Described by creator Bruno Cathala himself as the game he wanted to play after hundreds of Kingdomino matches, Queendomino evolves the Spiel des Jahres winner’s simple kingdom-laying game with the abilities to construct buildings, tax your lands and even play host to the eponymous royal.
The basics remain the same as in Kingdomino: players connect dominoes to their grid, before reserving their next tile (and deciding the following turn’s order) by popping their king down on one of the next four tiles. The bulk of players’ points are still earned from multiplying the number of connected matching squares by the number of crowns in that territory – but there are several new aspects to consider, too.
The order in which players take their turn is even more important here, as it grants first dibs on the available row of building tiles, which can be constructed on a vacant red space by spending coins. These buildings blow open the strategy of Kingdomino’s straightforward tile arrangement with the chance to gather bonus points for each individual territory, knight or tower – with the greatest number of towers resulting in a visit from the queen, who lowers costs and adds another score multiplier at the end of the game.
Knights are used as a simple way of collecting income by earning tax based on the size of a specific territory, but their limited numbers mean that careful planning is needed to juggle acquiring valuable buildings without finding yourself unable to act in later rounds. This tension is increased by the way that buildings on the board decrease in cost as other structures are built, meaning that holding off on purchasing a tile – and hoping your opponents don’t take it in the meantime – can be crucial.
The expanded number of ways to gather points outside of just having the biggest territories means there’s more opportunity for closer competition and routes to victory – something sure to please those who felt Kingdomino was overly simplistic.
The race to construct certain buildings first and compete for the favours of the queen adds a few more layers of player interaction to the game on top of the fundamental selection of dominos – especially in the way that the dragon can be coaxed from its cave to burn down one of the available buildings, leaving a gap in the row for the remainder of the round and allowing a player to watch their rivals’ plans go literally up in flames.
The added rules do mean that there’s a little more score-keeping to do at the end of a match, often resulting in a minute or two of maths. Luckily, this is ably helped along by the included score pad, which does a fantastic job of breaking down the various sums in a way that avoids the momentum hitting a wall. To be honest, the only possible criticism of the set we can see is that the adorable 3D castles seem to be just a smidge too small for the queen meeple to sit within while in residence.
Queendomino builds on Kingdomino’s foundation in a way that feels just right. The queen, knights, dragon and building are a natural fit for the charming fantasy world (which continues to look eye-wateringly gorgeous) and avoid tipping the gameplay complexity scales too far or stretching the 20-minute play time past its breaking point. The rules can still be learnt by adults and children alike in a couple of minutes, but it feels like deepening the scope of the domino-laying treasure has taken it from being one of the best releases of 2016 to becoming a gaming classic for all time.
Expanding a brilliant idea with just a dash more complexity and depth, Queendomino is an utter joy to play. The new buildings and scoring rules are a natural fit without diluting the pure strategy that made Kingdomino such a pleasure, confirming the tile-layer’s rightful rule on its throne.
Designer: Bruno Cathala
Artist: Cyril Bouquet
Time: 25 minutes