Clockwork Kingdom from Mr. B Games brings the strong aesthetic of the steampunk genre to cold and calculating euro-style gaming. The king has died, and players compete as lords of the realm to gather the most points and be pronounced the new ruler. To ensure victory, players will have to place their workers carefully to have the most efficient political, scientific, industrial, and military machine.
It is unfortunate to see games often become swallowed up in their own world-building, but Clockwork Kingdom stays true to its gameplay, with rich design and beautiful artwork adding to the flavor without drowning it out. There are no extensive descriptions of alternate worlds in the rulebook, just clear rules for the many facets of play. In fact, the kingdom is not even named beyond its clockwork components and references like the “Sea of Verne,” yet the detail in the worker design shows great depth. The mystery makes the art all the more potent as players’ imaginations will fill in the gaps.
As in many worker placement games, there is no one right way to play. Even if a player deciphers a way to maximize victory point production, other players will quickly jump onto that scheme, potentially blocking one another so that an outside strategy becomes more effective. In Clockwork Kingdom, victory points are derived through placing workers in various parts of the city, doing different tasks to gain different bonuses.
The meat of Clockwork Kingdom is building up one’s production capabilities. The city contains a Market goods for which players will compete, an Alchemy Lab to transmute resources into others a player may need, a University to collect specialized workers, a Workshop to build Schematics for victory points as well as bonuses like extra workers or random resources, and a Factory where additional production facilities may be appropriated. At the end of the game, players receive victory points for how many workers and resources they have at their disposal in addition to those they have collected through the game by production.
Yet Clockwork Kingdom is not just an industrial game. At the ends of the third, sixth, and ninth rounds, the “Battle for the Kingdom” occurs in the battlefields in the outskirts of the city, potentially giving warlike players a huge pool of victory points as they smash their business-minded opponents. Meanwhile, workers in the Ruins enable players to draw special bonus cards that give swaps, steals, and bonuses to the battlefield; this will be a favorite for players who like a little chaos in their games, especially as they will be the instigators to ruin the plans of others.
Clockwork Kingdom is a worker-placement game for two to four players aged 14 and up. Games last about an hour and a half, although the duration will certainly vary depending on the speed at which the players calculate their next moves. Players will develop their own styles as the game rolls on, but they must be savvy in responding to their opponents to grab the victory points both within and outside the city and, with them, the kingship.