Concordia Solitaria: Solo expansion review

Concordia Solitaria is an expansion for classic middle weight euro game Concordia. The original game was released at Essen in 2013 (and reviewed by me in 2014). At the time of writing, it sits in the board Game Geek Top 20 games of all time – and my own Top 10.

The original board game is a typical Mac Gerdts joint. Short, snappy but thinky turns; meaningful passive interaction; and a tight economy. But replacing his usual ‘rondel for actions’ is a small deck of cards, introducing a light deck-building element.

Since its release, Concordia has has a series of expansions. Most include new maps, while some also introduced new resources or concepts (such as Concordia Salsa). But this time, I can only presume inspired by covid, we’ve got a solo play expansion. For the record, this expansion also includes rules for playing with two people, plus the ‘dummy’ player. But in this review I will only be be reviewing the solo version of Concordia Solitaria.

What does Concordia Solitaria bring to the party?

In the small box you get four nice wooden dice and 72 cards. The dice and around half the cards are used for solo play. Nothing in the box is added to the game unless you’re using this expansion. (The rest of the cards are for the team play variant I’m not discussing here.) Setup lets you choose from three difficulty levels. Scoring is the same as normal, with the aim being to beat the new AI player (named Contrarius).

A new set of starting cards are provided that work largely as-were. But each card has an additional text box explaining what Contrarius will do after you take your action. True to his name, Contrarius will do something different to you. If you Mercator, they’ll build a house. If you build, they’ll take card etc. Contrarius has the usual set of houses and colonists, plus a score marker. But no money, board or resources. They also have a set of cards you can ‘Diplomat’ in the usual way, except once used they flip. So you can only use each of the cards once (including any collected during the game).

You also get a fresh set of 15 action cards, split into ‘l’ and ‘ll’ decks. These mirror the originals (again with the extra Contrarius action text box on them). Plus a couple of new crib cards explaining how Contrarius chooses where to move their colonists and build houses. The dice are used to randomise some of the Contrarius actions. For example, deciding which card slot he takes from, which kind of colonist he places, or the type of city they want to build in.

The four criteria

In a change to my normal reviews, I’m instead looking at areas in which solo board games tend to be judged – either favourably or not, depending on your tastes.

  • Elegance: For a euro game, Concordia has an effortlessly elegant design. But while Concordia Solitaria plays smoothly once you get going, it’s hardly elegant. The AI decision trees for where to place houses work really well. But, until you’re used to them, a bit fiddly and mathsy. To be honest, I quite enjoy the process as it helps build tension as you’re looking at where they’ll move to and place. And I’m not sure they could’ve achieved such a good overall result with a simpler system. So I think a few dropped elegance points have proven worth it in the long run.
  • Meaningful decisions: In the original, every action feels meaningful. And if anything this is ramped up in Concordia Solitaria. Because here, you often know the consequences of your actions. When you Senator, Consul or Mercator they’re going to build a house. And with Mercator, they’ll also produce in the region they build. Or when you Tribune, they’ll build a house for their best specialist (Contrarius gets a random Specialist card during setup). So you’ll know exactly where that’s going to be. This also means you’ll know when the game will end, so can try to ensure you get those crucial seven bonus points.
  • Replayability: I find Concordia to be an eminently replayable game. Especially as the random setup makes each game feel different. And this solo version only elevates this already high ceiling. I’ve played the solo version on several different maps, as well as with salt and with the forum tiles. And it works really well with all of them. For example, with the forum tiles, Contrarius takes the first one away each time you choose one – and scores points for each they have at the end. While the ability to make your opponent more difficult will also help keep things interesting for longer.
  • Theme, narrative & the ending: Contrarius doesn’t bring much personality to proceedings. But what it does do is nicely simulate the arc of a game of Concordia, which is one of the great things about the game. As the board starts to fill and cards start to run out, you get that same end game tension. So for me it nicely simulates the original, without taking it to another level. So a passing grade, but perhaps an opportunity missed.

Is Concordia Solitaria value for money?

It is for sale via board game comparison site Board Game Prices for around £20. This certainly isn’t an essential purchase. But if you like solo games, and enjoy Concordia, you’d be crazy not to take a good look at this. It certainly isn’t a bargain. But it does exactly what it says on the tin: makes a great euro game into an equally great solo experience.

… and does it fit in the original Concordia box?

Yup. Although I guess it depends what else you’ve already shoved in there! I’ve got all the bits from Salsa in there already though and this still squeezes in just fine.

* Thanks to PD Verlag for providing a reduced price copy for review.

Game retrospective 2021 #2: My top gaming moments

A few friends were talking about the last few years on New Year’s Eve. I think the smartest observation was that while 2021 was better than 2020 covid-wise, mentally it wasn’t. 2021 was super tough and random, so when we got a chance to do anything it felt like a treat. In comparison, 2021 was a long, tough drudge. While I agree, I think I probably bucked the trend a little. As I got myself to a couple of bigger events, while many played safe.

I got my covid jabs in March and May, and managed to visit my dad (for the first time in 18 months) in June. But during that time gaming was limited to very occasional local plays and online gaming. Barring one sneaky 25-play gaming weekend with LoBsterCon co-organiser Alex. Friends also managed various short visits during the summer for four great gaming weekends. While Sarah and me managed to escape for a couple of city breaks. Then it was Essen in October and LoBsterCon in November before covid kicked in once more.

Top 5 gaming experiences of 2021

  • Essen: Going to the Essen Spiel board game convention was a massive gamble. It took a mountain of forms to get there and get in, could’ve gone kaput at any time, and I could’ve got stuck there. But there was a great sprit among those who attended for all of those reasons. It was quieter and more relaxed in the halls. While the evenings – masks aside – were just as fun as ever. I saw some amazing people I hadn’t seen for two or more years. And made great new friends and contacts too. I’m so glad I made the effort. Plus, I came home with a ridiculous amount of games – most of which have been great so far.
  • LoBsterCon: For a number of reasons, LoBsterCon ended up being more stressful than Essen. We did everything right. We polled previous attendees to make sure they were game. We made a covid plan, sold less tickets and enforced vaccination or daily tests. The hotel had a covid scare the day before we arrived. And my co-organiser had to leave half way through due to an emergency at home. It felt like I got about five hours sleep over the weekend. But despite it all I managed to play some great games with great friends. And the outpouring of thanks from those attending made it all worthwhile.
  • LoB – Home Edition: I met many of my gaming friends while living/working in London almost a decade ago. So it was great to join an on/off weekend online group with a bunch of them during the darker days of covid. We largely played light games in larger groups than I’m used to. But it was much more about catching up on video chat than the games themselves. Many weeks, that would have been largely solitary otherwise, were made bearable by this – and all my other – online board game meetups.
  • PaulCon (not a con): All the chances to see old gaming friends were special. But I particularly enjoyed a long gaming weekend with old LoB friend Paul. He looked at my collection list and picked out a bunch of games he wanted to try. Which was perfect, because a lot of them were older or more obscure titles I don’t often get to the table. In just over 24 hours I taught him more than 10 games. And it was so nice to just totally get my geek on. Especially with a bunch of games I already knew were favourites.
  • Thirsty Meeples, Bath: Sarah and me had a lovely weekend away in Bath. We stayed in a fabulous apartment right in the old town, had some great walks and ate some great food. But we also had two great evenings in the Thirsty Meeples board game café. It’s a little pricy. But it has a great selection of games, friendly and knowledgeable staff, plus great food and beer. I also managed to catch up with an old friend and teach him a game, which made it all the lovelier. If you’re heading that way, be sure to check it out. But do book a table in advance, as it was pretty busy the entire team we were there despite the pandemic.

Best individual plays: January to June 2021

January: Oracle of Delphi is one of Sarah and my favourite games. And this is the kind of play that shows why. I should never go last and have to roll the wounds die. So many sixes! Which is not a good thing in this case. We both missed a turn, so it evened out at least. And I won a long, tough, but fun game. Sarah would’ve finished on her very next action on her next turn, so it was super close too.

February: A lockdown play of Alhambra versus Alex, but it was a proper classic. It always feels dirty giving away tiles to the dummy player (“F*ck you Dirk!”), but here a timely donation paid dividends as it helped me scrape a super tight 129-128 win. It’s a great example of how you can make a game that’s better with more players (due to majorities scoring) sing with the addition of a few simple AI rules that barely get in the way.

March: My mate Vince is no gamer. But I’d introduced him to Ticket to Ride during lockdown as he was isolating, so getting very little social contact. He really took to it, but this was the first time we’d also played with Sarah. Even better, he won a close one on 112 with me on 107 and Sarah well off the pace. As I say, he’s not a gamer and probably never will be. But it’s great to get unlikely friends in on the fringes of the hobby.

April: Basari – Das Kartenspiel is one of those games that needs the right group so I don’t play it often. But if you get the right group, it’s such a blast. This time it was versus Alex and Sarah. Basari is a light bidding/negotiation game which is so much more tan the sum of its parts. Alex had a big lead going into last round – but crucially hardly any gems. And we both overtook him at the death, with me winning on 78.

May: Escape from the Hidden Castle (AKA Hugo) is a bit pants really. A complete luck fest family game which is, at best, silly fun – especially with lots of players. But this was a rare opportunity to link up with as big group of LoBsters on Zoom. So thanks to Ann, Martin, Paul, Teri, Gee, Martin and Donna this was lovely. But frankly, as with out other occasional meetups over lockdown, we could’ve played pretty much anything.

June: Covid had affected so many people more than it has me. My local group being a good example. We barely got any meetups together in 2021. But this play of excellent tile-layer Fertility stood out. Jonathan won on debut, but it was a tight close tactical game. Every play of this helps cement my love for it – a great little game which, while simple, has you constantly thinking in several directions.

Best individual plays: July to December 2021

I don’t think I’ve had this happen before – a draw in the excellent Castles of Burgundy. It ended 181 each versus Sarah. I went to to the rulebook and see if there’s a tiebreaker. And there is – least spaces left on your board wins. So I won, having eight left to her nine. A thrashing! Also notable were great games of both Uruk (in real life) and Nippon (online) versus Alex – both excellent games I probably don’t talk enough about on here.

I do love a board game café. And as mentioned, Thirsty Meeples in lovely Bath is a great one. And I also love Stone Age, which I used to own some years ago (and I’m sure will do again). So it was great to sit in a great café, with great beer, Sarah, and old friend Simon, for a game of it. City breaks really are part of my DNA and I’ve so missed being able to do them regularly. So this was a rare treat in a tough year.

I struggled to pick a single game highlight from old friend Paul’s aforementioned visit. After the trip, we compared ratings and both marked these as an eight or above: Crown of Emara, Downfall of Pompeii, Pharaon, Hamburgum and Oracle of Delphi. So as Hamburgum is the only one I haven’t reviewed here, I’ll pick that. It’s a lovely Matt Gerdts rondel game, probably overlooked due to the terrible box artwork and popularity of the similar Navegador.

While Essen was a brilliant experience, a lot of the game playing actually led to ruling games off of my ‘want’ list. An important part of the process, but not great for a ‘highlights’ post! But I did get to play purchase Journey to the Center of the Earth several times. It’s a game several people nbought after trying it out too, which is always nice. And it’s always a pleasure to be able to play with the Danish mob – including on this occasion Peter and Tine.

Playing ‘Journey’ was also a highlight of LoBsterCon in Eastbourne. So to avoid repeating myself, I’ll opt here for another Essen purchase that went down well with everyone I played with – Bad Company. Incredibly simple and easy to set up and teach. But a lot of fun, with some genuine decisions to be made. I also enjoyed learning Fury of Dracula and Nusfjord over the weekend. As well as a welcome return to the table for Magnastorm.

This was the easiest pick of all. I get very nervous at gatherings nowadays, so was mildly terrified by a NYE evening with three generations of Sarah’s female relatives (six in all). The pressure was on to entertain – and luckily Just One went down a storm. It’s at its best with seven players and everyone enjoyed it so much it was requested for an encore later in the evening. With everyone, including a teen and a pre-teen, joining in both times.

Links for online play

The following games (discussed above) can be played online:

  • Alhambra is available on both Boit a Jeux and Board Game Arena.
  • Castles of Burgundy is available on both Yucata (original) and Board Game Arena (slightly unbalanced, in my opinion, second edition).
  • Downfall of Pompeii is at Yucata.
  • Escape from the Hidden Castle can be played (as ‘Hugo’) at Board Game Arena.
  • Oracle of Delphi is at Yucata.
  • Stone Age is available on Yucata (the original) and Board Game Arena (the cool new winter edition).
  • Ticket to Ride has a fantastic app that can be played on mobile (Apple and Android/Kindle) or via Steam. All the links are here.

Lost Ruins of Arnak Expedition Leaders: expansion review

Lost Ruins of Arnak is a 1-4 player euro game, released in 2020 (and reviewed by me the same year). Arnak Expedition Leaders is the first significant expansion for the game, outside of some downloadable solo content and promo cards.

On its release, the game became an instant hit. And is in the board Game Geek Top 50 games of all time (at time of writing). It combines light deck building and resource management mechanisms with a well realised and accessible Indiana Jones-style theme.

In my original review, I praised Arnak for being both a mechanical and thematic triumph, offering a satisfyingly puzzley experience. As well as for having high production values. And I felt it got the luck levels just right for a family/gateway game. But it did lack a little originality, or that direct confrontational edge some players crave. This expansion doesn’t do anything to change my mind on the latter points. So, what do ya do?

What does Arnak Expedition Leaders bring to the party?

Leaders is a modular expansion. Meaning you add any combination of the elements you want to, each time you play. Some you can throw straight in and forget about them: namely the 18 item and 12 artefact cards, eight sites, five guardians, four idols and three assistants. These mix things up a bit, rather than adding any new rules or mechanisms. But are very welcome, increasing the already strong replay value.

There’s also a new staff, or round marker. This simply makes you discard two cards from either side of it (instead of one) at the end of each turn – nice in a two-player game to keep things churning. Next up is a double-sided research track board, which you can place over the one on the main board for two slightly different challenges. Again, these add interesting tweaks to the original rules rather than reinventing the wheel. They’re a little tougher, upping the challenge. But this is to balance against the new leader abilities (see below).

The leaders

The biggest change is the leaders. There are six, each with their own player board, four starting cards and some other bonus component (card, meeple or cardboard chits). Each also comes with an excellent player aid, highlighting that character’s unique abilities. You add two fear cards as normal, for a starting hand of six. And while the new cards are unique they all incorporate the normal starting card abilities (get money and compasses), but offer interesting twists and alternatives. Each board also has a couple of blue idol spots that offer a unique ability tied to the character’s speciality.

The Baroness is well funded and the Professor well researched, giving bonuses aimed at items and artefacts respectively. The Captain and Explorer give you extra exploration options. The Falconer gives a variety of bonuses, but you need to build up to them by moving along a track. While the Mystic does a similar thing but in as more complex fashion, collecting and ‘spending’ exiled Fear cards. We tend to pick the ones we fancy, but you could draft them, get random ones etc.

How much does it change the game?

In an expansion this size, you usually get a whole new mechanism. But there’s nothing actually game changing in Arnak Expedition Leaders. As already mentioned, the various cards, guardians, locations and bonus tokens all riff off elements that were already in the game. As do the new temples. Better rewards also give fear cards. Reflipping guardians so you can use their power again. Or using the powers of untaken assistants on the game board. If you like the game, you’ll welcome all this. But it certainly won’t convert anyone.

The real meat is the leaders themselves. But even here, you’re largely playing the game same way. All it really does is make your starting cards more complex, while giving you some new routes to the same old goals. Take the mystic. After drawing five cards, he must add a fear card to his hand each round. Sounds bad, but if he can exile them he puts them on his player board. And can later get rid of them in rituals that give bonuses. It adds an extra layer of challenge, making it ideal for experienced players who think they’ve seen it all. So if you thought the original was a little too basic, this may change your mind. But unlikely.

Unfortunately, CGE forgot to add any solo play explanations to the rules – particularly in regard to the new temples and idol tokens. But these were only minor things and were quickly released in an online update of the rulebook. The solo version still plays very smoothly with the new content. But there is nothing solo specific in here to get excited about.

Is Arnak Expedition Leaders value for money?

Looking at comparison site Board Game Prices (at time of writing), you can find Leaders for around £25 (or £30 delivered). This seems OK value for the physical content in the box, which probably amounts to what you’d get in a full game at this price point. And as mentioned, the component quality here is of the highest quality. While the rules, iconography and artwork are all top notch.

If you’ve played a lot of Arnak and were looking for more content, I’m pretty sure this is going to satisfy too. I’m a big fan of the game and was super happy with everything included in the expansion. I wanted more of everything and that’s what I got. But would I have been happier if they’d also changed things up a bit, rather than just sideways? Absolutely. But equally, I don’t feel short changed. What you get here is more Arnak, with added asymmetry. But it’s certainly not 2.0. It’s one for the fans that will put it back on the hotlist for a while, rather than a way to win over the naysayers.

Is Arnak Expedition Leaders essential?

Absolutely not. The original game is popular for a reason. It’s not broken and didn’t need fixing. But if you’ve found Arnak hitting the table a little less often recently, this should give it the new lease of life it needs. Everything just works in a very satisfying way, letting you re-explore the game and find new ways to optimise strategies.

One caveat though. The new cards, tokens etc are probably not enough to make this value for money on their own. To make this purchase worthwhile, you need to embrace the leaders and temples. And even the simplest ones add a level of complexity. So if you’re casual gamers who don’t want to add another level of puzzle to this particular family game, I’d suggest (if possible) you try before you buy.

… and does it fit in the original Lost Ruins of Arnak box?

Yup, just. But if another similar sized expansion comes along, it might become a struggle. But let’s hope it happens, because this one is well worth the extra box strain! The original didn’t reinvent the wheel, but was excellent regardless. Looks like they’ve done it again.

* Thank you to Czech Games Edition for providing a copy for review.
* Follow this link for 200+ more of my board game reviews.

Game retrospective 2021 #1: My ‘most played’ & other stats

Welcome to my annual gaming retrospective. It’s a pretty personal thing, so may not be of much interest. But there are lots more reviews and top 10s on the way, so please forgive me this indulgence.

Despite 2021 being largely locked down, I had a few gaming highlights. While hard to plan and massively stressful, I went to Essen Spiel in October. And it was well worth the trip. We also organised and pulled off a LoBsterCon in November, which was possibly more stressful than Essen. But I’m glad we did it.

Despite this, I got to play less new euro games than I’d like. Largely as it was so hard to get my local groups together. But I saw enough family games and heard enough reports to think 2021 was a good, if unremarkable, year for new releases. And the fact no 2021 release has so far made it into the Board Game Geek Top 200 supports that. Nothing stood out that changed the landscape. But I’ve played plenty of games that are definite keepers.

My game play and collection stats

My game collection went back up above 150 this year, from 140-ish. But I expect it to go back down to around just under 150 once I’ve sold a few. It’s just a timing thing. I’m still in the middle of Essen reviews and haven’t put up a ‘for sale’ list for a while.

I’ve also had a move around, so have a little more space for games. Most of the new ones are small box games too (excuses excuses!). On the plus side, I no longer have a shelf of shame. I’ve played everything in my collection.

I recorded 454 plays for the year, a few up on 2020 (439). Once again, thanks to covid, more of these were online than I’d have liked. But I continue to only record online plays if they are live, while chatting to the people on a headset etc. Of those plays, 198 were of different games – exactly the same as 2019 and up on last year. Being back at Essen and LoBsterCon certainly helped this. 111 of these games I played only once in the calendar year. While I played 26 games at least five times each.

My most played games in 2021

I only managed 20 prototype plays in 2021. I’m really struggling to get enthused with designing online. While it has proven almost impossible to meet up with people in real life. Hopefully I can get some enthusiasm back in 2022. Outside of that, my most played published games were:

  • 1st – Ticket to Ride (18 plays)
  • 2nd – Can’t Stop (17 plays)
  • 3rd – Kingdomino (12 plays)
  • =4th – Oracle of Delphi & Race for the Galaxy (9)
  • 6th – Castles of Burgundy (8)
  • =7th – Journey to the Center of the Earth, Arnak & Remember our Trip (7)

Half of these made the list thanks to online plays. But I own physical copies of them all and they’re old favourites. The others were games I’ve reviewed this year. That usually means at least five plays. But these got played more because I enjoyed them so much. Of the nine games here, seven are in my all-time top 40 (including five in the top 20). Only two games are missing from last year’s list. Codenames Duet has fallen off the radar after Sarah and me played it to death. While we’ve only played Targi twice this year, but still love it.

Part 2 will be along later in January and include my gaming event highlights. Plus my favourite individual plays, month by month, in 2021. For some historical context, check out my matching posts from: 20122013201420152016201720182019 and 2020.

Kingdomino Origins board game: A four-sided review

The Kingdomino Origins board game is a 2-4 player tile/domino laying game that takes about 30 minutes to play. It’s listed for ages 8+, which seems about right. And the simplest version in the box is very much a family game that anyone can enjoy.

If you’re familiar with the original Kingdomino, you’re on incredibly familiar ground here. The concept is identical. Lay dominoes in a grid to create areas of the same terrain to score points. It has the same number of dominoes, and largely the same terrain types etc. But here you have a caveman theme – plus a few little tweaks and optional extras.

The component quality is high, as I’ve come to expect from publisher Blue Orange. In the box you’ll find 48 cardboard domino tiles, 45 other cardboard tokens, 57 wooden pieces and a scorepad. all of fitting snuggly into a well-designed insert. You can find it for just over £20 delivered at comparison site Board Game Prices. Which I’d say is good value for money.

Teaching the Kingdomino Origins board game

I’m not going to go into the basics here, as this is so like the original. If you want a rules breakdown of that, check out my full review of the original Kingdomino. Origins has three ‘modes’, or levels of complexity: Discovery, Totem and Tribe. What I’ll do here is walk through the key differences from the original game.

Discovery mode plays as the original Kingdomino, with one key alteration. The mountain tiles are now volcano tiles. And each has an associated fire token (fire ‘thematically’ replacing crowns as the way to work out scoring). Where mountain tiles had standard (but high) scoring, volcanoes don’t score. Instead, when you place the tile in your territory, you move the fire token to a nearby square. You move the fire token 1/2/3 spaces depending on how many fire symbols (3/2/1) it has. So, the stronger it is the less versatile for movement. And you can’t move the token to a space that already has a fire symbol/token on it.

Changing things up

Totem mode sees you add resources as a form of majorities scoring. Around half the tile halves have a resource symbol on them. When these are put out, you place the matching resource/resources on the domino. When you add one to your territory, check to see if you now have the majority of a resource. If you do, take the associated bonus marker. These will score you 3-6 points each at the end of the game. But beware. If you put a volcano’s fire token on a space with a resource, it destroys it – potentially taking away your majority.

Tribe mode is the most complex, keeping the resources from Totem mode but replacing the majority scoring tokens with cavemen tokens. Anyone familiar with 2020 print-and-play Kingdomino expansion ‘The Court’ will get another dose of deja vu here. You can spend resources to attract cavemen, who then score for you (at the end) in various simple ways. But all via association to either resources or other cavemen.

The four sides

These are me, plus three fictitious players drawn from observing my friends and their respective quirks and play styles.

  • The writer: The brilliance of the original Kingdomino is its simplicity. Taking an old concept and making it just gamery enough to bring it up to date. While keeping things simple enough to appeal to the average family gamer. but I’ve seen little value in the complicated expansions, or modes, that have embellished the series since. Why try and turn a family game into a euro game? It’s not as if there aren’t enough of those already. And for me these modes don’t do it well enough to see this game move beyond its original audience.
  • The thinker: Compared to most family games, the elegance of the base game (or ‘Discovery’ mode here) is enough to compel me to play on occasion. While there is some luck, it’s not as evident as you may think. The decision of where you’ll be in the next round’s pecking order really sings. And the volcanoes have added to this, putting in a few extra decisions without complicating the basic idea. Which brings us to the more complex modes, which do the opposite. They just blur the lines of what a tile really offers. And the luck of the draw – on the cavemen especially – can spoil a game. But I can see it being a nice step up for gateway gamers with smaller collections.
  • The trasher: I quite like the Totem mode. It forces you to think about what others are doing in what can otherwise be a pretty solitary experience. But it adds quite a bit of fiddliness. Same with the cavemen. Unchecked, a player can get big scores – especially from a few good warriors (who multiply as you get more). But I can’t help thinking, why not play a game that’s purpose-built for that kind of tussle?
  • The dabbler: I love me some Kingdomino! And this version is no different. You can even still play with the old ‘start spot in the centre’ and ‘complete 5×5/7×7’ bonuses from the original, which I like. The little artistic touches on the dominoes are still fun too, with what look like tusked sheep (and Tarzan!) on the dominoes. And the awesome wooden mammoths! I don’t like the other modes though. They just take away from what makes KD great. I was losing the will a bit when we played with the resources.

Key observations

There’s a cynicism around this release that doesn’t sit easily with some – me included. A bunch of fiddly rules for new ‘versions’ which add little or nothing to versions you can find attached to the original. If asked, “Do you need both?”, the answer would be absolutely not. I really fail to see what this version is adding to the Kingdomino canon beyond the great volcano mechanism. Yes, it’s great. But a million miles from being worthy of a whole new themed release.

Some are describing it as a happy medium between the simple original and the overblown sequel, Queendomino. Again, I don’t think there was enough to bother salvaging from Queendomino to make this worthy of a big box. But that game also did well, so other opinions are clearly available. The overriding sense I get from those positive reviews is this is the best, most definitive version yet. And with that I would agree. For a good price you get good versions of all the complexity levels you could want from a family game. If nothing else, I think Origins will put Queendomino to bed for good. Which for me is a good thing.

Finally, the theme and art get little bit of negativity from some. True, the colours are a little more muted and generally the tiles are a bit less fun. The cavemen theme doesn’t work too hard either. And you can’t help thinking they’ve missed a bit of a trick there. But these really are minor complaints. It’s still Kingdomino. Which is still a great game.

Conclusion: Kingdomino Origins board game

As you can probably tell, I’m pretty down on the complex versions of Kingdomino Origins. Which is a shame, as this is a bigger box than the original with a bunch of bits in that I won’t be using. But I’ll still be keeping this version in my collection, while putting the original on the trade pile. Because the volcanoes make a great game just a little bit greater. For me, if you added the random scoring tiles from the Age of Giants expansion to the Discovery Mode here, you’d have my ultimate Kingdomino experience. But this version is closest to that, so I’ll be keeping it on my shelves.