13th May2020

‘QueenDomino’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

In my household, there are two young children, one casual gamer and one very serious gamer (me.) This means that we’ve grown very fond of KingDomino, as you’ll see from my review last year. As the serious gamer in the group, I love KingDomino’s accessibility when it comes to enabling my wife and children to get involved in my hobby, but I do miss some of the more complex aspects of heavier games. Stand up please, QueenDomino.

QueenDomino is the direct sequel to KingDomino, and whilst it is built on the same fundamental principles of drafting and placing tiles (which broadly function like dominoes, hence the name) it features a number of more “gamey” aspects that very young players will likely struggle to grasp. To give you some perspective here, my kids are five and three, and both can play KingDomino to a certain extent, but there’s no point even trying to get them to have a go at QueenDomino, such is the difference between the games.

The game begins with a row of four dominoes being placed face up on the table in ascending order according to numbers on their backs. The players then determine a random order in which the first choice of domino is made, with that player placing their meeple onto the tile they would like to take. Each player does this in a random order on the first turn, but from then on, the turn order is set by the order in which the previous set of dominoes was chosen. In short, the lower numbered domino you take, the earlier in the turn order you’ll act next round.

After the initial choices are made, another set of four dominoes will be dealt so that the first player to act is able to choose from all four. Firstly, they will pick up the domino with their meeple on it and add it to their kingdom, and then they’ll place the domino back down onto one domino in the new row of four. The second player will then do the same thing choosing from the three remaining dominoes and so on.

In a four player game, the last player will be forced to take whichever domino is left, whilst in a three player game, one domino will always be remain and will be discarded. In a two player game, each player has two meeples and makes two choices per draft. As each domino is taken, the players will be aiming to position them so that their kingdom contains large expanses of matching dominoes, ideally with several crowns in. At the end of the game, the main scoring element will be to multiply the number of spaces in each group of terrain by the number of crowns there – for example two crowns multiplied by four sea spaces would provide eight points.

Broadly speaking, what I’ve described above is what the entire of KingDomino consisted of. Where QueenDomino differs however, is in the addition of a new terrain type (city), a building market, and the introduction of knights and towers. The new terrain type simply acts like any other, except that no city space has a crown on it by default. Instead, these are the only spaces on which a player can construct a building, which will be taken from the building market in exchange for coins. Some buildings have straightforward point bonuses on, whilst others have crowns (that will score a city region as though it were printed on the dominoes) and/or other bonuses such as knights, towers, coins or conditional point bonuses.

To take a building, the player must pay coins equal to the number shown on the building board, or if they choose not to take a building (or cannot) then they can instead pay the resident dragon one coin to move down the building board and destroy one of the options. This is a really interesting way to potentially spoil your opponents plans, and it requires an awareness of each other players current position than you’d expect from a game that appears to be quite light on the surface.

Of course, coins didn’t feature in KingDomino either, so how do you get those? Well basically, whenever you place a domino, you may put a knight on it, allowing that knight to collect one coin for every matching space in the region (in the same way as crowns work for scoring, but without multiplying for each additional knight in the same area.) As I mentioned earlier, knights are usually replenished by constructing buildings, so there’s an interplay between maintaining the cashflow to build by spending knights, and constructing buildings that replenish them.

The final material addition to QueenDomino is that of the towers idea. Each tower gained from a building will cause the player to check their total number of towers against the other players. If, at any point, they gain one tower more than the player who currently has the most, then they will be able to take the Queen meeple. When they do so, the player will place the Queen onto their largest region, and if she is there at the end of the game, she will count as an additional crown towards the final score.

When you bring all of this together, you’ve kind of got the same basic idea as KingDomino, but with a lot more potential for scoring variation layered up over the top of it. Players can really double down on building strategies, or they can focus more on the classic way of playing by focussing more on their actual regions and crowns, perhaps occasionally interfering with their opponents based on what little money they do generate. Towers can sometimes be ignored which results in players occasionally sneaking into snatch a healthy number of points by taking the Queen on the last few turns.

That said, these new features are simply more complex, and there’s no real way to unpick them from the QueenDomino experience. It’s not like you can play this game and just leave out the new elements, so in my opinion QueenDomino doesn’t replace KingDomino if you have young or very inexperienced players. What QueenDomino does do, is turn the simple tile-placement of the original game into something a lot more complex and requiring of more consideration both turn to turn and overall.

My view is that I’ll be keeping both these games for at least as long as my children are too young to grasp QueenDomino, but if I were to play with any other adult, even if they were a fairly casual gamer, then I’d go directly for QueenDomino. Yes, there are more rules and the gameplay is more complex, but it’s not so much more complicated that an adult would struggle to grasp the additional elements. Either way, it’s a game that I really have enjoyed playing, and I can see it becoming a directly follow up to the original that both me and my family will want to play.

**** 4/5

A copy of QueenDomino was provided for review by CoiledSpring Games.

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