SR: 25th January 2008 – Kingsburg

KingsburgThis week there were five of us so I decided that it was time to break out Kingsburg, a game by new Italian designers, Andrea Chiarvesio and Luca Iennaco, and published in English by Elfinwerks.

In Kingsburg players are governors sent from the King to oversee the territories at the edge of his realm. The game takes place over five years (rounds), and in every year there are 3 production seasons for collecting resources, building structures, and training troops. The final season of the year is winter, in which all the players must fight an invading army. During the production seasons, players role dice and allocate them to influence the advisers in the King’s Council. Good dice rolling skills help but the player with the lowest influence dice sum will be the first one to choose where to spend his/her influence. Once everyone’s dice have been allocated, the advisers award different resources or allocate soldiers, victory points or other advantages to the influencing player. Players then get the chance to spend resources on buildings that give a benefit of victory points and/or help in the later stages of the game. In winter, an enemy army appears and players use their troops if they have any to try and fight them off. Win and the king rewards you, lose and the enemy makes off with resources, VPs and/or destroys buildings. At the end of five years the player with the most VPs is the winner.

In our game, Steve started out hot favourite having been the only one to have played before (3 times) with Mark G a close second favourite as it involved rolling dice. Due to my fantastic dice rolling skills, I was the only one unable to build in the first season, an insult compounded by the fact that everyone then immediately picked up a VP from the King for having most buildings. The allocation of dice is the most interesting part of the game as by careful placement, you can freeze others out of play. Steve suffered from this a couple of times early on, so much so that he announced early in the second round that he was positive he couldn’t possibly recover from such a bad position. Yes, Steve, everyone fell for that old chestnut! Nige on the other hand honed in on what certainly seemed the most powerful building track (Inn, Market, Farms) and quickly gained himself an extra white die that proved extremely useful. Rolling 17 to influence the Queen? No problem with four dice! Mark G went down the military route and was never troubled in Winter and may have been a real contender if any of the invading hordes in the first four years had been intent on wrecking buildings. As it was, it was only in the final winter when something really horrible could happen. I wasn’t too worried as we were facing demons and my Church added to my defence so I only needed two soldiers from the King to be safe and Mark G was rolling the die. However, Mark was already safe so declared that a 1 would be a good roll. Sure enough, his skill didn’t desert him so I lost 9 VPs in that oh so harsh winter. Nige’s Farms meant that he had the game sewn up pretty easily a while before the end but the threat of “Even Nige couldn’t lose it from here” meant that he took his time(!) to make sure of the win.

Kingsburg is excellent and hits just the right buttons for me. There are lots of ways to develop your capabilities and none of them can guarantee victory. A more demanding winter could have seen off Nige’s farm advantage and helped Mark G. Poor dice rolling doesn’t help but there is normally something you can do with your dice and the help of the extra die in Spring and King’s Envoy can help bring somebody who is trailing in buildings back into contention. All in all, a fine game and very nicely produced. A very strong contender for Game of the Month.