No one can say Bruno Cathala doesn’t have cojones. Releasing a standalone-expansion to a Spiel des Jahres winner within the year is a confident move. Maybe Cathala had Queendomino in mind all the time (à la Vaccarino and Dominion); maybe he wanted to capitalize on Kingdomino’s success. Or maybe, just as Kingdomino was going to press, Cathala had a spark of inspiration and wanted to take things further.
In any case, we have Queendomino to consider. It keeps all the bidding and tile-laying mechanics of its predecessor and adds a new layer in the form of a new terrain type: construction squares. Upon these squares you can draft and play bonus Building tiles from a central board. There are different kinds of bonuses, encouraging different paths to victory.
The tiles emerge in the usual conveyor-belt fashion; the longer they stay on the board, the cheaper they get. Cheaper, you ask? Yes, you must purchase them. How, you ask? With money you extort tax from your peasantry using knights (tiny and highly-chokable knights, I may add). The only way to get more knights is by drafting certain Buildings. Some buildings also come with Crowns, which act as multipliers in the normal fashion, but only for red Construction areas.
Oh yes, there are also a Queen and a Dragon (on loan from Carcassonne, no doubt). You can pay the Dragon one gold to incinerate a Building tile in the queue so that an opponent can’t buy it. And the Queen comes to visit if you have build the most Towers on your land (yet another bit bolted onto the chassis). She confers a one-gold discount on Building tile purchases, and magically transforms into a crown for the purposes of end-game scoring if you possess her.
Does Queendomino dethrone its mate? My opinion is that Queendomino takes Kingdomino’s simplicity and elegance (which I wrote about back in June) and adds unnecessary layers of complication. Those who say (and there are those who say) that Queendomino turns Kingdomino into a “gamer’s game” are entitled to their opinion, but I think that a heavier version of Kingdomino already exists and it’s called Honshu. Furthermore, those who write off Kingdomino as light multiplayer-solitaire filler have not, I think, fully appreciated its depths.
Kingdomino is all about paying attention to what your opponents are doing. You do not want one person to monopolize all the mines tiles, for example, because they will run away with the victory if you do. Deciding when to bid on a “worse” tile to give you a better selection on the following round is a key piece of strategy and timing.
To me, all the bits that Queendomino adds (buildings and bonuses; money; knights; Queen and Dragon) just come between me and those wonderful, basic mechanics. But I’ll easily admit that I felt the same way then 7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon came out, and (as I said in June) I came around after a few plays. Yes, I grudgingly shrug, I should put more faith in the Cathala. I will also say that the bonus tiles do spice things up be rewarding different strategies.
It’s just that sometimes I wish we (hew-mans) could just leave well enough alone, and let simple be simple, instead of instinctively look for ways to complicate things. What do you, the readers, think?