Kingdom Rush is one of the most accurate transfers of franchises to the table. Conversions of famous franchises into board games are far from always successful (it’s not for nothing that no one discusses Batman: Arkham City Escape …). But in this case, it turned out to be a masterful adaptation that retained the atmosphere of the original. All mechanics evoke the thought: “Well, of course, this is how it should work on the table!
Explanation for those unfamiliar with the franchise: a tower defense computer and mobile game in real time. The more you kill, the more money you get, with which you can build new towers and improve existing ones, which in turn will help you cope with even tougher enemies.
In Kingdom Rush: Rift in Time co-op, players also build towers along a fixed route, destroy hordes of mobs, control powerful heroes, and upgrade towers. The game is designed for 2-4 players, games take about an hour.
The action of the board takes place after the end of the events of the computer original. In peacetime, the towers were dismantled, which gave the Time Mage the opportunity to gather the forces of evil and break through the very fabric of space-time. The engineers and magicians of the remaining defenseless kingdom quickly learned to cope with the magic of time and summon towers from the past to the battlefield.
During the players’ turn, they place towers along the road so that they can shoot at the hordes of minions walking along it. On each horde tile, a grid is drawn in which several minions are placed in a specific order. To defeat the horde, you need to cover with polyomino attacks all the cells of the tile on which the minions are drawn. At the end of each turn, the hordes advance, and if they reach the end of the road, then each minion remaining uncovered by the attack will deprive you of one HP. If there is no HP left, the game is over.
Great feature: you decide which towers to place where based on which polyomino-shaped attacks they fire. For example, a tower of archers fires an L-shaped polyomino that covers 4 squares – but only in the direction in which it was placed. Improved towers can rotate. Some towers can also fire in multiple directions, attack multiple times, or fire from afar.
This puzzle is the essence of the gameplay; its the most wonderful part. Attacks cannot overlap or hang off horde tiles. So, should you place the wizard’s tower here? It will cover only 2 cells of the horde out of the 4 remaining uncovered. Or is it too ineffective? Or maybe stop her with a movement-blocking militia and destroy it in the next round? If the red player places an archer tower opposite my artillery, can we coordinate attacks? How to optimally solve the puzzle and arrange the pieces of Tetris in their places is not an easy and exciting challenge.
Yes, about teammates: another Kingdom Rush feature is how you upgrade towers. To upgrade it to the next level, you do not play a tower card, but pass it to the player to your left. At the end of the round, they will return this card to the storehouse and instead take an improved version of it in their hand, which will become available for placement in the next round.
A simple and ingenious mechanic that forces you to plan ahead, considering not only whether you can afford not to play this tower on your turn, but also the fact that your partner can only place it on his own (unless he gives it to you for re-improvement) … Each player has a limited number of empty tower spots along the road. If played haphazardly, the player may not have enough cards (or unsuitable cards) to fill their tower spots.
Another nice feature that greatly increases replay value is heroes. Everyone chooses a hero; he is your avatar (fans of the franchise will immediately recognize Malik and Algeria, for example). The hero is represented by a miniature occupying 2 by 2 cells. They can move along the road to the horde tiles in order to attack them or use special abilities. Having lost HP, the hero will respawn on the next turn; sometimes it is beneficial to send them into a suicidal attack. Also, each hero has his own abilities and his own style of play.
To win, you need to destroy the portals opened by the Time Mage. Special cards in the horde deck are responsible for them. Portals appear at a certain time. They are not only difficult to attack (only with improved towers), but in addition they deal damage to heroes when interacting and destroy the towers that attack them. In a word, you should be ready for them.
The game feels well balanced. In every scenario, we felt the tension and challenge, but we didn’t feel driven into a hopeless situation. Every time we won, but barely. You can’t do without cooperation, and planning ahead too.
The only downside to this impressive abundance of puzzle options and combinations available is analysis paralysis. For example, one of our players experienced information overload trying to find the optimal solution. In other cooperatives, there are usually moments: “Obviously, you need to do this and that” – but here, because of fiddling with polyominoes, you can easily fall into a stupor.