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How To Play Kingdomino Origins

kingdomino origins

Kingdomino Origins is the latest (2021) release within the Kingdomino family. It does a fantastic job of introducing several modes of gameplay. This is a standalone game, meaning you don’t need the original game to play this one. Designer Bruno Cathala is back again, with more of the same award-winning mechanisms. But this time, there’s new stone age twists! So buckle up as you settle inside this DeLorean as we go back in time; back to where Kingdomino began. Let’s learn how to play: Kingdomino Origins…

Kingdomi-what, Now?

“But hang on!” you cry as I shove you into this time machine. “I haven’t played the Kingdomino base game, yet!” Don’t panic. I’ve got you sorted. Click here to get the low-down on how to play regular Kingdomino.

Kingdomino (also published by Blue Orange Games) was a tile-drafting, set collection game. In that, your aim was to build a 5x5 grid of dominoes around your castle. Only, these domino tiles don’t have numbers on them. Instead, they feature different terrain types. So you’re constructing a ‘kingdom of dominoes’! The core crux of Kingdomino remains in Kingdomino Origins, but there’s three different modes to play. All introduce new rules for a far tougher challenge! One facet remains constant throughout, though. Your aim: to score the most valuable kingdom. How? By multiplying the different terrain types’ sizes by the number of flames within them.

Three New Ways To Play

Kingdomino Origins introduces three new modes: Discovery Mode, Totem Mode, and Tribe Mode. You’ll always play with Discovery Mode by default, which is the easiest module of the three. (It's also the most like base-game Kingdomino.) I’d recommend trying Totem Mode next, alongside everything you picked up in Discovery. Last of all, there's Tribe Mode, tying elements of all three of them together. Let’s kick things off by running through the basics: how to play Discovery Mode.

Discovery Mode: Initial Set-Up

Discovery Mode runs parallel in many ways to regular Kingdomino. For set-up, give each player a starting square tile and a 3D hut, which sits on it. Players also get a cavemeeple of their colour choice (which matches the colour of their hut). Keep the 48 domino tiles shuffled within the box. They sit snug inside their ‘tray’ within the insert; there’s no need to take them out the box until later. You will need to place the 10 Fire Tokens out, though. Five have 1x Fire symbol on them; four have 2x Fires on them, and one has 3x Fires on it. Place them face-up nearby.

To begin, draw four dominoes at random from the box (regardless of player count). Each has a number on the back, ranging from 1-48. Arrange these four tiles in numerical ascending order, so the lowest number sits closest to the box. Then flip all four tiles face-up. Pick a first player at random to be the start player. You’re ready to begin playing Kingdomino Origins!

Discovery Mode: A Gentle Sidestep Away From The Familiar

To begin with, the first player picks which of the four face-up dominoes they’d like to draft into their kingdom. To do this, they place their colour Tribe Chief meeple on that domino. Then the next player clockwise does the same, placing their Tribe Chief. Then the third player, and last of all, the fourth.

If you’re playing a two-player game, then each of you get to place two chiefs per turn. You have to decide: do you want the first and fourth domino? Or the second and third? You can’t take, say, the first and third domino. In a three-player game, one domino won’t get picked. (Awww, like that poor kid in P.E. classes…) This tile gets removed from the game.

Once all players have placed their Tribe Chief, then you select four more dominoes at random from the box. Again, you line them up in numerical order, lined up away from the box. Sit them parallel to the first set of dominoes, then flip them over. There’s a super-smart rule with regards to turn order in Kingdomino: Origins. The first player is always whomever drafted the lowest-value domino in the previous round. (As in, the domino closest to the box.) Player order now occurs according to the Tribe Chiefs on the domino values. This means it's not guaranteed to be clockwise.

The first player moves their Tribe Chief onto the next domino they’d like to draft. Then they get to place the first domino into their grid. As a rule of thumb, domino placement is thus: you have to connect a domino adjacent to any previously placed tile. At least one of the terrains on it must match the adjacent domino. Your square starting tile (with your hut on it) is a wild terrain, so any domino terrain type can sit next to this. When placing, you can sit your new domino vertical or horizontal. But you have to situate it so it sits within a 5x5 grid. Your hut does not have to sit flush in the middle of this grid.

In Kingdomino Origins, some tiles have flame symbols on them. Remember, at the end of the game, you’ll count up each square within a contiguous same-terrain type. Then you’ll multiply this figure by the number of flames within that terrain. So dominoes with flame symbols on them are important! Some terrains are more common than others, and some have fewer flames than others. (The exact quota breakdown for this is on page 6 of the rulebook.) In regular Kingdomino, this multiplier system was crowns, instead of flames. Why the change? Well, you’re in the Stone Age, here in Origins. The cave people valued fire and heat more than any kind of monarchy!

The Perks Of Volcano Fire

And, talking of fire, there are 10 Volcanoes within the 48 dominoes in Kingdomino Origins. These are special tiles, and they ‘erupt’ as soon as you place it into your kingdom. Drafted a volcano tile? Check how many volcanoes are on it (one, two, or three). Then take a matching flame chit in accordance to the quantity of volcanoes on the tile. (A one-flame chit for a single volcano; a two-flame chit for two volcanoes; a three-flame chit for three volcanoes.)

You then get to place this fire chit into your kingdom. This helps boost those terrain multipliers I mentioned (up to three-fold)! You place the flame chit a distance away from the volcano domino you just placed, itself. You cannot place a flame chit on a domino square that already features a flame icon. Neither can you place flame chits on volcano regions, themselves.

A single flame chit can sit up to three squares away from the erupting volcano. (This includes diagonals.) A two-flame chit can sit up to two spaces away, and you guessed it. The three-flame chit must sit a single square away from the triple-volcano. (This distance is on the back of the flame chits, in case you forget.) There’s only the single triple volcano (and triple-flame chit), so it’s hard to pass up when it arrives!

When playing Kingdomino Origins, rounds continue as per standard Kingdomino, always adding another four tiles each round. There’s twelve rounds, so you can build a 5x5 kingdom. Reach a stage where you cannot physically place a domino? (Due to lack of matching terrains, or space remaining in your grid?) You still have to draft one. And if you can place a domino on your turn, you have to place it – you can’t forfeit it. After twelve rounds it’s then onto final scoring. Go through each of your regions, and count the number of squares within it. Then multiply it by the flames within the region. (You won't ever score this multiplier for Volcano terrains though.) Most points wins!

Totem Mode: Gathering Goods For End-Game Gifts

Discovery Mode, then, leans heavily on regular Kingdomino. The added Volcanoes and their erupting bonus flame multipliers add the spice. Totem Mode adds more though, as well as everything mentioned in Discovery Mode. Set up the game as we mentioned before, but this time you’ll also need the 49 wooden resource tokens. (16 mammoths, 13 fish, 11 mushrooms, and 9 flints.) You’ll also need the four square Totem Tiles. Keep them face-up and within eyesight of all players.

At the start of each round, check the four dominoes after they’re flipped over. Some – not all – have white icons in their bottom-corner. (Grassland = mammoths, ice lakes = fish, jungle = mushrooms, and quarries = flint.) There’s never any resources on deserts, nor volcanoes. Place the corresponding tokens on the matching icons.

The drafting of dominoes is the same as in Discovery Mode. Only this time, when you place tiles into your kingdom, you take the tokens on it, too. They remain on the tile. After placing this domino, check: do you have the outright majority of that token type? If so, you claim the matching Totem Tile. If ever another player places a domino into their kingdom and overtakes you (for having the new majority), they also take the Totem Tile off you. If there’s a tie for a new majority, you pick which player to give the Totem to. (Better hope the other player doesn’t hold grudges...!)

The erupting volcanoes add in a neat twist, here. If you draft a volcano tile, consider where you place its accompanying flame chit. If you place it on a square with a resource token, it destroys it (you remove it from play). This could cause a change in majorities… but it might be worth it for a juicy multiplier!

At the end of the game, add up your regions as per usual. Then, you also earn one extra point per resource you have within your grid. Plus, you get to add on the value of any Totem Tiles you hold by the end. (The mammoth Totem = 3VP; fish Totem = 4VP; mushroom Totem = 5VP; and the flint Totem = 6VP.)

Tribe Mode: Surround The Ground Around Your New-Found Cavemen

Tribe Mode takes things up a further notch. Start by setting up as per Discovery Mode and Totem Mode. (Only this time, you’ll only need the 49 resource tokens, not the Totem Tiles themselves.) Place the Cave Board in the centre of the table and shuffle the small square Cavemen Tiles. Draw the top four Cavemen Tiles onto the Cave Board spaces, and leave the rest in a stack.

Play occurs as per usual. Players draft and place dominoes (some of which might have resources on them). But in Tribe Mode, players then get to take a third action: they may recruit a Cavemen Tile. It’s worth noting that there’s no end-game scoring for the Totem Tiles. Remaining resources don’t score you one point each, either. Instead, resources now act like a currency for you to claim Cavemen Tiles…

The Recruit action lets you buy any one of the four face-up Cavemen Tiles. You pay by cashing in any two different resources. Or, you can pay one of each four resources to look through the stack of remaining tiles and pick one of your choice. Then you place it on an empty terrain square within your kingdom. Cavemen Tiles cannot sit on Volcanoes, Flame symbols/chits, or squares with a resource on it. (Again, if you later place a Flame chit on a square with a Cavemen Tile on it, you forfeit the Cavemen Tile by removing it.)

Cavemen Tiles are further means to score end-game points. They offer a variety of set collection and pattern-building incentives. Some are simple Warriors, and score stated extra (1, 2, or 3) end-game points. They score points in accordance to adjacent placement to one another. You add up their value, and multiply this by the total number of Warriors in that group. For example, if you had three Warriors next to each other, valued 1, 2 and 2, their sum equals 5. There are three of them, so 3x5 = 15 points.

Others are more specific though, scoring points in accordance to things that surround them:

  • Hunters score 3VPs per mammoth token that sits on any of the eight squares around them.
  • The Fishing Child scores 3VPs per fish that sits on any of the eight squares around them.
  • The Gather scores 4VPs per mushroom that sits on any of the eight squares around them.
  • The Sculptor scores 5VPs per flint that sits on any of the eight squares around them.
  • The Painter scores 2VPs per any resource that sits on any of the eight squares around them.
  • The Fire Lady scores 1VP per Flame symbol/chit that sits on any of the eight squares around them. (If a two- or three-Flame chit surrounds the Fire lady, this counts as two/three points, respectively.)
  • The Shaman scores 2VPs per other Cavemen Tile that sits on any of the eight squares around them.

End-game scoring is a case of adding up regions as per usual (Flame icons multiplied by terrain size). Then you add up your Cavemen Tile bonuses, too! Given the extra plates you’re spinning by this point, Tribe Mode does create a longer game-length compared to, say, Discovery Mode. But Origins is a wonderful challenge, most definitely a step up from regular Kingdomino.

That concludes our guide on how to play Kingdomino Origins. Did this help you? Let us know your thoughts and tag us on social media @zatugames.