Era of Kingdoms

A review of the board game Era of Kingdoms.

This game was the first I’d purchased on Kickstarter; I did so in part to see how easy it was to use before setting up my own (for my quiz book). Naturally I chose something I thought I’d enjoy, but I’ve been surprised at just how good it is.

The game involves building up a kingdom through playing land and people cards on to a play mat, gradually moving to more advanced levels of each before the game ends. Most cards give a combination of resources and victory points, with some special play buildings (e.g. a storehouse increases your hand size by 1) and some special level 3 cards only giving victory points. There are also various interaction cards, allowing you to steal, attack or plague the other players.

The real strength of the game is in its speed, simplicity and strength of the two player version. Each turn you play up to three cards (alternatively you can replace a play by drawing a basic card) then discard as many cards as you wish and redraw, with the decks you draw from dependent on your kingdom level. Ruthless discarding is a core part of successful game play. There’s plenty of meaningful choice and strategy due to the levels of interaction, decisions on whether to take risks (e.g. holding a card in case its prerequisite comes up) and multiple ways of gaining victory points (do you maximise grain to benefit from one of the specialisation cards, or seek to put down high point, low production cards such as the Scholar or King?) and, while a small number (perhaps 20%) of games end up feeling luck dependent, the game is quick enough that this doesn’t matter – a two-player game between non-learners takes under half an hour.

We’ve mainly played it two player and must have played 30 or more games over the last month, a testament to how good it is. It also seems to work well in 3 and 4 player: we’ve only played one four player game, which took just over an hour, but this was also very enjoyable with greater dynamics coming in with respect to some of the interaction cards, such as Attacks.

With production values and art work as high as anything I’d expect from a standard game (e.g. Catan, Carcassonne), overall this has been an extremely pleasant surprise!