Kingdomino Origins is a family aimed tile placement board game themed around prehistoric tribal territories, published by Blue Orange Games. Designed by Bruno Cathala, featuring artwork by Cyril Bouquet, the game sees 2 – 4 players building out their lands. From their cave they will look to gain fire, have the most resources or grow their tribe. With three playing modes the game aims to progress with players. However, can Kingdomino Origins reach the heights of the original game in the series? Let’s find out!
Kingdomino Origins can be played in three different modes, with each subsequent mode building upon the previous. The first, discovery mode, is almost identical to the original Kingdomino. In this mode players line up four dominos from the shuffled deck into numerical order – lowest to highest. Typically domino tiles valued higher are better for point scoring.
Players then in a randomized order choose which of the four domino tiles they want, placing their meeple onto it. The next set of 4 tiles are then revealed, again put into order lowest to highest. Working from top to bottom of the initial row the player whose meeple is on the next tile takes it and chooses one of the next 4 tiles, moving their meeple across to it. In this way the turn order of choosing changes from round to round.
When adding a domino tile to your kingdom you must follow a few rules. Each player starts with a 1×1 sized square, which is considered wild terrain. This can be matched to any terrain. Future tiles can be placed adjacent to this or by matching at least one of the terrains on a previously placed domino. Making there be a bit more of a puzzle, kingdoms can be a maximum of 5×5 tiles (apart from in the 7×7 2 player variant). If a player cannot legally use a domino it’s simply discarded.
In a change from the original, in keeping with the prehistoric theme, in Kingdomino Origins players will score points based on fire not crowns. At the end of the game players will multiply the size of their areas of desert, jungle and such by the number of fire symbols on that territory. A slight twist is that fire spewing volcanoes are now a thing. When taking a domino with a volcano it allows the player to add fire to a tile based on the size of the volcano. This can see 1 fire launched up to 3 spaces away to a 3 fire launched only 1 space away. It’s a small tweak on the original game, being fun whilst not increasing the difficulty of the experience.
The second mode builds upon the easy gameplay of the discovery mode by adding resources onto tiles. Mammoths are placed on grassland, fish on lakes, mushrooms on jungle and flint onto quarries – with deserts and volcanoes not getting any resources. During play these resources are gained by the player when placing the domino tiles into their kingdom, with the resources placed onto the appropriate terrain spaces. Not only will every resource token score the player a point, whoever has the most of each resource type gains a bonus – all on top of the normal fire based scoring. Be careful though as the fire from volcanoes will burn resources, causing them to be discarded.
Finally, tribe mode adds in recruitable cavemen, a sideboard and a way to spend resources – building upon the previous two modes. Instead of there being points on offer for who has the most of each resource type, players will be spending resources in non-matching pairs to recruit available cavemen from the cave board. These cavemen come in two forms, hunter-gatherers and warriors. Warriors score based on their values and the size of their group, being placed onto empty spaces in your kingdom. Hunter-gatherers score based on what surrounds them, from wanting fish resources on the surrounding 8 spaces to wanting fire symbols. Much like with resources, the fire from volcanoes will see these cavemen discarded, so best not set them on fire.
For those that feel like they have heard of the rules to the Tribe mode of Kingdomino Origins it’s because perhaps you have. During the Covid 19 lockdowns Blue Orange released a free print and play expansion for King & Queendomino called The Court. In this players gained resources from tiles and could spend them to recruit characters. While the tribe people don’t exactly match, the premise is the same and it’s great to see it in a fully fleshed out game as it makes for a solid experience.
My biggest gripe with Queendomino was that it tried to do too much; extending and expanding on the super simple family gameplay present in Kingdomino too much. Kingdomino Origins treads a similar line of adding small extra rules and a touch of complexity to a game that was ideal for the intended audience. Queendomino also had a side board, but the buildings were more varied and not implemented as simply as the cavemen. Queendomino made what should be a simple fun to play game too convoluted. This isn’t to say that families should jump straight into the third mode of Origins, the first two would be much better suited to that audience.
With Queendomino it felt like if you wanted a more in-depth game just play a different game, thankfully this time around they are only small additions and you can dial it right back and only play the discovery mode if you wish. In the original game there were always rushes to get the gold mine terrain spaces, as they could with only a few spaces gain the player huge point totals. The volcanoes are a nice way around a specific terrain being so powerful and add in a small choice to which territory to give the fire boost too.
Component wise the chunky domino tiles help create vividly coloured, eye catching kingdoms. These draw people in to want to play and then the wooden resources for the totem and tribe modes add that something special on top. The cavemen tiles are decent though it could have been taken to that next level if they were on transparent plastic, to enable the terrains below to still shine through. Still, the game is a great looking title with strong production quality.
It’s a bit of a toss up between Kingdomino Origins and the original as to which I’d recommend to gamers. There’s something perfect about the gateway experience of the original which makes it ideal for the family target audience. Origins starts off almost as streamlined but can evolve slightly with the players around the table, and the variety can help it stay fresher for longer. While the middle Totem mode feels like a stepping stone, the Discovery and Tribe modes offer rather different experiences. Therefore, it depends what you want out of your modern domino experience. Nevertheless, both Kingdomino Origins and the original are great games for simple fast tile laying entertainment.
(Editor’s Note: Kingdomino Origin was provided to us by Coiledspring Games. Check out the official webpage here.)