148Apps Network Post
Developer: Skotos Tech
Price: $4.99
Version: 1.3
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Leave it to Reiner Knizia to come up with something that could only be described as “Tic-Tac-Toe meets Poker meets something else I can’t quite explain.” And to make it fantastic, of course.

The instructions for Reiner Knizia’s Kingdoms are lengthy and daunting. Too lengthy to explain here. The short version is that each of four players (one human, three AI) must strategically place tiles along a grind in order to rake in more points than everyone else. Some tiles lay claim to a spot and are tallied based on their horizontal and vertical brethren, others affect potential scores, but the overall goal remains the same: get the highest score while trying to stymie everyone else over the course of three rounds.

I wouldn’t refer to Kingdoms as a simple game, but once a few rounds are in the bag it begins to make sense. There’s a lot of strategy to what (at first) seems like a simple game of placing tiles. Sometimes it’s best to save a “-6” square for the very end in order to turn one player’s positive into a negative. Other times it might be better to get the jump on a free space in order to rake in a large combination of points. It all depends on the situation, and the situation can change at a moment’s notice.

I’ll be honest, though, Kingdoms is one of Knizia’s less instantly accessible titles. It’s certainly fun, but it can take several games before it all really starts to sink in. And even then it’s easy to get buried by the competition. It can have a pretty profound effect on one’s ELO rating (a generalized score used to rank player skill, similar to Chess). The typical complaint of “no multiplayer” is also a valid one here, but I’ve been informed that future updates to a number of Skotos Tech games might remedy this.

Of all of Knizia’s games, Kingdoms is definitely one of the less immediately accessible examples. That said, it can also be one of the most rewarding and entertaining once that barrier for entry is broken down. Although I think I’m always going to hate that stupid dragon tile.

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