Before I begin, I was provided a prototype copy of the game, and will receive a copy of the game should it fund, in exchange for an honest preview. This is not a paid preview. You can see a video of this review, or an in depth how to play video below. Learn how to get your own copy here.
I am a strange person. Why? Too many reasons to count. Why in this case? I enjoy games that are overtly aggressive, like Red Dragon Inn, or Skulk Hollow, or Vast. However, I have never really been a fan of 4x games. I think the big reason for that is that I am just not good at them, and I often feel bad if I utterly ruin someone’s game plan that they have been working on for an hour plus. I don’t usually feel bad when it happens to me…but that is because I have usually done something stupid long before it mattered.
However, in the height of gaming irony, my buddy is a big 4x fan, and I have been playing more and more of them over the past year or so, not least among these was Uprising (a 4x co-op) that I was very high on. So now when a 4x game shows up my question is no longer, what is this game about, but rather it is “ok how is this one going to be different?”
In Kingsfall each player selects a faction (they are slightly different as each one has a different ability on the tech trees already unlocked. Then each player selects a variety of tiles which they want in the game. The center of the board is set (always the same combo of tiles), and then the players place the tiles they have chosen randomly face down in whatever pattern they like. Then you are ready to go!
Each turn is broken down into a few phases: Gather, where you collect resources; Movement, where you move things that can move (armies, explorers, workers); Action, where you fight, or trade or build; and Upkeep, where you pay for all your things.
As you can imagine you are using the resources to build structures that allow you to extract more resources, and using your various meeple types to build those, find new areas to build in, and destroy your opponents toys. The issue is at the end of each turn you have to pay for all the things you have, and if you can’t pay, they become discontented. A little discontent is not the worst, that just means they will not produce anything of value, however, if they are not paid for s second round in a row, they vanish from the map…oops.
The first player to reach the claim (victory) point limit via building, or exploring, or destroying will be the winner.
So what do I think?
I feel like Kingsfall has done a good job of doing light asynchronous-ness correctly. You start with a single ability unlocked on the tech trees, but it is enough to give you a possible direction to go should you want to. The game itself is very simple to pick up, and understand.
The best part of the game however, to me, is the way that the economy of your guild has to be carefully managed. Shockingly this is truly the most important part of the game, as if you mess this up, your entire empire can collapse in as little as two turns. It is just awesome. Even when you are not in dire straights, but just struggling slightly, you get to play this lovely little mini game of shifting the discontent around to make sure you do not lose anything, but that you can still manage your finances.
This is a brutally cutthroat game. The rules clearly state you can make any deals you want…and break any deals you want, whenever you want. Now this may or may not be your jam, but there is something to be said about a game that has such a clear disclaimer than honor is for suckers.
I also like how the trading and caravans work, though I wish that you had the ability to have each explorer transport goods, rather than being limited to only three caravans total.
The artwork is not there yet. I wish that the tiles have some variety, right now each different tile type looks exactly the same, and the luxury tiles, and landmarks are just icons pasted on top of the tiles, I wish they had specific art to go with them.
I will note that this is just a prototype, and this is something they are committed to improving, just at the time of writing this initially, I was not certain if there was a plan to improve this aspect
It is also possible to find yourself in a bad spot due to the randomness of the map, which might be frustrating.
Bringing it all together
Kingsfall is a relatively light, and straightforward 4x style game. The rule set is clean and straightforward, and while most of the game is what you would expect from any 4x, where it excels is in the empire management. If you get greedy, you better win quick, because otherwise you are putting yourself in a hole and it will not be long before you are unable to pay the upkeep and your buildings and workers are going to start vanishing from the map. I hope that the art gets an update for the production version, but I am hopeful.
Yeah…we are not part of the wordsmith guild
* Overall a straight forward 4x, with minimal luck, and none past the board set up
* Art could use some improvement for the final version
* The empire management of the game is a delight…a frustrating, spectacularly failing delight
* They say there is no honor amongst thieves…there is even less honor amongst competing guilds. Get ready to be merciless
* Will play better at 3+ players than at 2