The realm is full of fantastic creatures, noble knights, and unimaginable wealth, each waiting to help or hinder your fledgling kingdom. To lay claim to the richest regions, you’ll need all your strength and wits. Can you cleverly position your castles to take control of the realm’s resources, all while edging out rival lords?

Back in September, we announced the upcoming release of Reiner Knizia’s Kingdoms , a board game in which two to four players struggle for control of a vast medieval empire. First published in 2002, Kingdoms is a tile-laying board game that has been updated to feature detailed plastic castles, a streamlined ruleset, and other subtle game enhancements.

Location, location, location

As the brief gameplay overview on our description page indicates, Kingdoms is essentially a game of efficiently placing tiles to create the most favorable collections of victory points, and placing your plastic castles to claim those points for yourself. The board is made up of a grid of squares, which together form intersecting rows and columns. When a round is scored, players collect points for the rows and columns in which their castles were placed.

The number of towers on each castle indicates its rank, or multiplier. The blue player will want to place his rank 3 castle on the intersection of a point-rich row and column, where it can have the most impact.

On each turn, a ruler may place one of two components onto any open space on the grid:

Each castle lends its builder a certain multiplier, a number (1–4) by which that row and column’s VP score is multiplied for that player at the end of the round. So why not always use your best castles? First, your limited number of high-rank castles means they can’t be everywhere at once; you’ll want to place them judiciously to maximize the impact of their multiplier. Second, you can only place your rank 2–4 castles once per game (a total of three rounds). So is it worth grabbing an early lead, or should you save them for a more advantageous moment in the late game?

Dragons, wizards, and more

Of the random tiles you might draw for placement on the board, the vast majority will be resource and hazard tiles, which simply affect their row and column’s VP sum based on their displayed number. With these locations, you’ll jockey for position as you place resources near your own castles and hazards near those of your enemies.

But Kingdoms ’ strategy deepens further with the inclusion of four powerful special tiles. From a rich gold mine to a destructive dragon, these game-changing effects present compelling options for the players who draw them.

Gold Mine: A highly coveted prize, the riches from this subterranean reservoir can be used for good or ill. The gold mine tile doubles the value of all other tiles in its row and column, regardless of whether those tiles have a positive or negative value!

Mountain Tile: These majestic peaks are virtually impassible, cutting off commerce wherever they appear. When a mountain tile is placed, it divides its row and column into two separate parts, each of which is scored separately. This can be a great advantage, cutting your castle off from negative tiles that would otherwise decimate your score... but mountains can just as easily block off much-needed wealth.

Dragon Tile: Woe to the king that faces the wrath of the dragon, for no good comes from this destructive tile. In any row and column in which the dragon appears, resource tiles (positive values) are ignored, while hazard tiles (negative values) are still counted. In short, the dragon destroys only that which is helpful to your fledgling kingdom!

Wizard Tile: Previously available only as a promotional item to lucky convention attendees, the powerful wizard is included in this new version of Kingdoms . This potent spellcaster is a valuable ally to any ruler; he increases the rank of adjacent castles by one, multiplying their scores.

The scoring example below shows the end of a game round, in which you can see the base values of each row and column (before each player’s individual castle multipliers are applied). By doing some quick math in which you factor in each player’s castles, you’ll find that the blue player has a slight lead over the yellow player, but that both have far outpaced the red player.

As you can see, Kingdoms ’ medieval theme masks a deeply strategic contest of wits, in which players must cleverly block and counter each others moves to eek out every possible point. Check back for more on Kingdoms in the coming weeks, and look for it on store shelves later this quarter!

Designed by Reiner Knizia, Kingdoms is a fast-paced, strategic board game in which two to four players assume the roles of rival kings trying to increase their wealth by establishing castles across the land. By building castles in the richest regions, you stand to reap the most rewards. But build carefully! The most sought after regions may be infested with dragons, trolls, or other hazards that seek to rob your kingdom of its riches.

More News [+]