Review: Kingdomino Duel

Designer: Bruno Cathala, Ludovic Maublanc
Artist: Cyril Bouquet
Publisher: Blue Orange Games
Category: Dice drafting, Roll-and-write
Players: 2

Kingdomino Duel is a roll-and-write version of the Spiel-des-Jahres-winning Kingdomino. In this 2-player game, players draft dice, which they use to make a “domino” to draw on their sheet. It feels similar to the original game system, but puts a new spin on it.

Review

Kingdomino Duel is the latest iteration of the ultra-popular Kingdomino series, which we have mentioned multiple times on this site. In this new game, players create 1×2 dominoes by drafting 2 dice, and they then draw these dominoes on their sheets of paper to create kingdoms.

To begin the game, each player receives a sheet of paper showing a grid of squares. Another sheet is placed between them, with the opposite side face-up.

The goal of the game is to earn the most points by building the most robust kingdom. Each round, a player rolls all 4 dice, and she and her opponent take turns drafting them. This draft is done “snake-style,” meaning Player A picks first, then Player B picks second AND third, then Player A picks again, last. Turn order rotates each round, such that it goes A-B-B-A, then B-A-A-B, etc.

Once all 4 dice have been claimed, players each combine the 2 they chose to make a domino.

Each player then draws their own domino on their sheet. Just like the original game, adjacent dominoes must always have at least one “match,” a common icon connecting them. (As usual, the castle in the center is wild, so it can connect to any symbol.)

Sometimes, a die result shows an “X,” or even 2 of them. These are the equivalent of the crowns from the original games. During final scoring, each region of like icons scores based on its area, multiplied by the number of X’s present there. For example, a 5-square area with 2 X’s would score 10 points (5 x 2).

If a player drafts a die that does NOT contain an X, she may check off a box on the central sheet, corresponding to the die’s result.

If a player checks off the last box of a row on her side of the sheet, she immediately earns the indicated bonus, and her opponent earns nothing. Bonuses provide abilities such as drafting early in a future round, changing a die result, or splitting a domino “in half,” to draw its 2 symbols in non-adjacent spaces.

When a player’s kingdom is full, or when neither player can legally place a domino, the game ends. Players each score their regions, and the player with the highest score wins.


Kingdomino Duel seems like the perfect distillation of the original Kingdomino into a roll-and-write format. It feels familiar, maintaining the core idea and lightning-fast gameplay of its predecessor, but it introduces new strategic choices to consider. For example, a player might wish to pass on a die with X’s on it, in favor of one that would allow her to check a box on the central sheet. If she does this, she works toward a bonus ability, but she also hands her opponent extra points. In the same way, some dice have “wild” results – these are great, because they allow a player to choose any icon she wishes, but they yield no X’s and cannot be used on the central sheet.

The game’s production is quite attractive, with oversized dice and a magnetic clasp on the box. The game sheets are laid out intuitively, and I like how each of them can be used twice – once on each side. The rules are clear and concise, meaning that players should be able to dive right in to the fun with few interruptions.

I often find that when it comes to re-implementations of games, there is usually one that is clearly better than the other (e.g. Lost Cities is better than Lost Cities: The Board Game, and Bang: The Dice Game is better than Bang). In this case, however, I really enjoy both Kingdomino and Kingdomino Duel. They are similar enough that they feel related, but different enough that they each provide a unique, rewarding experience. If you like one, my bet is that you will like the other, as well.

With so many roll-and-writes coming out these days, I sometimes wonder how long the trend will last. I suspect that, like some of the previous trends this hobby has seen (deckbuilding, micro-games, etc.), there will be a few roll-and-writes that will stand the test of time and see play for years to come. I believe Kingdomino Duel will be among them. I recommend checking it out!

A review copy was provided by Blue Orange Games.

The Bottom Line

Kingdomino Duel does a great job maintaining the spirit of the original Kingdomino, while inserting some new ideas into it. Definitely worth checking out!

 

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