Teaching Time: 5 mins
Playing Time: 15 mins
Setup Time: 5 mins
Value For Money: Mid
Genius is hard to define and I try not to use it in relation to anything that applies only to a single discipline, but I am certain that its separate from perfection. Kingdomino is a perfect game, its not a work of genius.
In the game domino like tiles are mixed up then laid out in batches of four with rarer or higher scoring dominoes coming later in each batch. Players select tiles to place into their kingdom, touching an existing tile of a matching type with the first single space tile counting as wild, without exceeding a 5x5 grid. At the end of the game players score for each space of continuous matching tile types multiplied by the number of crowns (marked on some tiles) in each territory.
The game is balanced and paced perfectly, easy to learn and simple to explain both in rules and concept. The components are delightful and finished to an immaculate standard and it makes total sense as an Spiel Des Jahres winner. It is both pitched as teachable to children while with depth to satisfy real gamers and it has the right level of components for an SDJ winner with satisfying tiles and tiny castles with little kings.
However, it is only and exactly that. I've honestly never had a conversation about a Kingdomino game after the game. I'm not expecting an RPG story or even a narrative boardgame story but at least after a game of Ticket To Ride everyone has a little chat about who stole which route forcing someone to go the long way round or who kept pulling late game route cards. Separate player boards or areas often result in limited interaction and in Kingdomino almost the only way to interact with other players is to steal a piece they wanted, doing so without punishing yourself in the process is tough enough to make it at extremely rare event. The only table talk I regularly encounter while playing Kingdomino tends to be me bellowing "They call it a mine!" in my best Gimli voice when I pull a mine tile (amusing to me, less so to my wife). There are occasional groans when tiles are flipped or drafted and annoyed muttering when a tile is placed wrongly or can't be placed at all, but never laughs of delight or eager discovery. The whole experience is very gentle, emotionally and intellectually, its perfect and often strangely calming. None of which is a criticism as such.
If you're looking for another gateway family game Kingdomino is a entirely acceptable choice. I can't see anyone ever taking heavily against it, because there's honestly nothing to take against, but I don't recommend it unbidden and have never had anyone passionately recommend it to me. Its a totally worthy SDJ winner, one of many that are equally valid choices for your collection. As with Azul, it gets the mother-in-law seal of approval, for what its worth.