Barbarian Kingdoms

Name: Barbarian Kingdoms
Designer: Christophe Lebrun
Artists: Aurélie Lebrun du Puytison, Nasos Maloudis, Sergey Shikin
Publisher: Jester Games
Game type: Wargame, Strategy
Players: 3-6 + 2p variant
Playing time: 30-60 min
Weight on BGG: 2.50
Project Campaign:

I usually like games with area control and I never refuse games that involve bluffing and bribery. I liked the idea, some other key features of the game and also the art. So I knew I have to try this game and Christophe Lebrun was kind enough to send me a prototype copy of this game. So keep in mind that what you see in pictures and also my ideas and conclusions are based on a prototype version of the game but I have to say that, what I see in their campaign, running now on Gamefound has definitely improvements and they are on the right track. BTW – last day of campaign.

Quick overview of the game:
BK is an asymmetrical, area control game with some strategy, bluffing and bribery aspects.
Each player is running his own barbarian kingdom and all are now competing against each other for supremacy over Western Europe.

Production/components/artwork: 7/10 for the prototype (final version can go up to 9 or 10)
I will give it an 7 BUT again, components and parts of the game were in WIP when I played the game. You can check now their campaign to see how the game looks. But even for a prototype the production quality was a good one. Far as I see how the game will look in final version with all that metal stuff … can easily jump to 10 😀
Main Board: the first thing that caught my attention was the main board, which is in the shape of a hexagon. (as add-on and Gamefound exclusive, they also have a neoprene playmat)
The regions on the map are very well defined, the art is clear and with a nice aesthetic.

Player Screens: normal player screens but with a beautiful artwork. The final version of the game will get more thick cardboard screens so more heavier and more stable.
Standees: Standees are of a good quality. (as add-on and Gamefound exclusive, you can get the METAL miniatures that are absolutely GORGEOUS ).

Rule Book: some issues but it wasn’t even finished. The new one is very good.
Player Boards: Very nicely done, easy to read, with player guide. The final version of the game will get double layer boards and with an even better look and design.
Coins: very nice and thick cardboard coins (Tremis – named in the game) that come in 3 denominations: gold, silver, copper. (as add-on and Gamefound exclusive, you can get the METAL coins set – AMAZING again ). Along with the coins you can also get the METAL control tokens ).

Tokens (and Coins) were thicker than many games on market and this was a prototype.

Other components or upgrades of the components for the final version of the game:
*Double sided score pad, linen finish on player boards, protective wrap on the game board, improved cards quality, 2 player variant, team variant, community music playlist.
There is also a special COIN but I will leave this to you to discover yourself why it is special.

Mechanics: 7,5/10
Area Majority, Area Control, Area Influence, Area Movement
Bluffing, Betting, Bribery
Variable Player Powers, Variable Set-up
Take That
Force commitment

A lot of mechanics and an interesting combination when it comes to Area Control/Majority etc. AND Bluffing/Bribery etc. I think you can get this game as an area control party game It might not be on everyone’s please, but I liked it. And I think it shines in 6 players. It might also be fun to play this in teams with the new TEAM MODE.

Gameplay: 7,5/10
The game is straightforward, light and fast. Should go between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on player count.
As I was saying, each player is the leader of a barbarian kingdom and to win will have to control seven territories or to eliminate two other kings.
Game is played in several turns and each player chooses only one and single action to resolve from 5 possible actions:

  1. Recruitment – place a warrior from your reserve into an empty territory and pay its cost;
  2. Taxation – collect money from the territories you control;
  3. Assault – invade a territory or attack an enemy
  4. Maneuvers – repositioning the units in your territories or towards the sea
  5. Claim – take control of a territory you occupy by paying the cost

Only one action per turn , one out of 5. It might seems to be an easy task but you will have to choose wisely in order to gain the victory.
A very interesting twist of the game is when a player choose Assault or Claim action. Why? Because these 2 can be challenged right away by an opponent that is adjacent to the active territory. This will trigger a battle and during the battle the active player can pay a bribe to the opponent to try reserving the outcome.

How the battle works?
When a battle is triggered, the opponent (that have to be adjacent to the contested territory) can move their soldiers and/or king. Each soldier have a value of 3 battle points and the king has 6.
Player who have the territory control token get 2 points.
In the end, players can pay bribes but this is don in secret, placing the money in bags. Each player will get extra battle points equal to the value of the given bribe.

And of course, the winner of the battle is the player with the most battle points. If there is a tie, winner is the attacker.
When a player lose a battle, he lose all his troops. Soldiers can be recruited later but not the king.
And don’t forget, eliminate 2 kings and you win the game !
Each kingdom has a special power and also each king. So you have to take advantage of these two powers.

Variability: 8,5/10

I will give this to the game. I think it has a lot of variability and replayability and this is mostly because of so many variable stuff in the game and also because of the bribing.
So we have:
*Asymmetrical Kingdoms – each kingdom will have its own way to play, own style and comes with an unique power. Final version of the game has balanced kingdoms (Huns were not quite balanced but this is now fixed). Every time you will have a different experience, depending on the starting position of your kingdom, you kingdom power and the charisma of the kings…because you also have 6 unique kings for the 6 unique kingdoms.
*Multiple scenarios for each player count. Also 2 players mode and Teams mode.
So depending of player count, kingdom, king, position on map and of course of each player each game will be different.

Another twist of the game is with the bribe. So yes, you can pay huge bribe to win a battle. BUT…the bribes will go to the other player not to the supply. So paying a huge bribe you will get your opponent rich.

I think I can add some pros for this game so let’s see:

  • I like art
  • I like the mechanisms
  • I like the components (I hope I will have the chance to put my hands on all those metal deluxe components )
  • I like that this game is somehow innovative, because it puts together the area control and war and strategy with bluffing, bribe and racing
  • I like that has variability and replayability
  • I like that is HIGHLY interactive, with take that. Can be played in 6 players, you have to race with other players to victory, you need to bluff and pay bribes and contesting other players actions…really interactive
  • It is fast and can be fun with the right group of people – you have to enjoy bluffing and bribing stuff of a game

Cons or what I felt was missing or not good or could have been improved (in my opinion):
Not so many negative aspects or…not even so negative I would say.

For the prototype I found that the rulebook wasn’t exactly what I want from a rulebook but now, for the final version of the game I understood that this was changed and now there is a better rulebook.

Yellow borders (of the yellow player – Visigoth) might be harder to see on the map because the territories have a light colour, a kind of beige.

It seems to be to slow and boring at the beginning but then can escalate quickly.

Huns were superior to the others but I understand that this is now fixed for final version of the game.

Overall I liked the game but I have to be honest and tell you that I would want the deluxe version of it 😀 . I like Area control/ Majority etc. games and I also like from time to time to play something where I can bluff, bribe, hide, to do stuff in secret…and this game managed to put these all together.
But there is also strategy and you have to consider some aspects in game starting with your own special and unique powers that can give you the strategy line to follow in the game.
Having 2 ways to win this game it makes it very tense.
Things are changing A LOT from one turn to another. You can lose everything now and get more back next turn.
You can have some fun with this game.

Disclaimer: Christophe Lebrun was kind enough to provide me a copy of the game (prototype version). The review is an objective one, all the aspects mentioned, the rating given, the appreciations and the negative parts are purely personal and honest.

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