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Review: Kingpin

Posted by Eisley on 29th October 2009

Kingpin

I’m always on the lookout for good 2 player games.  Kingpin sounded great from the description and the Flash demo is a superb example of how to use the web to showcase and explain a game.

The game involves moving your gangsters (tiles) on a board in order to either control the centre area, get one of your gangsters off the other side of the board, or to totally eliminate your opponent.  Moving your tiles and changing their facing is simple but very strategic, as each tile’s side has a different mix of attack and defence icons.  Some tiles can support others, fire over spaces and charge in to a fight (called a raid and shown by car icons). So, Kingpin offers interesting tactical play.

It took a while to understand how to be effective.  We had several mutually destructive fights so our combats were relatively straight forwards.  The rules (and Flash demo) have some complex examples which look really cool but we never had any of those.  I put this down to it being our first game and that future games will be more cunning and complex.  I hope, and expect, that will be the case and there will be depth in the combination and positioning of tiles.

There is a timer in the game.  Each player has 25 actions and the first one to run out automatically loses.  When you move, you use an action, but when you fight, you don’t.  This felt unneccesarily complicated.  A timer’s good to avoid stalemate but why this specific game mechanic?  It put the starting player at a disadvantage.  Maybe it’s to encourage players to attack rather than move, but I hope not.  Systems created to encourage players to perform in a specific way are usually a sign that a game option isn’t balanced to be appealing.  Also, rather than stop stalemate, this one makes you attack but only so the other player is further along the action track so you can then play out the clock in order to win.

The rules say there can be no draws which is fine (and cool).  My thought was maybe to have 25 turns each but then either compare your remaining forces to decide a winner, or go into suddden death with next kill wins (where you can only move tiles forwards or into an attack).

The artwork was an element that a few people commented on.  Artwork isn’t fundamental to a game unless it gets in the way of playing a game, but it does help set scene, tone and, hey, we all like eye candy.  Kingpin uses a black-and-white art style similar to comic book ‘Sin City’. I’ve always enjoyed Sin City but this style is a bit too stark for me.  The gloss of the board and the hard contrast make it more difficult to see.  I would have preferred a city scape from above done in regular boardgame artwork style.  It’s not terrible but it wouldn’t be my choice.

Overall, I liked the general gameplay mechanics of the game and want to play it more times.  Three differently weighted gangs are included, as well as two slightly diffferent sides to the board, so there is variety supplied, but I’m not sure how differently they will play so I wonder about its longevity.

James

[Played with 2 players]

Comments? Thoughts? Questions?

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2 Responses to “Review: Kingpin”

  1. chomoon (Kingpin's author) said

    Thanks for a nice review. Also please say more about the replayability after you play the game for a while – we (as authors of Kingpin) are sure you won’t be dissapointed 🙂

    As for the timer… there is an advanced variant rule, to play without the clock. The timer was added during the development of the game and as you pointed out it is not necessary to play. You got all the “reasons to put timer on Kingpin” right 🙂

    • Eisley said

      Hi,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my review and feed back your thoughts. I always appreciate any author contacting me.

      I will definitely post more thoughts on replayability.

      I think I prefer the game with the action track than with no action track at all, because I prefer a game that encourages action.

      By the way, if anyone hasn’t checked out the Flash demo/explanation of the game, they should check it out: http://www.kuzniagier.com/kingpin/flash.html

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