Kingdomino Origins Board Game Review
WBG Score: 7/10
Player Count: 2-4
You’ll like this if you like: Queendomino, Carcassonne, The Castles of Burgundy
Published by: Blue Orange Games
Designed by: Bruno Cathala
This is not an easy game to review for one simple reason. I love Kingdomino and Queendomino, and trilogies are always tough! In truth, the trilogy was already complete with the roll-and-write two-player game, Kingdomino Duel that came out in 2019. But this feels like the more natural third game, where Duel was more of a spin off.
However, where Queen advanced significantly on King, delivering a lot more complexity and options on top of the solid gameplay, Origins seems to be more of a re-skin of Queen. As such, I feel this review needs to cover two main points.
Should you buy this game if you own King or Queen?
How does this game stack up against King and Queen?
Let's cover the first bit first as its quite easy.
If you own King but not Queen, and love it, get this. It's brilliant and takes it on quite a few steps.
If you own Queen then you probably don't need this too unless the theme really grabs you or you are a huge fan of this series of games. Origins is better, but it doesn't offer that much more than Queen. But you could always buy this and re-gift your copy of Queen to someone else? That’s my plan! Anyone want Queendomino?
Great, let's get into the second part. It's way more juicy.
When compared to Kingdomino, Kingdomino Origins brings the game on leaps and bounds. However, when compared with Queendomino, this is more of a re-skin. There are a few original elements, a few parts of simplified, but not enough for a new game in my opinion.
I own Kingdomino Origins and Queendomino, and I think I will probably never play Queendomino again. Origins for me is the better game. But I don't want games to make other games obsolete. I want new ones to offer new things. New strategies. New options. Although, have you seen the volcanoes!?
With the origins story out of the way, let's get to Origins proper. This is a great game. As a stand alone game, without considering what came before, this is a very good family game, perfect for a light filler experience, or quick mid-week game session. I love the theme, the components are fantastic, and find this a perfect game to bring to the table with new or younger players.
If you have played either of the first two games before, you will know how this works. Players will take it in turns to draft one or two (based on player counts) of four available domino tiles to add to their play area. You are looking to build the most point worthy 5x5 or 7x7 region as possible. (Again, depending on player count!) Points are awarded for each different type of land, with the size of the area multiplied by the amount of fire symbols they have within it. The only real difference compared to the first two games is the fire, which has replaced the previously used crowns. Oh, and the fire can move!
In Kingdomino, when you started to build a large area of one particular territory but it didn't have any crowns in it yet, there was always the threat that you could end up with a large pointless part of your game. Queendomino offered some different options here, and Origins does the same. When you place a tile with a volcano, you can then take a fire token to add to your tiles. Depending on the number of craters in the volcano, depends on the type of fire token you can take. There are single flames that can move three spaces away from the volcano tile. Double flames which can move two spaces. And triple flames that can only move one. This gives you the option to create a higher scoring area, without necessarily having the right tile.
I like this addition. Thematically it makes sense. Volcanic eruptions happen right? And the strategic option to place your multiplying fire tokens where you like, rather than where the tiles are going; which are often limited, brings more choice to the game. When played in Discovery mode, the movable flames are the only real difference to Kingdomino. But like Queendomino, Origins has a few different ways to play the game.
In Totem mode, each tile now comes with an bonus item. The grass lands will encourage Woolly Mammoths to come and graze. Fish appear in the water. Mushrooms in the woods and flint in the quarries. When you draft tiles, these items will come with them and stay on the tiles until the end of the game. Well, unless fire comes to burn them away. If you have the majority of any particular item, you can take the totem tile for that component. At the end of the game, the player who holds the majority will score the points on the totem. Three for the Mammoth. Four for the fish. Five for the mushroom and six for the flint. You also score one point for each component itself.
This simple addition adds a new scoring opportunity to the game and makes the choices for tiles a lot more fun. It evens out the options, making everything an attractive option. I love the look and feel of the wooden components and the back and forth with the totems is a fun and very tangible way to track your progress during the game. It is not dissimilar to the Queen component in Queendomino.
The final mode is the tribe mode. This removes the totems, but keeps the flint, mushroom, mammoth, and fish now as currency. Neanderthal characters are now available to be recruited for various costs. They will score you bonus points based on a variety of options. Generally by what surrounds them when placed, such as nearby components, people, or fire.
This is my favourite addition. It is similar to the buildings in Queendomino. Although in Queendomino you would gain a resource when you bought most buildings as well as gain point scoring options at the end. In origins you just get the point scoring options. But I like the multiple scoring options this provides.
If this was a brand new game, the first to come out of this series, I would probably score it a lot higher. For a light tile-laying point salad, there are not many better options. But this is not the case. There have been other games prior to this, and this version of the game, despite being my favorite of the three so far, does disappoint a little by not offering anything new. They have tightened up the mechanics. I am glad it was made and will keep this in my collection. But making Queendomino obsolete is a shame. It would have been fun to find a way to make them work together, either at once with different mechanics or in sequence in a campaign mode perhaps.
However, to judge this game on its own merits. This is a fantastic game. It plays so smoothly. It feels like the third game in its tightness. The scoring is fun. It looks great, and is very easily teachable to all ages and abilities. I for one am glad they took this game in this direction. But would hope any further versions bring something new to the domino laying world.