Plunder the ‘King’s Gold’

King's Gold

Yo ho ho! Everyone knows that pirates love gold, and the only thing better than raiding merchant ships for it is stealing from other pirates. Or, if you’re really daring, you might even steal some from the Pirate King himself. It’s time to go after the King’s Gold.

At a glance: King’s Gold is a quick dice game for 2 to 6 players, ages 8 and up, and takes about 15 minutes to play. It retails for $12.99. I think the game is simple enough that you could play it with younger players, too, as long as everyone understands that there will be a lot of stealing gold from each other throughout the game.

King's Gold box
A nicely-sized metal tin stores everything easily. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Components:

  • 60 plastic gold coins
  • 5 Pirate dice

The components are pretty nice, and come in a little metal tin. The insert is a black flocked plastic, so it has that velvet feel to it. There’s one slot for the five dice, and another pocket shaped like a bag of gold for all the coins.

The dice are custom engraved dice, and each one has 1 skull, 1 cannon, 1 crossbones, and three sides showing 1, 2, and 3 gold coins. The plastic coins are about the size of a quarter, and are more fun (and durable) than cardboard tokens. They are a metallic gold color but a little on the dull side.

King's Gold
This player almost managed to steal all of the King’s Gold, but he got a crossbones. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

How to Play

The object is, of course, to get the most gold by the time the gold supply runs out, which ends the game.

You start with all the gold in the supply, with a separate area for the King’s gold (which starts off empty). The instructions say to use the box as the supply and just to put the King’s gold on the table next to the box, but I like to do it the other way around because the “gold bag” in the box say “King’s Gold” on it.

On your turn, you get three rolls (like Yahtzee) but you may not re-roll any dice that show Crossbones, and if you get three or more Crossbones you bust and must pay three coins to the King.

After you’re done rolling, you collect gold based on your roll. Each die that shows coins must be paired with one other die, either a skull or a cannon. A skull lets you steal that many coins from another player. A cannon lets you steal that many coins from the supply, but you also put that many coins from the supply into the King’s gold.

There are some other bonuses, too. If all the dice show coins, then you get to take all of the King’s gold. If all the dice are skulls, you get to steal all the gold from one player. And if all the dice are cannons, you get to steal the entire supply (without sharing with the King), which immediately ends the game. (There’s no bonus for rolling all Crossbones. You’re just a terrible pirate.)

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The game ends as soon as the supply runs out. Whoever has the most coins wins. There’s no tiebreaker rule, but the game is short enough that you may as well play another round.

King's Gold
I can use the cannon to take one gold from the supply, and the skull to steal three from an opponent. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The Verdict

Blue Orange Games has always had a great line of games for very young kids with a few titles for older players, and I’m glad to see them introducing some games that are still kid-friendly but will hold the interest of adult players. I’d classify King’s Gold as a casual game–sort of a cross between Zombie Dice and Yahtzee–but it’s one that I’m happy to play with my kids or as a filler game with adult friends. It’s nice to have one that my kids can play with my adult friends and feel like they can still compete.

Of course, King’s Gold is heavily luck-based, since it’s all about rolling the right combinations of dice. However, you do get to make some decisions about which dice to keep and which to re-roll, and how much you want to push your luck if you’ve rolled some crossbones already.

I like that the dice requires combinations of dice–you need the gold coins plus a skull or cannon. If you have a skull and one coin, do you re-roll the coin in the hopes of getting three coins instead? Then you run the risk of getting another skull or a cannon, and even though you might not bust, that original skull no longer gets you anything.

I also like the five-of-a-kind bonuses. The five gold coins is the most common (since each die is half coins) but you get the king’s gold, which might not be as much. At the beginning of the game, or right after the king has been stolen from, you’d be better off re-rolling some coins and trying to get cannons instead. But going for five skulls or five cannons means that you’ll be keeping some dice that will gain you nothing if you don’t get all five.

There’s also an interesting dynamic with the skulls vs. cannons. Since the game ends when the coin supply runs out, taking gold with cannons brings you closer to the end of the game. Using skulls just redistributes the existing wealth and the game could go on indefinitely. So if you’re behind, you’ll want to try for skulls, both to reduce your opponents’ score and to prolong the game. But if you’re ahead, then you want cannons, so that you can run out the supply before others have a chance to steal from you. That means that there’s almost always somebody working to end the game, which keeps the game from dragging.

Because there’s stealing, the game does have more of a “take that” feel than, say, Zombie Dice, so know your audience before you play it. Personally, I like the level of player interaction because I do feel that’s missing from Zombie Dice and other games where everyone is just trying to reach a particular score first. But if your kids (or friends) aren’t okay with having their gold stolen, then you might want to try something else instead.

Overall, King’s Gold is a fun, light game with a good deal of luck and fun dice-rolling. If that floats your boat, then check for it at your local game store or pick up a copy from Amazon.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this game.

Jonathan H. Liu is a stay-at-home dad in Portland, Oregon, who loves to read, is always up for a board game, and has a bit of a Kickstarter habit.