Fallen Kingdoms is the latest release from Eric Pietrocupo, the head behind Larienna's Library.
It's a Print and Play game, that you can get for 10$ at Drivethrurpg.com.
Let's take a look at what you will receive:
A map consisting of up to six doublesided tiles, that may be put together in a different way each session. This way no two games are the same.
For greater variety, you can make 12 single sided map tiles, of course.
Basically some kind of "character card" of the god a player represents, giving a special power to that player he can use each turn.
During a session, the vikings gather intelligence and learn certain things. This knowledge is exclusive to a player at first, but as soon as his vikings get defeated, the knowledge becomes public, i.e. available to everyone.
When an emey's temple gets destroyed, the attacking player gets a rumor card with a rumor printed on it, that is whispered about his vikings (like e.g. "They eat stones for breakfast"). That rumor cards raise the intimidation level of a player's vikings.
Buildings are used to enhance the productivity of certain areas.
Player components in six colours (red, yellow, purple, blue, green, turquoise)
A Kingdom sheet, showing the progress of a player, as well as a set of tokens for each player.
Everything is square! This makes crafting very easy, since almost everything can be cut out in a cutting machine and maybe only the final cuts will be done with scissors.
There are more tiles than necessary. Just in case, you mess the cutting up once or twice, don't worry. You will still have more than enough components.
The graphics are very nice and the resolution is very high, so you get a sharp, good looking print out.
Extra tiles that are not mentioned in the rules may be used by a creative head to add own rules for those tiles.
All in all it took me about 4 hours (printing not included) to assemble Fallen Kingdoms - a fair amount of time for a game of that quality.
The colours! When I first opened the pdf with the components, I was shocked! Those colours appeared to be way too sharp.
However when printed out, they turned out to be darker than depicted.
This might be a printer issue, though, so open and print at your own risk!
The rules. Seriously. When I pay for a game (ok, I didn't, I received it in exchange for this review, but if I had payed for this game, ..) the least I expect are rules void of mistakes.
On the one hand, there are typos, that do not matter too hard, but on the other hand, there is the really confusing stuff like e.g. the explanation of the production track, where it is said "each time he gain [sic] a point, he moves his token 1 square to the left", even though it ought to be "right".
Or the glory point system: Accorindg to the rules, I'm supposed to move my point marker along the track up to 50 and afterwards to use counters. However those glory counters come labled as 5, 20 and 50, which does not make any sense at all, since you can get points in values of 1,2,3 and 4 as well.
Alternatively you could say, once you hit the 50, take a "50" counter and move your counter on the board to 0.
Dear Eric, please re-read the rules and fix everything you can find!
Plus there is one "ugly" thing, that can be credited to DrivethruRPG:
They print on each and every site your name and your order number. While you cut those away from the components, you have to cut down the rules and can't leave them as printed.
Ok, let's take a look at the game itself:
In Fallen Kingdoms, every player plays a god that wants to lead his vikings to victory.
On the one hand, your vikings do, what vikings are supposed to do: The conquer the territories of the other players.
On the other hand, however, the game mechanics make it impossible for a single player to vanquish all of the other players: As soon as one player is eliminated (or surrenders), he invades the board on his next turn, probably weakening his suppressor in this process, and thus stays in the game.
The aim of the game is, to have the most victory points by the time two of the three trophy piles (buildings, knowledge, rumors) have been depleted.
There are rules giving directions as to which map pieces have to be placed. This way the players don't have the time to build up some kind of "stronghold", where they turtle in: Due to the narrow nature of the board and most propably the initial lack of ressources the players are forced to expand their territories. However eventually they will not have enough units on the board to defend every single one of their towns effectively, and in this moment the opponents strike and wipe that player's forces out - at least for the moment.
The combat system itself is interesting as well: On the one hand, the units have got a 50% chance of hacking each other away. On the other hand, however, the intimidation level of a god can cause opposing units to flee a combat. The downside of this is, that those units that retreated during a battle will eventually fight back the next turn.
Units are never forced to engage in combat. Instead they may retreat to an adjacent friendly (i.e. occupied by the same player) town, where they join forces with other units that are deployed there.
Only if the attacking player meets certain criteria, he is allowed to "rampage". Rampaging gives an army of a size big enough the opportunity to advance to the next town in order to attack it.
While conquering is a major element of FK, the goal is not to conquer all, but to tally "glory points" instead. (As mentioned above: The game mechanics are balanced enough to prevent one player from aquiring world domination).
And you only get glory points the easy way for buildings and for developing knowledge. You do get glory points for destroying a temple and for eliminating another player's last unit. But the points earned that way stand in almost no correlation to the effort you have to put behind this. You do need to conquer, however, if you want to get more ressources to build buildings or to develop knowledge. So conquering still remains a good idea.
Fallen Kingdoms is a very light strategy game. It is easy to learn, but due to lots of randomness involved, there is no such thing as a "master plan" that will lead you to ultimate victory. The whole game is balanced enough, to not have any player fall too far behind: Since you are allowed to surrender to another player at any time, you may do so as soon as you find yourself on a descending branch only to strike back with brute force in your next turn and to be a threat again.
It is not light enough to make the beer and the pretzels look more attractive, but it is not difficult enough to make everyone fall silent in concentration, either.
All in all I'm calling it a very clever designed game that you can bring to the table, whenever you want to have a good time with your friends (especially if they are fans of the nordic mythology, too, and start their conquering phases with proper battleshouts like "BY ODIIIIIIN! CHAAAARGE!!")
Using BGG's rating system, I'm giving it a solid 8: Very good game. I like to play. Probably I'll suggest it and will never turn down a game.