Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Quick Look at Kingdom Builder: Marshlands

I love Kingdom Builder. It is one of my top 5 games. Why? It is a great puzzle game and what I've really grown to love is that each expansion doesn't seem to make the game more complex, but rather, the level of each game's complexity is limited in the exact same way - there are four game boards, each board has one or two features. There are three scoring cards for each game. That's it!* (that's not entirely true - Crossroads broke this rule, but even then, the increased level of complexity is pretty small).

So back in January 2016, I backed Kingdom Builder Marshlands on Kickstarter. I mean, why not? For $55 I got Kingdom Builder Expansion 3 - Marshlands + all Queenies (the mini expansions) + 200 new wooden settlements in an empty Kingdom Builder Big Box. I'm not going to go into all that followed with that Kickstarter campaign and the campaign that came right after it for the 4th expansion, but for now, it is enough to say that I did end up receiving my Marshland expansion. Though I've had the expansion for a while now, it took me until this evening to actually play it. My love and I decided to play this yesterday and we elected to play with just this expansion's boards and scoring cards.

This is not a full review, since this was the only play we've had with the expansion. Impressions are often wrong after only a single play, but I thought I'd share them anyway. If you are looking for something a bit more in-depth, check out Eric's review of Marshlands at What's Eric Playing? That being said, here are my initial impressions:

  • Quality - mixed bag. The tiles and hexes are the same quality of the previous incarnations of the games, but the card backs do NOT match. This is the main reason that I often sleeve cards - because the backs of the cards don't match properly and it is very easy to tell which cards are new and which are the older ones. Sleeves are the equalizer (assuming a colored, not clear sleeve). The cards themselves are a little thin, but not horribly so. The rest of the materials are the quality you'd expect from Queen games.
  • Scoring cards - 6 new cards that are mixed in terms of how interesting they are. To be honest, I find this to be true of ALL the scoring cards that have come out - definitely a mix bag, so no better or worse than other expansions. The main difference being that these are mixed with the originals. The issue I have is that the cards score very differently. One card like Miners, scores less (on average) than Lords (at least for two players games this is true) which means you can focus on the bigger scoring cards. That's fine I guess, but seeing certain cards means that is all the game will be about. 
  • Boards and new abilities - also something of a mixed bag. They added a new type of terrain (Marshlands) which you can only build on with a handful of cards. Except that you can use any of the abilities in the game to build on the terrain, so it isn't as limited as you might think. The more interesting thing about the boards are that instead of castles, there are palaces which score points for you only if you have the most settlements adjacent to the palace. As for the various new actions, they are a mixed bag of interesting and questionable, but they also added a twist where if you can get two tokens (1 from each location) of a type, there is a bonus ability. The ability could enhance the original tokens, or be a new thing to itself. Cool idea, limited appeal. 
Overall, this expansion feels a lot like Crossroads did for me (again, at first glance). That is to say - I'm happy for the new variety, but it doesn't do something so special that this is a must have. Doesn't mean that this or any of the expansions are bad. If you enjoy the base game as it is, then you can pretty well skip any of the expansions. But, if you like the game and play it a lot, then more variety keeps things interesting (the Dominion quandary). 

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