SNAP Review – Key to the Kingdom
Well Anitra, it’s time for an epic adventure, so let’s get right to it.
This is a SNAP review for Key to the Kingdom, an adventuring game originally by Paul Bennett. Key to the Kingdom is a Restoration Games title. It was originally published in 1990.
The team of Matthew O’Malley and Ben Rosset gave this game another turn and turned this into this, which came out last year. This new Restored version is best for 2-5 players, age seven and up.
So let’s talk about the art in Key to the Kingdom.
This is Andrew Bosley’s art, and it is gorgeous! It immediately transports you into this fantasy world. The board unfolds in this really cool way, and there are all kinds of creatures and adventures in it. Everything has a touch of silliness or whimsy and it’s fun to just look around the board, and flip through the cards.
Every element of this game has been thought out – even the rulebook and the Adventure Atlas are full of little jokes and, of course, more beautiful art.
Let’s talk about the mechanics and how we play Key to the Kingdom.
Well, Key to the Kingdom is still at its core the game it was 30 years ago, so this is a roll and move. Roll your die, move that number of spaces, and do what it says when you land. But there are a few twists along the way.
Each player has a collection of items, which can be “exhausted” to change your die rolls up or down, depending on the number on the item.
Every player also has a special ability, and that might affect your die rolls as well.
Your goal in Key to the Kingdom is to collect three key pieces to unlock the passageway to the Demon King, and then finally defeat him.
So how do you collect these pieces?
All along the board there are different adventures. Once a player gets to a start spot, they need to fulfill the requirements of the specific adventure, and if they do, they get a piece of the key. These might be “move from spot to spot with each roll higher than the next” (that’s the Ice Caves). Or there’s the Broken Bridge, where your results need to alternate between an even number and an odd number.
I think the hardest is probably the Living Forest, where you need to pick a result and then roll it. Of course, you can use items to change your results, just like you can when moving around the board.
There are also events on the board which might cause something to happen to you, or give you companions (if you can capture them) along the way. The board also has spaces that allow you to refresh some of your items once you’ve used them.
And don’t forget the Demon Die spaces! Land on one of these and force a player to use the Demon Die – or take it yourself, with big highs and tiny lows as low as zero, instead of the basic d8 that everyone uses numbered 1-8.
Speaking of the board, this board itself is amazing! When the game starts, you can’t find all of the different colored key pieces, there aren’t enough adventures for that. So, you’ll have to travel to the whirlpool, which opens up a whole different world inside the board! This is a super cool mechanic and it has great table presence, and we really like it.
Be the first player to get all three pieces of the key, travel to the Demon King’s lair through the whirlpool, and defeat him! You are the winner.
[Anitra] So Andrew, what did we expect from this game?
[Andrew] Well, this is a Restoration Games title, and I have full, 100% confidence in the work they do to make amazing games. In Restoration we trust!
Key to the Kingdom was a childhood favorite for so many people, and I was genuinely excited to hear they were going to work on this and remake this so we could enjoy it with our kids.
The box cover is a perfect picture of what you’re going to get. You’re an adventurer in a fantastic world that is more silly than scary – A cyclops with a snorkel, a unicorn leading a train of rubber duckies. You can’t help but smile when you think about stuff like this.
[Anitra] I knew absolutely nothing about the game, really. Once I saw the box, I expected it to be pretty kid-friendly and have some adventuring elements to it.
[Anitra] But that leads to surprises. I was really surprised that this game is so simple at its heart – roll your die, move. I guess I expected something a little more modern? The board is also huge – you’re going to need a big table to be able to unfold it all the way; or you’re going to need to play it on the floor.
[Andrew] There wasn’t actually a lot that actually surprised me. I will say the rulebook for this game is fantastic. It seems like it’s a little bit big when you pick it up, but it’s so well laid out and it’s not crowded, there’s lots of space in it. It’s geniunely a pleasure to read.
[Anitra] It’s got little in-jokes too, which is great.
[Andrew] I was also a little surprised that our kids felt it ran long. When filling the board with five players, it will take close to two hours (it says 20 minutes per player on the box) so I guess I get that. But with this many players, and so many easter eggs across the board and on the cards, I think it’s just important to set expectations about what your kids are going to get.
[Anitra] I think it’s probably best to start playing at just two or three players, so that your first play can be under an hour.
[Andrew] I also definitely think this is a game for entry level gamers. You’re not going to find deep strategy in this box, although I will say the re-designers here did do a good job of inserting choice with the items and some of the other pieces in this game.
So Anitra, do we recommend Key to the Kingdom?
[Anitra] This game is great! It’s bright and colorful, and it supports up to five players even though it’s fairly inexpensive. It has a simple roll and move mechanic and everything that’s more complex than that is well explained.
I think this is a great entry-level family game, perfect for a board gamer family to get out for a light game night, or to gift to less experienced gamers they know. I’d say it’s especially good for kids between ages 7-12; but I think adults will enjoy the nostalgic flair there as well.
[Andrew] Even if you’re like Anitra and you never played the original, this game feels a little bit like an old-school game, so you’re going to feel that nostalgia, even if you didn’t play it before.
So Anitra, what are we going to rate Key to the Kingdom?
[Anitra] We’re going to give Key to the Kingdom 4 Amazing Adventures out of 5.
[Both] And that’s Key to the Kingdom in a SNAP.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Key to the Kingdom from Restoration Games for this review.
Key to the Kingdom
Age Range: 7+
Number of Players: 2-5
40-100 minutes (20 mins per player)