Kingsburg: Serving the Crown Review

I’ve never had the chance to play the Kingsburg: Serving the Crown board game before. Chalk it up to a combination of never owning the game (expensive) and not having anyone else around to play it with anyway. Such is the common issue with playing board games it seems, which is what makes it so awesome that these titles are making their way to the App Store. Now I can chalk another highly regarded board game off my “to be played” list!

In Kingsburg: Serving the Crown, the goal is to build the best settlement out of all the other governors in five years time so you can do the best job of pleasing the King. You’ll do this by acquiring resources and building new structures to add them to your new city, as well as protecting it with the proper amount of militia to keep out the bad guys.

 Serving the Crown

Each turn is a different season, so every four turns is a year and there are 5 years of total time to go through before declaring a winner. The break up into seasons and years gives you a good measuring stick to how well your city is coming along and helps give them a unique feel, since different events occur at the same time year after year. Sometimes invaders attack and your defenses are tested, other times the King sends favors to the person in the lead or helps out the person in last.

This is all facilitated by a series of dice rolls, which seems a little strange but it totally works. At the start of each turn each person will roll three dice. Starting with the person with the lowest total, you’ll spend those dice rolls on different “advisors” which let you acquire different resources like lumber or stone. This idea of spending your rolled dice as a commodity to curry favor amongst the advisors (thus gaining resources) is easily the most fun part of the game.

After acquiring those resources you’ll use them to build new structures in your city which could give you special abilities or add to your militia to help keep out any invaders. This all sounds convoluted and like a lot to take in, and in a way I suppose it is. But it all makes sense after a game or two and it really gels into a fantastic game once you finally have that “A-HA!” moment.

 Serving the Crown

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, these board game to iPhone conversions are great, but in lieu of a big rule book to comb through these developers really need to build in some sort of tutorial. Otherwise you spend the first few games just trying to figure the game out, which is exactly what happened to me. The first two games were essentially a wash as I figured the basics and then the strategy out. This is a terrible idea because people could get turned off playing a game they don’t understand, and that doesn’t bother to explain what’s going on.

The artwork in the game is taken from the board game itself, and does a fantastic job of translating the experience and making it portable. The game can handle up to 5 different players in either AI or Pass and Play modes. I’d always like to see a multiplayer mode over the net but the game takes long enough that it might not really fit here. Maybe some push notification system would be cool, but those games would take FOREVER to play.

I really hope we get to see some of the Kingsburg board game expansions that have come out show up in the App Store. Preferably free as an update, but I would gladly make an in-app purchase for the new game modes. Kingsburg is an incredibly deep strategy game that is fairly accessible once you understand what’s going on. The lack of a tutorial or coherent rules discussion hurts here, but only at the outset.