Title: Kingdoms of the Deep
Designed By: Ian Zhang
Art By: Katy Grierson
Published By: Galactic Raptor games
Released: 2021 - Live on Kickstarter!
Player Count: 1-6
Time to Play: 60 Minutes
The next game in the line of the Animal Kingdom universe from Galactic Raptor Games is Kingdoms of the Deep. Glancing at the smooth sea, one would not see the conflict brewing just below the surface of its waters. In Kingdoms of the Deep, players compete to rule the ocean in this abstract strategy, area majority game.
Play as one of six sea creatures and strategize on how to how the most points by the end of round nine. However, players will need to not just pay attention to expanding their own kingdom, they must keep a close watch on other's kingdoms as well, for if one creature controls the majority in all of the capitals then that player instantly wins the game.
Start by setting Atlantis in the middle of the game space. Randomly select six non-capital tiles (capital tiles have a border on them) and surround Atlantis with them. Then mix the capital and remaining non-capital tiles and create a second ring to make the board. Add one shark token to Atlantis.
Then set up the scoreboard. Place the round marker on round 1, select the correct end game card based on the number of players and randomly place a goals card for each of the three phases.
Have each player take a creature of their choosing (all boards are the same so just pick the animal you like best) and give them their board, influence cubes, action cards, and player board disks.
Randomly assign a starting player (for this we suggest whoever can impersonate a fish best) and have each player in order choose their unique terrain type. Set one player disk on each of the 4 upgrade tracks, one disk on a special reset action of your choice, and three disks on reserve near the reset action spot. One final disk will be left for later use.
You are now ready to begin!
How to Play:
The gameplay for Kingdoms of the Deep is simple and straightforward to learn. Each round is made up of three steps that happen in order.
Action selection - players simultaneously select one action card from their hand to play that round.
Action resolution - players resolve the actions on the card they selected in turn order starting with the starting player. If you were the only player to play a certain action card, you also get to use the solo ability.
End of round - check if a player played a reset card, if so move the round tracker one space to the right. If it covers a new symbol on the round tracker chart follow the corresponding action.
The game ends when the third scoring round is complete. Whoever has the most points wins! Also, we recommend reading the rule book for what to do in the event of a tie, it's pretty funny.
As we mentioned above, there is a second way to win! If at any point you control the majority in all 6 capital cities, you automatically win the game. Think this will never happen? Oh trust us, it can! Keep a close eye on your opponents and their ever-growing armies of sea creatures or else you might just find out your long-term strategy doesn't have enough time to reach its goal!
Curious about what actions you can take on your turn? You could bolster or deploy units as a way to get more pieces onto the board. You can move units (yours or your opponents, or even the shark) in order to change the majority in certain spaces. You can even score points if you move a piece onto the Atlantis tile. You can upgrade, which is one of our favorite actions. Upgrade allows you to enhance your future actions by increasing the power of one of your action cards per upgrade. You can shark (cue the baby shark music) which allows you to move a shark piece and eat other player's pieces for bonuses. Or you can reset, which is how you will be able to get cards you already played back into your hand.
Kingdoms of the Deep has to be the most beautiful looking war game we have ever played. You are working to deploy your sea creatures, take down other creatures, and take over the kingdom, but with art like this, Kingdoms of the Deep is the war game for people who don't like war games.
There is a lot we enjoyed about Kingdoms of the Deep. We love the diverse sea creatures that were included, particularly the narwhal, as we love narwhals and think they should always be included. Each player board is gorgeous in its own way. As we were playing a prototype copy, we cannot wait to see what the finished boards will look like. Each location tile also is stunning. The coral one, in particular, gave us old school Lisa Frank vibes that made my inner child smile. We are really excited to see what the final product will look like. (Also there are rumors of animal meeples and a 3d Atlantis castle. We love both of these!) One other wonderful thing is that while the game looks super visually appealing, for players who are color-blind it is also completely not color-dependent besides the player cubes, which offer a wide range of colors and shades and should hopefully allow for color blind players to still enjoy Kingdoms of the Deep.
As far as the gameplay itself, we enjoyed the simultaneous action selection. It was interesting trying to time the actions you really wanted, with the actions you thought others would not be taking that round in order to maximize the bonus actions you could receive.
Our favorite actions were shark and upgrade. Shark is just fun because you get to move around and mess with other player's strategies as you go, while also helping yourself toward the ever-handy shark bonuses. Upgrade is cool because while everyone starts with the same board, the game actually morphs a bit into an asymmetric game as players upgrade different aspects of their board, so players may take the same action in the future but be able to do different things because of the upgrades they picked.
It was also interesting that players can choose to reset their hand at their own pace so the game advances differently each time you play based on how long players hold off resetting and how many players reset on a single turn.
Kingdoms of the Deep is the first game we have played in the Animal Kingdom Universe (through we backed Roar and Write on Kickstarter), but it certainly leaves us wanting to play the original Animal Kingdoms.
Kingdoms of the Deep is currently live on Kickstarter. Check out their page for more information!