Thursday, May 30, 2024

Board Game Top 100 (2024) Part 32 (34-33)

#34 Kingdom Builder

In Kingdom Builder players are placing little houses (settlements) of their player color on a big hex map (game board). The map has flower spaces and tree spaces and grass and desert and mountains and rivers and canyons.

Players have a single card in hand that shows a terrain type represented on the board. Players must play three of their settlements onto a hex space on the board that matches the terrain type on their card. They then discard the card and draw a new one.

If you can, you must place settlements next to other settlements matching your player color. So, if you already have a settlement next to a flower field and you have a flower card, then you must play next to that settlement. Otherwise you can play into any hex matching the card that you have.

There are a few additional types of spaces on the board. There are unique locations that, if you place a settlement next to them, you get a special power. These powers allow you to manipulate the placement rules in different ways. There are also cities which are worth additional points if you place a settlement next to them.

Other points are scored based on objective cards. There are many different scoring objective cards and you only play with a few each game. So, games can feel very different depending on the particular combination of objective cards that you have.

The game board hex map is made of four large tile pieces. These have different arrangements of the various terrains and each one has a specific special power location on them. There are many of these and they too are mixed in different combinations every game. 

There is a lot of variability here complimenting a very simple rules set. Game play is engaging and interesting. Players are looking at the board trying to figure out the best place to put their next settlement and how to make the most of their special powers.

Even though you are placing little wooden houses (settlements) into hexes on a map, Kingdom Builder "feels" like a tile laying game or like putting a puzzle together. It's more interesting and challenging than it should be, but also relaxing. It's also my 34th favorite game of all time. 

#33 Oltréé

In Oltréé players work together to overcome obstacles and protect their kingdom while building up their shared castle keep. A master track handles adding different threats to the board. Each turn players roll a die to move a pawn on the master track. They resolve the effect represented by the pawn's location on the track, and then take their turn.

On a player's turn they are able to take two actions but cannot take the same action twice. These actions are usually move and then do something else, like interact with a location to gain its benefit, resolve an encounter card, or spend resources to improve the castle. Improving the castle gives all players benefits, usually making them better at a particular kind of action. This in turn helps with resolving encounter cards.

Encounter cards represent different things. Many are threats to the kingdom, and if players allow too many of these kinds of cards to pile up, then they lose the game. Winning the game requires completing a chronicle which is a sort of book at the start of the master track and then passing a final test.

Pages (cards) of the chronicle are turned (flipped) every time the pawn completes its journey through the master track and returns to the start. Each page of the chronicle tells part of a story and may introduce new rules or objectives. The final page of the chronicle presents a challenge that must be met to win the game.

Oltréé is a cooperative adventure board game. Each chronicle stands on its own and I appreciate that Oltréé doesn't try to be a campaign game. The game is kept light enough and accessible enough that it's easy to get to the table. I love this, but we have played all but one of the chronicles at this point, and they don't feel very replayable.

I fear that without new chronicles to play, Oltréé may fall off my top 100, but right now, I love it. It's my 33rd favorite game of all time.

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