Imagine if Patchwork were not the pleasant tile layer game for two players that it is, but instead a murderous psychopath intent on chasing you and your friends down. Until you are all dead. That's what the upcoming Kickstarter release, Kingdom Rush: Rift in Time feels like, but in a good way!
Before I played the prototype, I wondered how on earth a board game version of the tower defence app would work. There seemed to be a lot of problems to overcome, not least in the components. The solution that Lucky Duck Games and the designers have come up with are not only fairly unique but also faithful to the IP's feel.
Kingdom Rush is a co-operative game where a total of four players will attempt to stop the oncoming hordes of enemies from reaching your Kingdom. The enemies are illustrated on square cards marked with a grid. These cards sit on fantastic plastic trays that enable you to slide them down the path towards your kingdom without moving any of the spells of heroes placed on them.
Heroes are miniatures that look amazing even at this prototype stage and have a practical purpose as their bases are the exact size to cover four of the grid squares on the enemy cards. They are also able to attack enemies, as can the towers you will place out on your turn. The ranged and melee attacks are on Tetris-shaped tokens which you place on the enemy sheets hopefully covering up even more enemies.
Towers start at level one and on players' turns they either play towers to the board or pass them to another player. Towers that are passed will be upgraded later in the round, so this is an important part of your strategy as upgraded towers give you bigger attacks and allow you to rotate them.
Once you have covered the enemies on a card you earn the gems printed on the back which can be used to upgrade your heroes or buy more towers, both of which you are going to need to do.
All of this comes together in a pleasingly frustrating puzzle of efficiency and strategy, as you prioritise enemies and manage your hero's health and your towers levels.
Or Kingdom Flush?
Of course, this is just a brief overview of the game, with extra flourishes applied through different enemy types who cannot be attacked by certain types of attacks and the soldier tower that prevents enemy cards from moving forward and so on. Lucky Duck are a company who have grown in confidence, and after the phenomenal Chronicles of Crime they seem to be on a crazy high with their most complete app conversion yet. Their experience at knowing how to retain the feelings of a phone app, whilst providing a compelling board game experience shines here and is probably their best game based on an app IP yet.
Just like the source material Kingdom Rush is a tough game to beat, as the rounds go by you will rue decisions made or not made in early rounds, regret the way you have managed your towers, and cursed yourself for protecting your hero's health rather than making that all important sacrifice. And then you'll set it up and play all over again.
It's not often I recommend a Kickstarter so readily, but Kingdom Rush is one of about a half a dozen prototypes over the last few years that has blown me away with how complete the experience is, and I can't recommend it highly enough.
If you have ever enjoyed a co-op game, then you owe it to yourself to back Kingdom Rush or pre-order it from a retailer backing it. The attention to detail and clear passion from the designers and publisher don't just make this an admirable game, they make it an essential one.
Kingdom Rush can now be found on on Kickstarter!