All superheroes need a good origin story. Whether it be bitten by a spider, tested on by the government, or a freakish laboratory accident, we want to know how they became so special. Do board games need that same origin story? Well, candidly no they don’t. However, I don’t think that is what Blue Orange Games had in mind when they embarked on creating Kingdomino Origins! I’m pretty sure they just wanted to set the game in prehistory and so gave the game a name accordingly. So why I am I talking about superhero origin stories when it’s irrelevant? I have no idea. Oh well you’ve read the introduction now, no going back, you might as well settle in for a review of Kingdomino Origins!
Give each player a neanderthal meeple, a starting tile and a camp in their player colour. Shuffle the domino tiles together and form some draw decks. Place the top four tiles face down in a column in ascending number order and then flip them. Voila! Set up is complete.
Setting up for two players is a little different but this is still basically all you have to do!
The idea is to build a 5 x 5 grid. Your kingdom will be scored by the number of contiguous region types, multiplied by the number of fires on the tiles in that region. Most total points wins.
On your turn you will place your meeple on one of the four tiles in the column to claim it. This claimed tile will be placed in your Kingdom. It must either touch your starting tile, or at least one matching region type of those you are placing, like in dominoes. You will then pick your next tile from a second column of tiles available. This is done in turn order. If you pick a lower value tile you will get a better choice next time.
Play continues until all tiles have been drafted and players will then be staring at a complete, or nearly complete kingdom. Tally scores as above and declare the winner of Kingdomino Origins.
In two player games you place two meeples and claim two dominoes per round, you can choose whether to play a 5 x 5 or my preferred 7 x 7 grid too.
Wait I hear you cry, this is all very much like Kingdomino! It is at this point. The main difference is that there are volcanoes. These erupt with fire around the board adding points to neighbouring regions. Volcanoes are not a scoring region so there is a positive and a negative to balance. The fire they spew out can have detrimental effects on tokens, but you only use those in the variant plays!
Yeah, that’s right, I said variant plays! In the box there are two further optional ways to play…
Alternative game modes
In addition to the Discovery Mode detailed above, you also get Totem Mode. In this variant whenever you draw a tile with a symbol in the bottom corner, you place a matching token on the tile. Whoever has the most of each token type claims additional points at the end of the game. Eruptions of fire can destroy tokens so majority can change around a bit.
Tribe Mode is the final variant in the box. You still place tokens on your tiles when you place them, but you can now spend two or four tokens to recruit cavemen. These unlock additional scoring opportunities by meeting certain adjacency placement rules.
What it’s like
To anyone who has played the original game, Kingdomino Origins will feel fondly familiar. Simply by adding volcanoes the game isn’t considerably different. I like the control you get by placing the flames from an erupting volcano and they are a good addition. The game only really morphs into a slightly different game when you explore the other two game modes. These add a little more to think about.
I really like the two extra modes and how they tinker with the rules. Totem mode is the weaker of the two. When you first play it you think that it adds something meaningful and different. The points you are awarded for the majorities isn’t that significant. You will also collect the tokens by osmosis as you will naturally be gravitating towards certain terrains anyway through the luck of the draft. Perhaps if the tokens didn’t always match the same terrains this might have been more impactful in terms of decision making. It also gets a bit more meaty when combined with the Caveman mode, as you have to spend resources to recruit them. Adding the cavemen adds more to think about and is a good addition, but one that stops it being a family game for younger players.
With more to think about comes a little more complexity. Play however, still canters at a decent pace and the same concern of someone stealing the tile you desperately need before you is omnipresent. The balancing of what you need versus a decent turn order is a lovely question you’ll ask yourself regularly, and more so as the game goes on.
So generally it plays very similarly to the original but mixes it up in a fun way.
It depends on your expectations, but there is little that can disappoint in the Kingdomino Origins box. Instagrammers will still curse the shiny tiles, but will delight in the new tokens, especially the mammoth ones. The domino tiles remain satisfyingly chunky and I like the artwork that adorns them. Particularly the little Easter eggs, see if you can see a familiar looking sloth similar to Sid from Ice Age fishing on one of the tiles!
The instructions are clear and because of the popularity of Kingdomino, there are good videos showing you how to play too. The box itself is not too big and everything stores away nicely in the plastic insert.
What the kids thought
Max (8): I like it, but I would like to play it more to really work out my review.
George (11): The way the volcanoes work is good and the tokens are cool, my favourite is the mammoth! I like the artwork of the different biomes. I really like the game, but I prefer the original.
Harrison (14): I prefer it to the original. It takes the good bits of Kingdomino and makes it a bit harder and more complex. I really like the extra modes too. I would choose to play Origins over the original as it definitely improves it.
Final thoughts on Kingdomino Origins
I am in two minds with Kingdomino Origins. It’s a really good game and I like how the game has become almost a second edition of its predecessor. The variations included in the box do a good job of scaling it so that it will grow with your family. In that regard, I should be saying Kingdomino Origins is better than the forerunner. It probably is. But it’s impossible to not draw comparisons with the original Kingdomino.
I hope it isn’t nostalgia that draws me back to the original ahead of this one, but it possibly is. I like Kingdomino as a fantastic entry level or gateway game. I know plenty of people who would disagree with me, including my eldest son, but I don’t feel like I need the additional complexity or strategy that Kingdomino Origins offers. I have plenty of other board games that deliver this already, arguably better. For me, it’s the accessibility of the original that makes me love it so.
‘Do you need to own both?’ is something I have been asked often. No has been my answer every time. Kingdomino Origins is probably the better purchase for longevity. If you already own Kingdomino, I don’t think it is worth upgrading to this one unless you have really outgrown the other. Either way I’m not sure you ultimately, would want to own both. Kingdomino Origins is still a great game, more of the same, yet different!
Number of players: 2 to 4
Board Game Review Recommended Age: 8+
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 8+
Playing Time: 25 minutes
Setting Up and Take Down Time: 2 minute
Designers: Bruno Cathala
Publisher: Blue Orange Games
Had Kingdomino never existed I think I would be raving about Kingdomino Origins more. Both are great games but on reflection I prefer the original for its accessibility as a truly brilliant gateway game. However, Kingdomino Origins has the ability to grow with your family and so could be a fantastic option for you.
Artwork and Components
Value for Money
- Extra modes will help the game grow with your family
- Quick to play
- Great game to take on holiday
- As good at two players as it is at four
- Great components
- Can get stuck with last place for a few rounds in a four player game
- Loses some of its gateway gamer appeal
- Tiles are shiny for photos!
Buy Kingdomino Origins
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