The King's Guild Board Game Review (Mirror Box Games)

8

The King has died -- and now has come the time to show the kingdom your power. In King's Guild, only one guild can preside over all the rest -- it's your job to make sure it's the right one. Each player is in control of a different guild, with the ability to gather resources, hire workers, build additions, and -- importantly -- complete quests. With very fast turns (players can do one thing each turn) and a rapidly changing environment, King's Guild is probably one of the best new games of its class.

King's Guild Board Game Details

Players: 1 to 6

Game Time: 2 Hours 

Age: 14+

Genre: Set Collection / Hand 

How is The King's Guild Played?

Every player selects a guild, which differs only insofar as your starting resources. You then choose a player mat, which does have different resources on it. Your player mat is your guild hall, which you'll build on. As you build, you'll unlock some one-time resources. 

The King's Guild is about collecting resources. You can choose to gather three items from one pile, or two items each from a different pile. You use these resources to complete missions. These resources are finite. If someone else currently has all the wood, they need to spend the wood for you to get more.

Missions give you gold. Gold gives you the ability to build out your guild hall as well as to hire people. You can also pull treasures. As a victory point game, there are several different ways to get victory points. you can focus on clearing missions, but they only give you one VP a piece... unless you buy a building that gives you more. You can focus on building, but you also need to manage your gold.

About halfway through the game, the King will officially die, and you'll be able to build a special building that will give you additional points. The game itself ends when you've progressed through the quest stack, which is randomized for each game. Everything in King's Guild is randomized, so you may see different employees, buildings, and quests coming out each time. 

The Good: a Streamlined Strategy Game

Turns in The King's Guild are fast-paced but also dynamic. With the finite resources on the board, everyone is constantly interfering with each other's plans -- and not always in immediately obvious ways. It's an aggressive game, in the sense that you're almost always doing something that's going to hurt someone else. But because it's so indirectly aggressive -- you aren't usually attacking someone specifically -- it doesn't feel aggressive. 

Players can manage a number of different strategies, from collecting ancient gear to trying to build synergies between their hires. Buying buildings and filling them and buying end scoring buildings can all contribute significantly to your success, as can trying to be the one who builds after the king dies. You can try to build storage so you have a diverse set of resources, or you can concentrate on buying buildings so you can get different types of resources. And there are some resources that some people will never be able to get. Gems and potions are limited to a certain number of players.

This game isn't short; it takes about two hours to get through. But it feels fast because every player is only taking a single action on their turn. And the art, while mild, is serviceable and clean. 

The Bad: Not the Hardest Game Out There

The King's Guild is a moderate-to-casual game. With its streamlined aspects, it's really not hard to learn at all. There are some more advanced aspects to it -- trying to maneuver so you can complete all the quests on a single card at once, trying to plan your actions multiple turns ahead -- but most people are going to do fairly well on it. This isn't an indictment, but if you go in expecting a serious strategy game, you'll be disappointed.

In terms of game quality, there's only one weird thing: all the cards show gold coins for their cost, but players get gold, silver, and copper pieces. Gold is valued 5, silver is valued 2, and copper is valued 1. When a card says "5" gold coins, though, it means 5 as a unit of currency. So it means 1 gold coin or 5 copper coins.

It also does lend itself to analysis paralysis for players who tend to plan their turns out in multiple stages. It's very possible that the game state will change dramatically just before your turn, and you're going to have to compensate. If you only had one course of action planned, everything will come grinding to a halt.

The King's Guild is a good warm-up or refresher game for groups looking to play something that is light but not too light. It's best with three or more players (even though it can be played with fewer) because most of the entertainment value lies in the interactions and interference between players. It's not a good game for those who don't like to see their well-crafted plans disrupted time and time again.

The King's Guild Board Game Review
  • PRO: Finite resources require players to re-analyze their strategies frequently, while a number of different options remain open for end-game scoring.
  • CON: Dynamic turn-by-turn gameplay can paralyze those who are already prone to paralysis, leaving them frustrated.