Review: Eagle Kingdoms
Publisher: Gamewright Incorporated
Year: 1994
Tagline: An Enchanting Game of Capturing Medieval Kingdoms

game cover

how we met

I found Eagle Kingdoms when passing through a thrift shop on the way to a wine tasting. The cover is funny; it does not really do a great job of indicating what the game is like. Looking at the back, though, you will learn that the game includes a felt game board template, which would be my first ever felt game board template. How could I pass it up?

felt game board template outlining eagle shape

My first felt game board template!

how it plays

At the risk of using a probably-already-used quip, Eagle Kingdoms really puts the die in Medieval. This is a dice chucker through and through and through. Here’s how it works.

First you lay out the felt game board template, which has outlines of a large eagle. There are 46 cardboard game pieces that match each section of the eagle and are marked with dice combinations. Once those are placed on the board, a medieval character is placed at random on each of the different game pieces except the shield center.

felt board with pieces in place

The felt board with the eagle pieces in place

Now gameplay begins. Each player rolls both of the dice. If their dice combination matches one of the available eagle puzzle pieces, they take that medieval character into their kingdom and discard the eagle puzzle piece. Only external eagle puzzle pieces can be won; if a piece is locked in by one or more other pieces then it is not available yet.

If your first roll each turn is not successful you may roll both dice again or choose to roll the 8-sided ENCHANTED DIE. If your second roll is not successful then your turn is over. If you choose the ENCHANTED DIE your roll may allow you to steal a character from another player, give one of yours up to another player, trade with a player, lose a character to the center shield, etc. It’s a whole lot of good, bad and ugly.

Medieval characters have numbers assigned to them indicating their roles. Kings are 10’s, Queens are 9’s, etc. There are three jesters in the game that have no assigned point value but allow you to trade in your turn in order to capture any existing character on the board and replace it with the jester.

Example characters

An example kingdom

If you roll double 6’s you must forfeit your highest point character to the center shield. Once you have picked away at the eagle until only the center shield remains, it likely has several characters on it due to previous gameplay. You must roll the dice and get equal to or more than the total number of characters on the shield (not their points). If you are successful then you capture all characters on the center shield.

This ends the game and all players add up the points of the medieval characters in their respective kingdoms. If you were able to get one of each (easily indicated by their point values from 1 to 10) then that group is worth 70 points which equates to their value plus 15 bonus points. The player with the most points wins!

how it went

Eagle Kingdoms invites you to read up on the history of the making of the game, and it’s pretty interesting. The instruction booklet talks about old customs of marksmanship called “Bird Shoots” where large wooden birds were created out of several different pieces, very similar to our felt eagle friend. Marksmen would in turn shoot off parts of the bird, working their way toward the center. The person to shoot off the center won great prizes and was titled the “Bird King.” This introduction warmed me to the game.

I played Eagle Kingdoms a couple of times, once with 2 players and once with our regular 4 player group. Both games were quite different.

Overview of the board with player leaning down frowning

Our gameplay plus John in a rare cry for help. Just ignore him

With two players, it was fairly easy to collect one of each character. We each got bonus points for that and ultimately had a very close game. However the gameplay was quite long. As the game progresses, you are stuck with only a few dice combinations that result in a new character. Bill and I eventually stopped handing the dice back and forth and just tracked “Your throw 1. Your throw 2. My throw 1. My throw 2. Your throw 1.” It was pretty awful. If you are unlucky enough to get stuck with a poor dice combo then you are stuck with it until someone rolls it.

Our four player game went fairly quickly, especially as compared to the two player game. The most time-consuming part of the game is looking for the dice combinations. With two players this took much more time than with four. Having more eyeballs sped up the game considerably.

And do not be fooled by the gentle pink hue of the ENCHANTED DIE. In both of our games this option was rarely used. I don’t think it ever resulted in a positive outcome for any of the gamblers that gave it a go. It’s worth doing early on when you have little to lose, but we all became once bitten twice shy pretty quickly.

Enchanted die on agates

The ENCHANTED DIE. If you look closely you can see how the salty tears have worn it down over the years

play or pass

Pass. I personally think the BGG comments are a tad unfair to this game. It’s not horrible. But yes the dice rolling can drag on, especially with fewer players, and your success is driven by the luck of your roll. Being crowned “Bird King” ain’t what it used to be.