Designed by Bruno Cathala
Art by Cyril Bouquet
Published by Blue Orange Games
2-4 Players | 15 Minutes
In the latest installment of the highly successful Kingdomino series, Blue Orange Games and Bruno Cathala are taking us back to our roots… our caveman ancestor roots. Take charge of a tribe and seek to expand your hunting territory. Introduce fire to the land by harvesting lava from nearby volcanoes, gather natural resources and recruit a caveman crew all by simply placing cardboard domino tiles!
Kingdomino Origins features 3 distinct game modes that provide varying game time and difficulty levels. In a typical game you’ll take turns drafting terrain dominos into your territory, connecting them to similar tiles and scoring points based on their proximity to fire tokens. The game doesn’t have the word “domino” in the title for no reason at all. Kingdomino takes the game of dominos and puts a light hearted spin on the traditional connecting of tiles. Kingdomino has a reputation for a simple rule set and high accessibility that have charmed millions of gamers, but can Origins deliver a fresh experience that earns a place on your shelf? Let’s take a look.
While we could compare or contrast this latest installment to previous versions, I’m going to approach this review attempting to benefit someone completely new to the Kingdomino series.
HOW IT PLAYED
While each of Kingdomino Origins’ 3 game modes build from a standard foundation, there is enough disparity to present this journey through the game as 3 individual sections. I wouldn’t say you’re getting 3 games in 1, but rather 3 levels of appeal. While there is an interesting and potentially thinky puzzle here, the game as a whole is clearly focused on a family audience. Having the flexibility to play the game with younger children, more casual gamers and slightly more experienced gamers across the different modes brings a ton of value to the box.
The “Discovery Mode” sticks to the basic ideas of the game. Players will take turns drafting from a series of available domino tiles. Each domino tile must then be placed in their hunting territory, pairing one environment tile with another of the same type (similar to numbered tiles in dominos) forming a region. Certain domino tiles have fire symbols on them and they are central to scoring points. Each tile also features a unique number on the back and the player who drafted the lowest domino number gets first dibs on the next round of tiles available.
In addition to the environment tiles, some dominos may contain a volcano. Volcanoes come in different sizes (1, 2 or 3 vents). When a volcano tile is placed, the player draws a fire token equal to that volcano’s vent size and moves a certain number of tiles from the volcano to a blank space. The only limitation here is that it can’t cover a tile already featuring a fire symbol.
Based on the number of tribes (players) in the game, players will work to grow their hunting territory into a 5×5 or 7×7 (for 2 player games) square grid. At the end of the game, players will score the number of linked environment tiles times the number of flames in that region.
I feel like it sounds much more complicated than it really is. You’re connecting similar tile types and multiplying their total by the number of fire tokens in the space. You can do this for every region of connected like-times. This game mode is perfect for younger kids who get to enjoy the decision making around moving the fire tokens to the appropriate tile and matching like-style environments.
“Totem Mode” presents a slightly more strategic game by introducing the game’s mini, wooden resource tokens and comfort points. As dominos are drafted, you may be prompted to place resources on either end of the placed tile. After each drafting phase, players with the most resources or a certain kind will be awarded a totem corresponding to that resource.
This totem will likely change hands throughout the game as the player with the highest number of a given resource changes. Each totem is worth a certain number of points and the player with that totem in their possession at the end of the game is awarded those points in addition to a single point for each resource left (those not devoured by lava fire being spit from volcano tiles).
Tribe mode is where Origins really begins to make a name for itself. Tribe mode introduces the cave board and caveman tiles. The cave board is a market providing players opportunities to purchase and play tiles that in tandem with additional caveman tiles, resources and fire symbols, earn players big points.
Here players have the additional opportunity after playing a tile to purchase a caveman tile. To do so, players will have to pull 2 unique resources from their board as payment.
After placing the caveman tile on a tile in your hunting territory, the caveman tile will score points based on it’s own ability and it’s connection to adjacent elements. For example, a caveman tile might score points for each resource in any of the 8 tiles surrounding it. A player may end up scoring 3 points for each fish in the surrounding tiles or 5 points for each piece of flint. Additionally, players can purchase warriors into their tribe. These warriors are each individually worth a certain point total, but can be exploited exponentially when they’re in a group.
There are a couple additional score rules you can use if you so choose: gaining points for having your starting hut (the lone tile you begin the game with) sitting in the middle of your hunting territory at the end of
Kindomino Origins has a pretty nice set of components. The domino tiles are all pretty thick and have a nice laminate on top for extra protection. The wooden resource tokens are a little small, but they are all uniquely shaped and colored giving them a ton of personality. The additional fire tokens and caveman tiles are ok and get the job done.
The artwork for the game is meant to embrace the weight and theme of the game – which appeal to a broader audience. It’s generally cartoony and silly, but decently done. The tiles themselves are all distinct and more than respectable. The cavemen tiles are a bit more cartoony, but they are done in a very tasteful way. I really enjoyed the artwork and think it supports the game with just the right approach.
Kindomino Origins ranges from kid-friendly to quite think-y. The earlier game modes cater to a younger more casual player while the full-on, Tribe mode brings a lot to like for a more experienced gamer.
While the game suggests a 15 minute play time, I think that serves as more of a medium gauge across all 3 modes. The discovery mode flew by while the tribe mode almost always exceeded that total.
Obviously the layers are there with the different game modes and they all serve their own unique purpose, but I’m going to dive a little deeper into the tribe mode because that’s where I found the majority of the game’s value.
This is a surprisingly think-y game. Between building the perfect square, paring the right dominos and simultaneously planning for caveman tile bonuses… I ended up spending way more time than I suspected on each turn. My analysis paralysis was kicking in to the point my 9-year-old daughter started to razz me.
I really enjoyed the puzzle. Yes, completing the perfect square can be relatively easy to achieve, but everything changes when you add in the additional score opportunities.
The primary point of scoring is in building the largest connected territory with the most number of flames. Oftentimes the best way to score these areas didn’t always mean building out the largest area of one type. A group of 4 tiles might feature 4 fire tokens earning you 16 points while a group of 7 tiles with 1 fire token only earns you 7 points. Taking a more efficient approach could maximize one area’s points while leaving you open to draft and add in valuable points in a completely different territory.
Of course, the rub between leaving your resources on your hunting ground or spending them to earn even bigger points through the market system is intriguing. Resources themselves aren’t necessarily worth anything in the tribe mode, but determining the right moments and which ones to exchange for caveman tiles can be a strangely challenging experience. The combination of resources and caveman tiles is where the money is so balancing that equation is critical to big points.
I did find my games to be a bit at the mercy of the draft so there is a certain amount of luck involved. Being in the right slot to draft first when the right domino arrives or timing your purchase of the right market card can be the difference between winning and losing. That being said, the luck factor didn’t make or break the experience. There always seems to be another choice that, while might not be a home run, can still earn you positive points.
The theme is fun and it makes sense with the game’s mechanics, but I would have been just as happy if the game took place in any historical moment in time. Fun theme, not essential to the games success.
DIFFERENT PLAYER COUNTS
I enjoyed this at all player counts. I liked how the 2-player mode allowed you to play a bit longer by building a 7×7 hunting area. The 3 and 4 player counts made me think a little harder about which numbered domino I was going to choose so there was a little added value there. Being able to draft first next round seemed a lot more important the larger the player count.
There is a lot to like here with the different game modes, but for me, the biggest win when it comes to re-playability is the quick setup and game time. Obviously it’s essential that the game is fun to keep me coming back, but being able to break the game out, knock out a couple games and quickly put it away is big time. Given that this game sets out to appeal to younger audiences and more casual players, being able to set it up quickly is not only beneficial, it’s a survival mechanism… impatient gamers can become grumpy gamers in no time with long setups.
I can’t speak for the other editions of Kingdomino, but Kingdominio Origins provides a lot of value in a relatively small box. I wasn’t a huge fan of how the first 2 game modes played since they were a bit light for me. That being said, I can certainly see them serving the right audience – especially someone looking for a game that can adjust it’s difficulty for the right audience. I really did enjoy the heaviest mode and the interesting decisions that came with it.
I think the game’s accessibility and quick playtime help elevate this one. The challenging puzzle and fun components are great, but being able to quickly break it out on the fly is definitely going to get it to the table more often.
Overall, I enjoyed the simple, yet engaging choices. There is a small learning curve when it comes to the market tiles and their functionality, but their purpose in the game provides a nice push-and-pull that can really challenge your decisions as you attempt to maximize your points.
If this type of game appeals to you, I’d certainly encourage you to compare this edition with the previous versions of Kingdomino to find the right variant for you. Time will tell if this one ends up in a regular rotation… I can see it going either way. While it’s fun, I’ve got games that offer a more engaging puzzle… typically though without the charm of Kindomino: Origins. If you’re in the market for a game that’s both flexible for the whole family, but also provides a quick, challenging puzzle that works well at any of the 2-4 player count, you should definitely give Kingdomino Origins a look.