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Kingdom Defenders


Germán P. Millán, David Arenas

Ediciones Primigenio


No. of Players:

G@mebox Star



G@mebox author Lutz Wildt writes about the game:

Did you know that grugog is the Welsh name for heather, this evergreen plant? I, for my part, wasn't aware of that. According to Wikipedia, these plants occur all over the world and populate almost all climates and altitudes. Only permafrost can lead to destruction. Quite interesting, but I can understand everyone who now wonders what this has to do with this review of Kingdom Defenders? The answer is: not much! In this game the grugog have been awakened. If you know think who cares? What danger is it to confront an awakened plant? You are right! But the grugog in Kingdom Defenders aren't plants, but legendary creatures that have emerged from sea to conquer Sandstorm, the capital of Four Kingdoms. However, this mythical and gutural-sounding name prompted me to ask Google to find out more about the origin of the word. To complete the mess, the publisher EDICIONES PRIMIGENIO as well as the two authors of Kingdom Defenders are from Spain, and probably they do not have anything to do with Wales. So the similarities of the word are probably pure coincidence, nevertheless it was a confusing start for me (and now for this review too...).

Enough of those plant talk! Let's focus a little bit more on the game from now on, and put some order into the chaos I created. As mentioned, the empire of Four Kingdoms is threatened by a horde of creatures, the grugog. These nasty beasts try to take over Sandstorm, the capital of the kingdom, destroying city walls and overrunning the city. The players take on the role of the remaining brave warriors who oppose the attackers and try to save the kingdom from destruction. They must pass adventures and complete heroic deeds to gain fame. The most glorious knight wins the game. But this only happens when at the same time the defenders defeat the grugog horde collectively.

Fundamentally, Kingdom Defenders is a competitive worker placement game with cooperative elements. The game is played over six rounds with the grugog horde appearing occasionally. If that happens, the horde is set on the board, and from now on it moves towards the wall. Each player tries to collect as many resources as possible by using his discs (workers). The resources can be used to increase players fame. Artifacts, magic, health, strength, gold and loot are important resources that have to be acquired during the game in order to be ahead in the final account. On the other hand, these resources must also be used cooperatively and wisely to defeat the grugog attackers and defend the kingdom, because if the wall falls, the heroes of Four Kingdoms loose together. But the use of strength and magic to defend the attacking Horde also needs to be carefully considered! Not every defender receives the same reward. Also, not every player can contribute as much to the defense as he would like.

Moreover, the fame also depends on which time excactly a player decides to contribute with his or her energy to the defense. This has to do with a clever mechanism of the game. The area of the kingdom is divided into two areas separated by a wall. The protected area is inside the wall, while the more dangerous and therefore also more profitable area in front of the wall invites you to pass adventures and provide support in the camps to defend the grugog. In the game phase in which the players place their discs, however, it is not allowed to use the discs without restrictions on both sides of the wall. When a player inserts a disc in front of the wall for the first time, he afterwards is not allowed to insert another disc in the protected area. Roughly speaking, the two sides differ in that, as in real medieval life, the supply of warriors takes place within the walls in order to gain fame in the heroic part in front of the wall. So, you have to think carefully at what point you are well equipped to take the step into the adventure and defense, because you will only be able to get supplies in the next round.

Kingdom Defenders has a lot of game elements and areas where the workers can be sent. The various game mechanics go well together. Unfortunately this cannot be explained in all details in this report. Nevertheless I would like to try to describe some important core elements: Firstly, players have a total of six areas where they can place their six workers each round to gain various rewards. In the protected area behind the wall, you can acquire certain character traits that can be used for an entire turn. Objectives can be accomplished if the player has the necessary resources, with the result that the player is rewarded by artefacts or gold. Of course, there is also a settlement within the kingdom. where resources and new health points can also be purchased in specific buildings. All these areas have one thing in common: depending on the number of players, there are only limited places available for the workers. This means that not all players can enjoy the benefits of a building each turn. As a result the turn order becomes important. Well, it is a worker placement game!

Let us now have a look to the dangerous side. Beyond the wall adventures are to pass. The requirement of these missions are given on cards that tell us which conditions must be met in order to receive additional artefacts, famepoints, strength or magic multipliers. And so some adventures also require the use of health as a resource. For each resulting wounds the player must put one of workers to a wound indicator, where it remains until the player heals his or her hero again (of course this worker is no longer available for further actions). Finally, players can participate in the defense of the kingdom by attacking the horde.

This all sounds very complex at the beginning, and it also needs precise and extensive explanations in the first rounds of the game. For new players it's hard to keep the overview over all the different areas. After a few rounds, however, players get versed in the different game phases and the various actions. Often this happens already after the first activation phase of the game and after the players have collected their deployed workers, used the benefits and collected the resources. In fact I made the experience that most players realise their tactical options very fast and following rounds already run much faster than the very first one.

Of course, a word about the Horde should also be lost here. From the second round on she enters the game. Depending on which Horde was randomly drawn, it starts at a different distance from the wall. The Horde is defeated if the players together bring enough strength and magic to the camp, as given on the Horde card. One player alone will never be able to do this, but one player may have an advantage if the Horde is not defeated. Only if two hordes have successfully attacked the Wall the game is lost. So you can always judge if the reward for a joint victory is a bigger advantage for you or the punishment for a defeat. All the more, because the amount of the reward depends on the size of the participation.

In Kingdom Defenders, the victory points are basically the fame that the players collect during the game. However, some other things are crucial for the final scores: set collection of artefacts or the reached level of the magic and strength counter. So until the six rounds of play are over, there's a lot to worry about by planing, bluffing and overdoing.

To sum up, I really liked Kingdom Defenders. The game seems to be complex at first glance. In the course of time, however, the overstrain loses itself in replayability, tactical possibilities and trickery. The mechanics of the game fit well together. The appearance, the graphics and the all the materials are of good quality. The authors even thought about the possiblity to increase the complexity. For this the buildings and characters are divided into different difficulty levels. While one should play with the simple rules in the first rounds, more complex ones are recommended for later rounds. The game thus changes its depth of interaction. Very well solved here is the fact that you can combine the different buildings and characters almost at your wishes, which gives multiple ways to vary the game. But before Kingdom Defenders comes back to my table, I will go to a garden centre and get a heather plant for our garden. So I can study the opponents for the next defense in peace.

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