With so many new tabletop games coming out these days, sometimes games with similar themes and similar mechanics will emerge at similar times.  That was the case for me with Kingdomino and Castles of Caladale.  I got both games recently within a couple of weeks of each other and have now gotten to play them both several times.  Now that I’ve spent some time with each of them, I can’t help but see the similarities.  How do they stack up, and is it worth keeping both?  Let’s see.

Kingdomino – Blue Orange Games, 2-4 players, 15-20 minutes.

In Kingdomino, players build a kingdom by drawing and placing tiles within a 5 x 5 grid.  Each rectangular tile has two terrain squares and must be placed with at least one type of terrain touching an already played identical terrain type, very much like the numbered tiles in Dominoes.  Some tiles will have crowns printed on them and these tiles make up the scoring mechanism of the game.  Victory points are awarded at the end of the game for the number of crowns, times the number of contiguous matching terrain squares.

In a 3-4 player game, each round players will choose a single tile from a number of face up tiles equal to the number of players.  In the 2 player game four tiles are available and each player chooses two per round.  Each tile in the game has a number on the back.  As tiles are laid out at the beginning of the round, they are placed in numerical order.  The higher numbered tiles have better terrain and crowns, and are more sought after.  However, the previous round’s choice determines turn order for the next round.  So if you choose the most expensive tile this round, you will choose your tile last in the next round.  No matter the number of players, each player will have the opportunity to choose 12 tiles during the course of a game.  When all tiles are chosen and placed the game ends and points are scored.  For a wonderful video on how to play Kingdomino check out:

In Castles of Caladale, players build their own castles by drawing and placing tiles.  Sound familiar?  On their turns, players choose a single tile from one of nine face up tiles.  Once a player chooses a tile, he or she must either designate the piece to be used in their castle or turn it face down to score it as one VP at the end of the game. Interestingly, the game allows players to constantly shuffle rooms around in their castles at any time during the game.

There are a few placement rules that take getting used to, but overall Caladale is a simple game in concept that earns its stripes with good puzzle-like strategy. Players score 2 points for every tile that makes it into their castles, with a bonus point for certain flag tiles. The problem is, players are trying to enclose the outside of their castle with blue sky and lose 2 points for every unfinished edge at the end of the game. This can be disastrous.

So, how do these games measure up to each other? Both games have relatively little interaction between players, with Kingdomino providing a bit more interaction since you have to choose turn order as well as what tile you need when placing your meeple each round. You have more opportunity to “hate draft” in this regard. Frankly, in Caladale, I am usually just trying to make sure I can complete my castle and don’t have much time to worry about my opponents. As far as weight, Kingdomino feels a little bit lighter to me because once a player chooses her tile, the placement is pretty simple after that. In Caladale, all 4 sides of the tile matter because ALL sides have to match other tiles.  Only one has to match in Kingdomino.

One thing both games have in common is excellent art.  The tile art in both games flows seamlessly from tile to tile, no matter how they are placed.  The colors in Kindgomino are bright and vivid, while Caladale boasts a more traditional, stoic look.  The little details on each tile, whether shaded images of creatures in Kingdomino or the vines and stonework in Caladale add a great deal to each game’s enjoyment.  In the end, I’m going to keep both games as long as I can keep getting people to play them with me.  The short play times and ease of learning will make either game accessible to most groups, so that shouldn’t be a problem.  I’m glad I got a chance to learn both of these games and I look forward to sharing them with others.  If you haven’t, give them a try.

Thanks for reading and keep nerding on.