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Wednesday, June 01, 2005


Initial impressions: Manifest Destiny, Kingdoms

Three warnings about Manifest Destiny:

1. Manifest Destiny is subtitled "Card Driven Strategy Game" in letters nearly as big as the title. Don't be fooled, it is not.

Card driven games that I am familiar with require card play to activate units on the board. In Manifest Destiny the cards augment the game. Cards are played in a certain phase of a round, units are moved, units are purchased, advances are acquired, and conflict occurs in other phases of the round separate from any cards being played.

Despite this it seems to be a good game. I am looking forward to playing it again.

2. Don't think of it as a game about conquering territory.

My initial impression is that control of territory is secondary to the goals of the game. In our game, the person who won was in constant war with another player and never controlled more than a handful of territories. I had control over much of Mexico and got wiped out with the "Depression" card. (The "Depression" card caused me to lose control over every territory but two, in the region of Mexico. I was left with Central America, Cuba and two territories in Mexico.) I was easily able to keep my position on the Victory Point track and came in second. The guy who owned vast tracts of land came in 4th place out of 5.

Think of the game as competition between capitalists or robber barons to make money instead of controlling territory. Doing so will make the theme of the game make much more sense. The Circus, Pro Sports, Telephone, Television, etc. advances now make more sense.

3. The rule book is a tough read. It seems to me that they had a rule set, revised it many times with play testing, and never got around to rewriting the rules in a logical manner.

Our learning game clocked in at 6 hours. I suspect it is a 4-5 hour game as players get familiar with it. I doubt I will get to play enough to write an informed, lengthy review.


Classic Knizia. Take a simple concept, and give it a twist. Everyone else is left thinking, "I could have invented that game."

Players simply place tiles on a grid. They can either draw hidden tiles that have numbers, both positive and negative, or place a castle. When all spaces on the grid are full the game is scored. Each row and column is calculated individually. First all the positive and negative numbers in the row are added up. If a player has a castle in the row the total value of the tiles is multiplied by the value of the castle, either 1, 2, 3, or 4.

There are a couple tiles that throw a twist in this basic description. A dragon tile caused both the row and column it is in to score negative points only. A mountain in the center of a row or column causes the row or column to be divided in two on either side of the mountain.

The board is cleared an two more rounds take place. The winner is the player with the highest score at the end of three rounds of play.

In classic Knizia fashion it looks simple, but strategy is deeper than it first appears, especially as player get familiar with the hidden tiles.

Simple, decent filler.

Edit: I played with 4 players. I can't imagine it would be any good with less than that. It isn't a great game, nor is it destined for a reprint. It is simply decent filler.

The grid is 5x6. In a 4 player game each player places 7. 5 tiles. Each player doesn't have a lot of control, so decisions can require thought even if they are not agonizing decisions.

Good gaming,

Kingdoms: I tried this 2-player and found it dismally dull.

Is there ever really a question of what to do each round? Play good tiles on your castle rows, bad tiles on their. That's about it.

What makes this so problematic is that you haven't got a hand; no hand management, no strategy. If you could hold three tiles, you might have a more interesting game.


Did you disable the comments on JSGC? I've tried to comment a couple times in the last month, but haven't been able.

Congrats on the game design gig.

Good article in the Games Journal. I have a quibble or two over king making. I say, do what's best for your score. Let whiners whine, they will accuse you of choosing sides anyway.
Re: comments on JSGC. I didn't change anything. I will check.
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