Benny Sperling reviews Kingsburg: The Dice Game
Welcome, friends, legions, country folks! Our good King Triton has invited us back for another go at rolling dice and making a Realm for him. Just like it’s big version, Kingsburg uses dice, but this time the resources are almost all virtual, meaning they disappear if you do not use them by the end of the round.
Players familiar with Kingsburg will find a truncated but delightful version of that game in a smaller and faster package. On your turn, you roll all 5 dice, 6 if you built the Cathedral, and you can roll them as many times as you want! Love this! This time around you are the only player placing dice values on the pictures of the Advisers. There are only 10 of them also, which explains these strange six-sided dice. Values 1, 2, and 3 are present, but so too are a Crown, a pair of Troops, and an Hourglass. The Hourglass, which locks when rolled, triggers 3 invasions and acts as the Seasons in Kingsburg. This time you know exactly the value of the invaders, but you also don’t get Triton’s direct help against them. Also, the invaders, if you lose to them, destroy your most valuable building, your choice if tied. The pair of Troops has to be paired with another pair of Troops to fill in 1 permanent Troop symbol against the invaders. The Crowns when paired with another Crown die or one of the Crowns from an Adviser gain the player a token: 1 Resource for themselves and a friend, 1 Crown token (used as a Crown when building or as a Crown as part of a different pair), 1 Hourglass token to play on an opponent or yourself, or 1 Reroll token that allows you to reroll those pesky Hourglasses.
The challenge of building is still present in this game though there are fewer building options, only 15 total. It should be noted that you can only build 2 of the Gold buildings during any game and if someone builds it first, tough luck you can’t build it. This may need a modifier with the number of players playing. I could see in 2 players or even 3 players this would be fine, but with 4 and 5 players, this will be an issue. Being later in the turn means that you are less likely to build those buildings for big points and big bonuses. The rules do not cover this directly, but if my opponent loses the Royal Cemetery for example due to invaders, could I then build it? Seems like the answer would be no.
I played the heck out of our copy of Kingsburg and eventually sold it off when it went out of print. I don’t know that I missed it that much, but the nostalgia was strong when I saw they were doing a roll and write version. This version definitely feels lighter and faster than the original, but look out if you roll a ton of Hourglasses quickly, this game could be over in exactly 3 rounds if you managed to roll all Hourglasses. While unlikely, this is a probable outcome (math is fun, everyone, yay probability!).
Overall, I feel this is a fine interpretation of that big game that often felt clunky and could be dispiriting when opponents were rolling 6’s when I was rolling 1’s. I like this version a whole lot better. In all, I like the way it works, and I like the push your luck element of those Hourglasses messing up your plays. Also not having limited dice rolls is really great! Keep rolling them dice till you get some semblance of a decent outcome. So get your virtual bits together and grab a pencil, it’s time to roll up a new Realm!
Full disclosure: I bought a copy of this game I reviewed from Amazon.it. This is an Italian copy and I had to use google translate to be able to play it as it does not have English rules in the box. I feel like the translation was good and I had a good time on the second play through when I didn’t roll a crazy amount of Hourglasses.