Kingdom Builder

Kingdom Builder: A Guide to Rules, Strategy & Playing Tips


Kingdom Builder is a game I’ve played a lot – it’s a strategy board game where you create your own kingdom with different terrains. The game was made by Donald X. Vaccarino and came out in 2011. It won the German Game of the Year award in 2012 and is generally well regarded among board game fans and communities.

This game is for 2 to 4 players and takes about 45 minutes to play. The idea is to build the most impressive kingdom by placing houses on the game board. Each game is different because the goals change every time you play. The game board is made of four sections, and there are different rules for where you can build. You get points by building next to mountains, forests, and other places, or by meeting the goals. The player with the most points at the end wins.

Quick Tip for Kingdom Builder

Always keep the game’s goals in mind. They change each game and are key to winning!

Rules for playing Kingdom Builder

Kingdom Builder has simple rules, but there’s a lot to think about. Each player starts with a hand of one terrain card. On your turn, you play your card and put three houses on that kind of terrain. You must build next to your other houses if you can. If you can’t, you can build anywhere that matches your card. There are also special actions you can earn by building next to certain places. These let you do extra things like move houses or build more. The game ends when one player has put down all their houses. Then you see who got the most points from the goals and the board.

Equipment and Setup for Kingdom Builder

To play Kingdom Builder, you need the game box which comes with the board sections, houses, terrain cards, goal cards, and summary cards. You also need the special action tiles and the gold coins for scoring. To set up, you put together the four board sections randomly. This makes the game different each time. Then you shuffle the terrain cards and goal cards and pick three goals for the game. Each player picks a color and takes their houses.

Here’s how to set up the game for each player and the initial steps:

Player Setup:

  • Each player receives their 40 settlements in their respective player color, forming their personal supply.
  • Additionally, each player draws one terrain card from the draw pile, keeping it hidden in their hand from other players.

Determining Start Player:

  • The start player tile is given to the oldest player, who will take the first turn of the game.

Initial Board Setup:

  • Turn one of the unused game board sections over to its back side and place it adjacent to the game board.
  • Each player places their gold marker on the black space of the gold score track.

Final Steps:

  • Return any game components not used in this game back into the game box.

How to Play Kingdom Builder and Game Mechanics

The game has a few key mechanics. First, the terrain card you play decides where you can build. Second, the special actions give you more choices. Third, the goals tell you how to get points. Here’s how the sequence of play goes:

Here’s the sequence of play broken down:

  1. Location Seizure: When a player builds a settlement next to a location hex, they immediately take one available location tile. This tile is placed in front of the player, picture side up, and grants an extra action from the next turn onwards. Only one location tile per location can be seized by a player. If all settlements are moved away from a location, the corresponding tile must be discarded.
  2. End Game Castle Scoring: At the game’s end, players earn 3 gold for each castle hex if they’ve built at least one of their settlements adjacent to it.
  3. Mandatory Action: During their turn, the player must build 3 settlements from their personal supply on unoccupied hexes of the same terrain type as their played card, following building rules strictly.
  4. Extra Actions: Players collect location tiles that grant extra actions, which can be performed once each turn, either before or after the mandatory action. These actions allow for building additional settlements or moving existing ones.
  5. Usage of Location Tiles: To indicate the use of an extra action, players turn their corresponding location tile to its picture side. After completing their turn, these tiles are flipped back to their pictogram side.
  6. Terrain Card Discard and Draw: After fulfilling their mandatory action and any extra actions they wish to take, if any, players discard their terrain card and draw a new one from the draw pile, keeping it hidden.
  7. Building Settlements: Building settlements involves rules like: only one settlement per eligible terrain space, building on specific terrain types, adjacency rules for new settlements, and options if adjacency isn’t possible (mandatory or extra action-dependent).
  8. Game End: The game ends when a player places their last settlement from their personal supply. The current round is completed. Players then calculate their gold earned, evaluating Kingdom Builder cards and earning gold for settlements next to castle hexes.
  9. Determining Winner: The player with the most gold wins. In case of a tie, the tied players share the victory.

This sequence guides the players through the turns, actions, and the game’s conclusion, focusing on building settlements, utilizing location tiles, scoring, and determining the winner based on accumulated gold.

The game ends when someone has no more houses. Then you add up points from the goals and any extra points from the board.

How to Win at Kingdom Builder

To maximize points, the biggest priority is to carefully select your initial placements near the different terrain types and take full advantage of the unique abilities offered by the location tiles. These abilities can provide additional actions, such as moving settlements or building extra ones, which can be pivotal in outmaneuvering opponents.

Scoring is based on the three random goal cards drawn at the beginning of the game, so you have to tailor your strategies to align with these objectives. Additionally, being flexible and able to adjust one’s strategy in response to the evolving board state and opponents’ actions is crucial. By balancing the expansion of their own kingdom, blocking opponents, and strategically aiming for bonus points through the goal cards, players can increase their chances of winning at Kingdom Builder.

You want to get the special actions that help you the most. You also need to block other players from getting good spots. And always keep an eye on the goals. They’re the main way to get points. Try to find ways to get points from more than one goal with each move.

Best Strategies for playing Kingdom Builder board game

Focusing on acquiring special abilities by building next to location hexes can provide significant advantages, allowing for additional actions or more placement options. It’s also advantageous to diversify your settlements across different terrain types to avoid being boxed in and to maximize your scoring opportunities. Moreover, control over the middle of the board can be beneficial, as it grants greater access to different areas and can hinder the progress of your opponents.

Good strategies for Kingdom Builder include planning ahead and being flexible. You want to have a plan for how to get points, but you also need to be able to change your plan based on the cards you get. It’s also smart to watch what other players are doing. Sometimes you can block them from getting points. And don’t forget about the special actions. They can really change the game.

Lastly, always keep an eye on your opponents’ strategies to block their advancement if possible while exploiting opportunities to secure areas with high-scoring potential. A balance of offensive and defensive tactics, along with an agile approach to the evolving state of the board, will guide a player to victory in the intricate dance of Kingdom Builder.


Sometimes you’ll be in a good spot, like having the right cards to get a lot of points. Other times, you might be stuck with bad cards. When things are going well, try to build on it and get even more points. When they’re not, look for ways to change your plan and still get points. Maybe you can use a special action or block another player.

Frequently Asked Questions about playing Kingdom Builder game

Here are some common questions and answers:

Q: Can I move my houses after I’ve placed them?
A: Usually no, but some special actions let you move houses.

Q: What if I can’t play my terrain card?
A: You always can. If you can’t build next to your houses, you can build anywhere that matches the card.

Q: How do I get special actions?
A: By building next to certain places on the board.

Q: Can I have more than one special action?
A: Yes, you can have one of each kind.

Q: What happens if we run out of terrain cards?
A: Shuffle the discard pile to make a new deck.

Additional Tips for Kingdom Builder

Here are some extra tips:

  • Think about the order of your moves. Sometimes it’s better to wait to use a special action.
  • Try to keep your options open. Don’t lock yourself into one part of the board.
  • Remember that the goals are secret until the end. Don’t give away your strategy too early.

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