Fraser & Gordon


No. of Players:
2 - 4

G@mebox Star



One of the great highlights of the SPIEL each year is not only the reception organised by the LAMONT brothers on each convention wednesday, but from a gamer's perspective the release of their latest game is even more interesting. Over the years the Lamonts have published some extraordinary games dealing with even more extraordinary topics, and so more obscure subjects like ostrich races, stags in heat and unoriented sheep all have become a constituent element of FRAGOR's publishing list. However, all these animalistic topics have not yet touched life below the surface of the great oceans, and so the Lamonts had decided to close this gap with their newest creation Poseidon's Kingdom.

The most obvious news right from the beginning - the cute figures are back! Once again the game contains a set of 13 nicely crafted and painted figures, consisting of four sets of three player figures (octopus, fish, starfish and clam) plus one additional shark figure. Some weeks before the SPIEL '11 the Lamonts announced the release of this new game and opened up a pre-ordering window for roundabout 900 copies of this edition, and all copies were pre-ordered by gaming enthusiasts within the wink of an eye. This quick sell-out disappointed some gamers who had missed the opportunity to pre-order for a number of different reasons, but in a discussion at a BGG-forum the Lamonts explained their standpoint. They see the limited availability of the game as an advantage when it comes to the question whether a larger publisher should re-publish it, because a large initial printrun makes it less attractive for a big publisher to go for another edition. Although such an approach certainly will cause disappointment for unserved customers, it seems perfectly legitimate from a business perspective, and it gets even more understandable if you consider that the Lamonts have to pay for the production and the trip to the SPIEL. If you leave economies of scale aside, a small edition helps to keep costs low, and in addition it makes it more interesting for customers to issue a pre-order as fast as possible. By such an approach usually more copies are sold than by going for a much greater printrun, and so the strategy chosen by the Lamonts seems plausible for a publisher their size.

However, let's now take a plunge into the ocean, and have a look at Poseidon's Kingdom which is hidden beneath the waves. Looking at the whole game presented for the starting-setup, the massive cardboard wave catches the gamer's eye right from the beginning. What use could such a device possibly have, and why are dice positioned on top of the wave? The answer to this is easy - the wave serves as an disproportionate dice cup with a special use! Indeed, during the course of the game the players place dice on certain positions of the wave, and whenever the wave is fully loaded it will be given a gentle push. This causes the wave to turn over, spilling all dice into the different ocean zones of the gameboard, and here they wait to be picked up by the creatures of the players.

The dice used for this procedure are normal six-sided dice, and the players will need those dice for the fulfilment of the game's main goal. A cruel Kraken has taken six friends of each player as prisoners, and in each of his tentacles one of each players' friends is held. In order to free their friends the players need to possess certain combinations of dice, and these combinations range from a total result of "7" for the easiest tentacle over a low double, a high double, three in a row, three of a kind to a total of four different dice. Whenever a player has dice matching these requirements, he may eat them (i.e. return them to the stockpiles) and free his friend from the matching Kraken tentacle. In addition, the player also receives a "safe plaice" token (sorry - Lamont pun) with victory points, but here the rule goes that the first player's to free a friend from a specific tentacle will earn higher points than those coming later.

The players collect the dice by moving one of their creatures on the main gameboard and stopping at an ocean zone with a nice catch of dice, but the movement allowance is not unlimited. Instead, the Lamonts have re-used a very successful concept which could be found in last year's Antics!, since the availability and effectiveness of a player's actions once again is determined by stacking playing pieces into a hill-like structure. In this game the structure is not an anthill but a reef, but this certainly needs some more explanation for a proper understanding.

Each player starts the game with a fixed set of four double-hex coral tiles with which he builds his initial reef, but during the game the players have to chose at the beginning of their turn whether they either load dice from their stockpile onto the wave, or whether they take one of five differently designed coral tiles and enlarge their reef with it. The coral tiles show different kinds of symbols on each of their hexes (halves): an arrow for moving, a wave for the wave-loading capacity and a partly eaten dice to symbolize the dice-collection capacity.

A player always may perform such an action a the most basic level, even if he does not possess a coral tile showing the matching symbol. So, the players are allowed to place one dice on the wave, move one of their creatures for one step on the gameboard, or collect one dice at the current position of one of their creatures. However, during the game the players will start to stack their coral tiles so that the reef will grow not only in width but also in height, and this will enlarge a player's scope of action because the height at which the highest placed symbol is visible within a player's reef determines the effectiveness of this action. Thus, an arrow placed at level three within the reef means that the player may move his creature up to three steps on the board, and likewise the wave-load capacity or the dice-collection capacity can be increased by high-placed coral tiles.

Thus, the players have to choose which enhancements should be made to their reefs, since they will constantly be forced to cover already built parts of their reef to make higher-level placements. In addition, the fourth available symbol on the coral tiles falls out of line with the others, since the empty square symbol shown here may be used to store collected dice. Dice can only be stored at these places, with one dice fitting at a square regardless of the tile's level. However, the players only may keep properly stored dice for their next turn, and so the collection of dice to meet the Kraken's demands also is a question of available story capacity within a player's reef!

While an increase of the dice-collection capacity gives a player the possibility to collect (and possibly consume) more dice with just one action, the increasing of a player's wave load capacity means that a player may load more of his own coloured dice onto the wave at the beginning of his turn. While the players may pick up and consume dice of any colour, the consumption of a player's dice by one of his competitors means that this player may move his third creature which has been placed not onto the gameboard (as the other two), but instead is positioned at the Kraken gameboard. This creature will move in clockwise direction round the Kraken board, making one step per dice consumed by a competitor but jumping over spaces occupied by other player's creatures. Whenever the creature completes a whole round in this fashion, the player is allowed to free his friend from the lowest ranking tentacle at which a friend is still available, and - of course - the player also will receive a safe plaice token with victory points. Even more, the player also may look at one of the eight Kraken coral tiles which have been positioned face down above the Kraken board, and in the last round of the game (when one player has rescued all six of his friends from the Kraken's tentacles) the players also are allowed to eat dice to gain these Kraken coral tiles. In the final evaluation these tiles may give some bonuses depending on the visibility of symbols on a player's reef, and the reaching of such a bonus may give a nice boost of victory points before the game is over.

The introduction of this option for bonus scoring was done quite nicely, because the players are forced to speculate in the course of the game whether they will really be able to get one of the desired Kraken coral tiles with the bonus matching their reef best. Movement of their creatures on the Kraken board may lead to knowledge of contents of some bonus tiles, but even this knowledge is not enough to ensure that the tile may be collected in the final round. This brings up some nice strategic considerations in the endgame, forcing the players to store dice matching the demands for taking specific bonus tiles.

The overview of the rules and mechanics is completed by mentioning the shark who cruises the main gameboard in search of the tasty player creatures, removing any creatures he (m)eets and placing a bone marker on of the player's coral tiles, thus blocking the symbol of that tile. However, the creature is not permanently missing, but instantly replaced by a long -lost brother/sister! In addition, there is also some additional bonus connected with the dice tumbling from the big wave, because the players get a bonus action depending on the total sum of their dice when they wave has chrashed. The higher the sum - the better the action!

The rules are not easy to grasp right from the beginning, but once the players have sailed around these initial shallows a very interesting and speculative playing mechanism with some inbuilt tactical challenges comes to the surface. It was a great move to resurrect the hill-building mechanism for another go in Poseidon's Kingdom, since even though Antics! has the benefit of being the premier game to use this mechanism, its use in Poseidon's Kingdom seems to be even more harmonious. Thus, the building of a player's reef forces the player to plan for his following turns, whereas the unpredictable crashing of the wave and the availability of a matching Kraken coral tile at the game's end offer a level of uncertainty. These two aspects of the game balance perfectly against each other, and together with the great playing components the game takes a splendid position as an entertaining family game with some nice, surprising twists!

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Copyright © 2011 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany