“I will not be just a single chapter in the history books,” said the king firmly. “No. They will write history books about me!” Why did the proud and immodest king say this? “My kingdom is wonderful and wondrous. A world power. One of the new wonders of the world! This great and powerful kingdom I built all by myself with a deck of cards. However, it will not collapse like a house of cards…” At least, that’s what I hope every time when I play It’s A Wonderful Kingdom. Will your kingdom be a place of refuge or a place that everyone wants to escape from?
It’s A Wonderful Kingdom is a 2-player game based on the popular (and awesome game) It’s a Wonderful World. Just like World, Kingdom has a limited number of game rounds divided into different phases in which players build their kingdom by (1) collecting cards each round, (2) choosing which cards to build and (3) producing resources. Players do all this to build an efficient system that allows them to collect more resources, but also to harvest points.
At the beginning of a game round, players receive a set of cards. In It’s a Wonderful World, players each chose a card from their hand and the rest was passed to the other players. In It’s A Wonderful Kingdom, things are a little different. The traditional card-drafting mechanism of World has been replaced by a so-called “I-pick-you-choose” mechanism. What do I mean by that? Players choose cards from their hand and place them on one of the two sides of the game board. The next player may now choose a side and takes all the cards from that side. This player then places new cards on the board until all the cards for that round have been played (and distributed). Sounds simple, doesn’t it? There are also negative cards (e.g. calamity or monsters) that players can place and there is also a possibility to place cards face down. This way, players can potentially trap or discourage each other from taking certain cards. This makes for fun dilemmas, bluffs and also a bit of hilarity. Also, by tactically placing cards, players can bait other players to take their desired cards next turn.
What can you do with your acquired cards? For players who have already played World, this will be less unfamiliar territory. In the second phase, players decide whether they want to build or take the resources. Each card contains a building, mission or effect that players can build. A card can also be laid down to be used as a resource. Acquired resources can be used to finish building cards that are under construction. In phase three resources are produced. The player’s empire and the projects and buildings the player has built, will now produce even more resources. The production proceeds in order of the different resources. This way, during the production phase, you may produce enough raw materials to build cards that can also be produced later in the production process. Do you produce the most of a certain raw material in a round? Then you will have more power and prestige and will receive a bonus in the form of a knight. What do knights do? They go on adventures, influence advisors or defeat monsters in one of the game’s modules.
It’s a Wonderful Kingdom contains different modules. At the beginning of the game, players choose one of the available modules. These modules all change the game in their own way. Sometimes subtle and sometimes drastic. For example, there is a module that allows players to collect advisors. By turning in knights, players can activate powerful effects of the advisors to help the player to victory. In the module with monsters, each player gets a stack of monsters or bad guys that replace the regular negative cards (the calamities) from the game. If a player has to place a monster, it often results in ongoing negative effects. With knights, players can fortunately dispel these negative cards.
How do you win It’s a Wonderful Kingdom? Simple: by getting the most points. You can score points for many of the cards you build. Some cards also give you bonuses if you have built many
How do you win It’s a Wonderful Kingdom? Simple: by getting the most points. You can earn points for many cards you have built. Some cards also give you bonuses if you have built many cards of certain categories. So build up your castle like a mighty monarch and turn your kingdom into a world power! Just like It’s A Wonderful World, It’s A Wonderful Kingdom is a wonderful game and already one of my favourite two-player games. The design is again beautiful and colourful and the game is simple and intuitive. For me, it offers the right combination of bluff, tactics, strategy and game duration. Each round you are faced with a dilemma: which cards do I lay down in which way to feed my strategy. Which cards do I take and possibly accept the negative consequences? How do I build my kingdom and in what order to maximise my production and score? The different modules are all well thought out and balanced and therefore provide a very healthy amount of game variety. Highly recommended.