The winner of the Spiel des Jahres 2017, this game doesn't need our review but we're going to give it one anyway!
This game is incredibly fun! It has features we both love. For someone who is very interested in game mechanics, the strategy involved (which can be increased in complexity by special rules detailed in the rulebook) is easy to learn, but challenging to master, and very elegant.
The basics of the game are that you lay out 4 tiles at a time, ranked from best to worst (by the number on them), and you take turns picking tiles in sets of 4, with your previous picks determining the order for the next round. As you pick up tiles you place the one that you just moved your meeple from on to your board. As long as one type of landscape matches (water with water, sand with sand, etc) any pieces can be placed next to each other. Any contigous set of land-type will score 1 point per square per crown in the set. So your goal is to build large swathes of land and also prioritize the crown pieces that score you victory points.
This tile picking mechanic is where you interact with the other players. You can pick pieces that will score you points, or block your opponent from achieving their goals. As higher quality pieces mean a later pick in a later round, there's a lot of thought to go into this simple mechanic. You might start out fast and furious building your kingdom, or slowly examine the available tiles to pick the best option. You don't know what's coming but there's a limited number of each type of piece that can inform your decisions later in the game.
As many have already observed, Kingdomino's simple concept and easy to explain rules make it a great family game. Family members who aren't generally "gamers" will find the concept appealing and will pick up the rules easily - most people seem to master the rules and start considering more advanced strategy prior to the end of the first game. Minimizing the time that new players spend feeling like a "novice" helps make the overall experience so much better for the whole group!
Although the concept of the game is simple, it's the right kind of simplicity that doesn't easily lend itself to boredom, if that makes any sense. However, when players are ready for another challenge, there are bonus rules! Arranging a 5x5 square can be tricky but is graspable. 7x7 kind of blew our minds when we first tried it. When creating 7x7 squares with 2 people, all tiles are used, so players can be sure they will see every tile eventually (a large element of randomness in the 5x5 variant is which pieces will you see); however, trying to maintain locations where tiles can be placed depending on what is revealed next is much more challenging. Also different tile sets can have different weights. In the lower scoring 5x5 mode a set of mine tiles can swing the game, but in 7x7 a larger sand or river can outweigh the benefits of working around the mine pieces. The other bonus rules, such as Middle Kingdom, allow for ongoing variety. An expansion was just released: Age of Giants, that should add some extra fun to Kingdomino or Queendomino. We haven't played it as we enjoy the core game so much as the well-oiled experience it is.
For those who have limited time, each game takes about 15 minutes; set up and clean up only about 2 minutes each. The compact nature of the box is handy if your game cupboard is already overflowing.
In short, our recommendation is to buy this game! Even if you turn out to be that one person who doesn't like it, the low price point (we got ours for just over $12 on Amazon during a sale) means it's worth the risk. Get this game!