Game Night at Caribou Coffee 2 July 2011: the new KINGS AND THINGS by Z-Man Games


Once again, Garrett, Ben and I attended Game Night at Caribou Coffee in Northern Virginia, near Fairfax. We got there late and I brought DICE TOWN and the new implementation of KINGS AND THINGS to play. The boys liked the looks of KINGS AND THINGS, which didn’t hurt my feelings, I wanted to try it, too.

Kings and Things, Z-Man edition

Kings and Things, Z-Man edition.

This is the new version of Kings and Things published by Z-Man games. Due to upheavals at Z-Man, the publisher has been dumping a lot of stock at ridiculous prices on Tanga.com, and I had just purchased K&T about a week ago for something like 19.99. Almost criminally low for a game with bits and such like this.

Word of disclaimer, this game was published by West End Games back in its heyday, around 1986. I think it also may have seen print in other countries, certainly Germany, sometime between now and back then. I played and enjoyed the older version of the game quite a bit back then– but I had not played it again in about 15 years at least. So the game was somewhat familiar but I certainly wouldn’t call myself an expert.

Building the K&T board..

Building the K&T board, tile by tile and exploration by exploration...

The gameboard is setup with hexes, not unlike a game of Settlers of Cataan. We set it up for four players as a young man named Daniel joined us. The game is setup by setting a tile face down in the center of a table, then building a spiral three rows thick around it. Each player takes the part of a small generic fantasy kingdom that starts at the edge. Each turn, the player draws “Things”.. creatures, magic, events, and money making improvements like mines and villages, There forces expand into the next (hidden) hexes, confront whatever is there and attempt to conquer and discover new lands. Each player starts with a small tower as his headquarters which he can increase the size of each turn by spending money to improve it (or build more). If I’m remembering the original rules right, the first player to expand the tower all the way up to a citadel will win the game.

We didn’t have nearly enough time to finish.. most of the action and fighting took place between exploring troops and the intrinsic defensive troops we roused up when exploring new tiles. So we gave it to the guy with the most number of points for land control, improvements and special characters at at the point we got kicked out at closing time. Winner: hands down, Ben. He had a lucky first two turns, basically walking into the newly discovered areas.

Verdict: the new version is quite fun to play. The improvements done by Z-Man games have only turned an old WEG game into a modern micro. I was a tad put off by the igo-hugo sequences (this might be nostalgia here…). Another problem we had was the rules writing.. it wasn’t exactly crystal clear in places– it did not lack for production value but there were many finer points that I felt were unanswered in the rules. I don’t remember the West End version being that fiddly. Oh well, maybe I’m just spoiled by modern designs. In any event, we all rather liked the game and would gladly play it again, now that we sort of know what we are doing.

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