionally is printed on lands, but volcanoes produce them too. Depending on their size, volcanoes will produce fires that must be placed several tiles away from the volcano. Scoring in this mode is the most like the original Kingdomino.
This mode keeps the volcanoes you just learned about but adds in resources. Four lands produce a certain type of resource. When the dominoes first come out, the appropriate lands get resources placed on them. As players draft tiles, they will be awarded a majority tile if they have the most of a particular resource. These will be worth points at the end if you hold on to them. But as volcanoes explode and fires spread, these resources and your majority might be lost.
This mode is the most complex. While it keeps volcanoes and fire, resources no longer score points, and we don’t care about those majorities anymore either. Instead, we add an optional third turn action and add in a market with cavemen. These cavemen can be drafted to our boards using resources but can only be placed on tiles that don’t have fire or resources already on them. Just as before, fires from volcanoes can destroy resources and cavemen. Cavemen score points based on resources in their vicinity, some scoring more than others. Other cavemen simply have number strengths listed on them. When players group these types together, they’ll score like crowns/fires.
This was a bit atypical for me in a review. You get rules and a standard way to play a game. Occasionally there are variants that add something different to the experience, but those might be ignored altogether. But with Kingdomino Origins, you get three different ways to play, none of which are the “main” way. I think that’s actually pretty smart and allows you to decide which mode best fits how you want to play. Now, that being said, I have a preferred mode, totem mode, but let’s talk about all of them.
Totem mode felt like it built upon vanilla Kingdomino and added just a little something extra that didn’t overcomplicate the experience. If I had to guess, many folks who’ve played Kingdomino before would feel at home starting here. This mode worked really well in our two-player games. It was easy to track who had what resource majority. The rules encourage you to pass this majority tile around when it changes in real-time, but I’d be curious how cumbersome that’d be in a four-player game of constantly tracking your resource numbers and comparing them against everyone else.
Tribe mode is one I think I would play again. It was definitely the most complex way to play out of the three. There’s a lot more possibility for you to min/max your way into AP hell, especially as the game gets closer to the end and winning is a high priority. There is a lot to consider in scoring beyond matching land types. Do I have a good place to put this caveman? Can I use these two resources to buy this caveman in the market before my opponent and not hurt my points elsewhere? There were a lot of if’s and then’s that factored in. This wasn’t a bad thing and perhaps these sorts of considerations are par for the level of complexity in games that you prefer.
Discovery mode, well honestly, I didn’t play this mode. I learned it, saw what it presented and that it was fully present in totem mode. I think it can be a good starting point, especially if you’ve never played a Kingdomino game before. But I think most folks would be comfortable enough to learn it and start in Totem. While I was learning this, I thought about whether I would prefer to play Discovery mode or vanilla Kingdomino. They aren’t the same game, but again, there’s similarity. Battle to the death though, I’d personally go for the OG.
There are two other things I’d like to talk about, specific to two-player games. The rules get changed up a little. Instead of building out your typical 5×5 grid of dominoes, it’s a 7×7. No big deal and obviously with that comes a higher-scoring game. But I didn’t like that control over who picks what tile is predetermined. Essentially, you’ll always be taking either the first and last tiles or the middle two. Not just the first time. Every time. This is different from the original and I feel as though it really hampered your choices and certainly your autonomy if you’re stuck having the choices made for you. Maybe there’s some mathematical reason for the odds in the distribution of flames and so on. I don’t know, but I didn’t like it and will probably just play it the old way next time.
Now, the big question: if I own Kingdomino, do I need to go out and buy this? I think a lot of that depends on if you want to have a little more play variety. OG Kingdomino feels like it’s earned the “modern classic” moniker at this point and so for many people, they may not want to go beyond that experience. That’s already enough for them, which I don’t think is misguided. I think there’s room for both to exist. If you’re in the mood for Kingdomino, but want to step up the experience some, spice it up as it were, then I think you might justify owning both. Granted, I wouldn’t buy it just for playing in discovery mode. But the other two are interesting and different enough that they might appeal to someone looking for a little more.
If you didn’t notice a trend throughout, here it is: Kingdominio Origins brings new but familiar ways to play a game you’ve grown to love over the past few years. The different ways to play can really cater to you, who you’re playing with, and your desired level of complexity. There’s a lot to enjoy here and if you’re wondering if I have anything negative to say about it, I really don’t. I don’t think its existence cannibalizes the classic. It borrows things from predecessors without feeling reductive. I don’t think you have to own both; that’ll be up to you to decide if there’s enough evolution here for that. Overall, there’s some enjoyable variety that I would encourage fans of the series to, at a minimum, try out.
Final Score: 4.5 Stars – A solid progression in the Kingdomino series that still remembers its roots