The Last Kingdom (2023)
Players – 2-5
Playtime – 60-120 mins
‘Dized‘ App learning available
The first thing to clear up about ‘The Last Kingdom from Gamelyn Games, before I get into the core of the review, is that you do not need to have seen or even be aware of the hit TV show (that this game is based on) to enjoy it. The theme and historical setting of the TV show does provide a great backdrop to the game, and the characters taken from the game give that sense of bringing the game to life, but no previous knowledge at all is needed about the TV show (but I do hear that’s it’s rather good!).
The only expectation I had going into the game was based on a handful of reviews I had seen that mentioned we were dealing with a potential ‘Game of the Year’ candidate. Safe to say, my hopes were high and they certainly were not dashed!
Seeing the name John D Clair (Space Base, Dead Reckoning, Cubitos) attached to any project is almost always a sure sign of quality, and in ‘The Last Kingdom’ he brings us a deep, strategic, and satisfying game of war and politics. To coin a phrase popular with the BG world….this is a “dudes on a map” game of the highest quality in terms of gameplay.
The game takes place, as you can see below, on a beautiful map of Britain with the Kingdoms shown acting as battleground for conflict which is essentially your route to victory points. The game takes place over two rounds, which sounds short in theory, but from my experience, you are looking at games in the 60-90 minute mark. Cards are drawn each round, actions taken and decisions made as you try and control the areas of conflict to take the victory points. Throughout the game you are placing armies, trying to utilize your leaders special abilities, and planning your affinities as you aim to gain as many Victory Points as possible. Do you stack up to win victory points in the early round or do you play the long game and plan for later movements deep into Round Two? The game can play different every single time and that is one of the joys of ‘The Last Kingdom’.
The game is playable between 2 and 5 players, with a slight variation of the rules if there are only 2. However, the fact that there are 10 leaders to choose from, which has a big impact on the game, means even with just the two players there are high levels of replayability here. Your first few games will ease you in and once you are into the flow you are going to be itching to try out how the game works with ease of the leaders and the abilities they bring to the table.
Games of this nature can sometimes feel a little detached at points, but every turn in ‘The Last Kingdom’ is engaging and a well-timed pass can be one of the most powerful moves in the game. I feel it is very fun at 2 players but probably best at 3 or 4. The game has a unique dynamic with maneuvering, allegiance switching, and never really knowing who is about to strike and take victory. The games I have had have always been exciting and engaging until the end and the 60-90 playtime just flies by.
One of the many positive things about ‘The Last Kingdom’ is that the tutorial and setup guide are available on Dized, meaning it’s quicker and easier to bring the game to the table. Set up can take a while at first but once you get into the flow the first game will be over before you know it, you can drop the Dized handholding and then really see what this game is all about!
Providing you are a fan of ‘Dudes on a Map’ games, and that you are willing to have some patience in getting to grips with the mechanics in the game, then ‘The Last Kingdom’ is certainly worthy of the ‘Game of the Year’ hype it has been getting. It’s complex, tactical and brings such a wide variation of play styles and approaches meaning it is a game that I will bringing to the table many more times to come.
Pros – Replay-ability, core mechanics work well, involving and engaging
Cons – Must like ‘Dudes on a Map’ style
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