I really enjoy Kingdom Builder and think it’s an excellent gateway game for anyone. Kingdom Builder (Android/iOS) was lucky enough to receive a digital implementation but it’s a shell of its physical self and does not compare well to their contemporaries in the app world.
To learn, Kingdom Builder features a tutorial that has players follow along as instructions pop-up on the interface. The tutorial itself is bland and uninspired and the app does not feature any written copies of the rules to refer to. Having played the game before, the tutorial was only helpful in learning where to click. If I was a first-time player, I would probably struggle with the few rules just due to the way they were presented in the instructional.
The interface is fine. The map is shown in either landscape or portrait direction and the special locations stand out on the map. Players can double click/tap to zoom in on the map as well. The active players and their colors, special buildings and amount of buildings remaining appear at either the bottom of the map or on the sides depending on the orientation.
The app draws cards automatically for players and most importantly, the app will only let you place your buildings in legal locations. The biggest boon is that the app will highlight any legal plays for that round. Players will need to have an understanding of their special buildings (even though they’re shown on the interface) as the legal placement does not extend to these new rules.
Kingdom Builder features three AI players, Easy, Medium and Hard and while they’ll put up a slight challenge, it won’t be too difficult to overcome them once players have a few games under their belt. I also have absolutely zero idea how to change the difficulty of the AI. Clicking on the portrait of the player only changes the photo but not the difficulty and I was only successful changing the difficulty when adding more players. Maybe this is a technical error (or a user error) but either way, it’s not intuitive at all. In addition to the AI’s difficulty, it’s worth mentioning that the AI can take a few seconds to take their actions. For such a simple game, it’s mind-boggling why the AI can take almost eight seconds to do a simple move. That doesn’t sound like a lot but when compared to other apps, like Splendor and Ticket to Ride, it’s inexcusable. I don’t want to sit here and wait for a computer player to take their turn.
When setting up the game, players can randomize the map, the special buildings and/or the scoring cards. Players can also pick and choose what they want to use or don’t want to use which is a nice touch. Unfortunately, players cannot enlarge their selections so if you don’t know what the Merchant card does (and cannot read the small text), you may be out of luck.
I’ve had a few negatives so far but there is one more that is an absolute game breaker for me: Kingdom Builder doesn’t save offline games. What I mean is that you cannot start a game against the AI and pause it for continuation at a later time (like every other app ever allows). As long as the app is open, you can resume the game but if the app ever closes, you will lose the progress of the game entirely. This makes no sense to me in the slightest and actively turned me off of the app as I’m not going to sit and play a game end to end every time I want to play.
Besides that, the game does not feature an undo button so players are locked into their choices once they’re made. This is made even worse due to the problem I just mentioned as you cannot just exit the game and redo your turn as the game will no longer exist.
There is also the issue of online play. You register through BrettspielWelt instead of the app developer. When you register, you’ll receive an email in German (not my native tongue) for registration. It just seems…cheap and not above board. I was unable to ever fully register so I cannot comment on its online play but honestly, I feel like I’m better off for not having to experience it.
Overall, I would not recommend Kingdom Builder unless it’s your absolute favorite game. Not being able to save a game and not being able to register to play online killed the experience for me. I rarely if ever sit down and play an app game from start to finish so not being able to revisit a game in progress made me completely uninterested in playing another game. I was completely underwhelmed and the app is a complete disappointment for what should have been another easy way to draw in new players.