Kingsburg Review

Kingsburg board game in play

A game that I've wanted to try out for quite a while is Kingsburg.

In Kingsburg, each player is attempting to help rebuild the kingdom, and fight off invading minions, in order to gain the King's favor.  In order to do this, the game is played over a series of five "years" with each "year" having three productive seasons and then an invasion.  The core of the game is the productive seasons.  In each productive season, all of the players roll their three dice.  Then, starting with whoever rolled the lowest, players take turns placing a group of dice on the board.  Legal placement is determined by the die rolls - for example, if you've rolled a 3, 5 and 6, then you can place a die on the 3, 5, or 6, or you can place a group of dice on the 8, 9, 11, or 14.  However, you cannot place dice on a spot that has already been claimed.  After everyone has placed their dice, then players collect bonuses (generally resources) for the places ("advisers") where they have placed dice ("influenced").  Once these resources have been collected, everyone has the option of building one building - these buildings can help defend against invaders, provide you flexibility in the placement of your dice, or give you victory points.  After the third productive season, each of the players has the opportunity to buy extra troops (they may have hired some during the productive seasons).  Next, the first player rolls a die - this number is added to each player's number of troops, and each player compares their total to the strength of the invading armies.  If you win, then you get a bonus.  If you lose, then they destroy one of your buildings.  Finally, you move everyone's number of armies back to zero, and start the next year - and, at the end of the fifth year, whoever has the most victory points wins!

The first pro that I have for Kingsburg is that I like the fact that your dice drive your placement.  I think that it forces players to make the most of what they roll, and is a very interesting and rarely-utilized dynamic (yes, I realize that Alien Frontiers and To Court the King also do similar things, but I believe Kingsburg came out before Alien Frontiers).  Plus, there are mechanisms within the game that let you alter your roll.  This enables you to do a combination of adapting to your die roll to your strategy and making your strategy adapt to your dice at the same time.  Specifically, there are some "+2" markers (that you earn in various ways) that you can play along with a group of dice to increase their value by exactly two.  Also, there is a building that allows you to place one group of dice per productive season on an adviser that is adjacent to the one that is equal to your dice value.  Other buildings can give you more dice, or let you re-roll some of your dice if you roll especially poorly.  These factors work together to make the game fun.

dice on board while playing Kingsburg
Using dice to influence advisors
Another element of Kingsburg that I like is that you have to pay attention to the invading horde.  But, what I like more about this is that there are a couple of advisers on the board that allow you to look at the strength of the invading horde.  So, as the round is being played, you are able to better plan for how big your army needs to be (and which buildings will give you bonuses).  This is especially important if you intend to build one of the most expensive buildings, as they are the ones that will be destroyed by the invading army - so, you want to make sure that you're going to be able to protect it, if you choose to build one of these buildings.  However, you never truly know how large your army needs to be, since you add a die roll to your troops.  This leads me to my first con.

Kingsburg is a bit too random for me.  All of the die rolling is what makes the game fun, but at the same time, it can becoming frustrating quickly when some of these random factors work heavily against you.  One example is in fighting off the invading horde.  When fighting off the horde, there are two approaches you can take - you can either try to get enough armies that you are guaranteed to win (assume that the die will be rolled a one), or you can rely on the die to help you win the battle.  The problem is, whichever of these choices you make is only the "ideal" choice if the die rolls as you anticipated.  If you build a giant army, and the die rolls a one, then you feel like you made the right choice spending all of your resources and influence towards building an army.  However, if it rolls a five or a six, then you realize how much time you wasted building this army that now gets reset back to zero (aside from strength that comes from buildings).  So, the invading horde is basically a press your luck element.  And, though I'm fine with games that are based around pressing your luck, I find that it can be very frustrating in a more strategic game.

King and Queen of Kingsburg
The royal family - you have to roll high to influence them
The other element that is a bit too random can be worded this way, "Bad rolling prevents good strategy."  What I mean by this is that there are some rolls that are just awful.  The more I've played the game, the more impressed that I have been that rolling higher doesn't mean that you are guaranteed to gather more resources than your opponents.  Ultimately, the higher spots generally get you around as many resources per die as lower spots do.  That is, unless you roll very low.  For example, if you roll all 1's.  This roll is awful.  It allows you to claim a single resource on your turn (or, if you are lucky, a resource and a victory point).  Generally, you gain approximately one resource per die - some spots allow you to get a bit more than this, or give you flexibility on what resource you select in place of getting as high of a quantity.  But, a normal productive season will net about three resources.  So, getting one resource, puts you at a major disadvantage - and had nothing to do with what your strategy was in the game.  Now, rolling all 1's isn't common (though I've seen it), but in general, rolling all low dice is bad, because, though I said you average about one resource per die, when you have to put dice together to form a "die" (for example, putting a two and a three to make a "five"), then you are getting less resources per die.

Overall, I give Kingsburg an 8.0/10.  I really enjoyed my first few plays of the game, but I think that it will grow stale for me pretty quickly.  The invading horde provides both a very neat strategic element to the game, but a very frustrating situation where your strategy's merit is determined by a die roll.

If Kingsburg sounds interesting, you might also check out Alien Frontiers, Kingdom of Solomon, and Bootleggers.


  1. Among other things, The To Forge a Realm expansion for the game adds a lot more control to winter reinforcements. To quote the page on "rather than the die, each player gets six tokens numbered 0, 1, 1, 2, 3 and 4 during setup; at the beginning of each Winter you use and discard a token to get that many extra soldiers from the King"

    Tokens can only be used once during a game so you have to think very carefully about when you use them.

  2. That actually does sound better. I've heard good things about that expansion - next time I play Kingsburg, I may need to try to see if I can get a copy of the expansion to include.