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Protect the kingdom. Build the towers. Withstand the monsters. Can you survive?

Kingdom Rush: Rift in Time is a tower defense cooperative game, currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. Players must work together to place towers each turn as they try to kill monsters before they reach the end of the board. Challenging and tactical, defending the kingdom is no walk in the park.

Gameplay

The map is created according to the the scenario players choose to play. The map consists of a series of squares of road and grass. Transparent building site cards are placed on squares of grass according to the scenario setup. Different building sites belong to different players. Each player also begins the game with a different number and configuration of starting tower cards, depending on player count and the hero you choose.

Each round takes place over seven phases. During phase one, players may play tower cards onto their building sites and pass any cards they wish to the player on their left. There are four different types of towers, each of which can be leveled up three times. Depending on the tower type and level, it has different types of attacks as well as different levels of range. Some towers also have more than one attack. Each tower's attack can be activated once in a round.

Enemy cards take up one square of road on the board and show a grid, with monsters in various configurations in these grids. When dealing damage, you take the damage tile shown on the tower card and place it wherever you choose on the grid, covering monsters. The tile may not overlap other damage tiles or monsters that are immune to that tower’s damage type; the damage tile must also stay in the orientation dictated by the tower and the tower’s placement. If playing with a scenario with heroes, you may also move your hero around the board and use his or her special abilities.

Next, if all monsters on an enemy card are covered with damage tokens, they are removed from the board and players earn crystals. Each monster card still on the board advances one space closer to the kingdom exit tile that was placed at the beginning of the game. A number of hearts are also placed on this tile at the start of the game. If an enemy card passes this tile, you remove one heart for each monster on the card not covered by a damage token. If there are ever no hearts on the tile, you lose the game. Some towers send solders out to cover monsters, and heroes can also be used to cover monsters. Soldiers and hero miniatures stop a card from moving, but afterwards the soldiers are removed from the card while a hero would take one point of damage. If a hero runs out of health, it is removed from the board and a turn must be spent reviving her.

You then draw a new enemy card and place it on the board near the spawn point (again, the spawn point is determined by the scenario you are playing). The monster deck is configured at the beginning of each game according to the scenario rulebook and one or more portal cards are placed in it. Portal cards are particularly difficult enemy cards, and can only be damaged by towers of certain levels. Once a tower damages it, players lose that tower and it is returned to the supply. Once players defeat all portal cards in the deck, they win the game if they make it to the end of the round without losing the kingdom.

Players may then upgrade any tower cards that were passed to them. You then take all tower cards you played back into your hand. Everyone must then decide as a team whether to spend their crystals. You may buy a new level one tower card for two crystals, or a new special ability for a hero for one crystal. After the decision is made, a new round begins.

Kingdom Rush Components
Photo courtesy Lucky Duck Games.

Review

Kingdom Rush: Rift in Time is challenging on multiple levels. You have to use your building spaces tactically, keeping in mind each tower’s range and orientation, sometimes combining attacks to wipe out an enemy card quickly — while also trying to figure out how to use damage tiles most effectively and planning several turns ahead. This requires a lot of communication between players.

You need to level up cards, so you are encouraged to pass frequently and early, but that also means you’ll be laying down fewer towers on those turns. You need to keep in mind where enemy cards are currently, as well as where they will be next turn and even the turn after that. If an enemy card blocks another one from moving, it just gets jumped over, so build up too much of a bottleneck, and the enemy might jump straight to the kingdom exit.

There’s a great art style to the game. It’s cartoony but still fits well with its fantasy setting. Kingdom Rush was originally a video game and the art style clearly borrows somewhat from its origins and it works extremely well. In general, this is a great adaptation of a popular video game genre into board game form.

Kingdom Rush: Rift in Time does have a number of rules to keep track of and playtime is over an hour so it will likely not work for people looking for something more casual. However the scenarios do a good job of keeping it a little simpler to begin with and slowly introducing additional layers, while also adding a bit of story into the game. This does make learning all the rules a little easier.

If you enjoy cooperative games, and don’t mind something a bit heftier, Kingdom Rush: Rift in Time is a great challenge that will have players working together to come up with the best plan. We had a lot of fun with it and recommend checking it out on Kickstarter.

Pros: Challenging, great art style, players have to plan ahead, tower upgrading mechanic is clever

Cons: Long playtime, quite a few rules

Disclosure: this preview is based on our evaluation of an unpublished prototype of the game, which is subject to change prior to publication. While a modest payment was received to expedite the review process, our thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and accurate.