How to Play
The objective of the game is to obtain the key and another treasure and then escape the kingdom.
Connect the two halves of the gameboard and fold the two flaps inward. Separate the cards into four different piles. Shuffle the monster and treasure cards. Place one treasure card into each treasure card holder without anyone seeing which card was placed in which holder. Each player selects a playing piece and receives one of each type of equipment card (8 cards in total). The players roll to see who starts the game (highest roll goes first).
A Basic Turn
On a player’s turn they first roll the die. Before moving their playing piece, the demon king piece must be moved to the corresponding space that has the demon kings head on it and also has the number that was rolled. Once the demon king has been moved, the player can move their playing piece. Players can move their piece in any direction but may not enter the same space twice during the same turn. Unless stopped, the player needs to use the full value of their roll. Two players may occupy the same space on the board. If you land on a space occupied by another player and they have a treasure, you may choose to take one treasure from them. If you land on a white dagger, black dagger, or your path is blocked by the demon king you cannot move any further on your turn.
The demon king always moves at the beginning of every player’s turn. If he lands on a space occupied by a player, that player is sent to the nearest dungeon. If the demon king is in your way while moving, you may not move through him.
You can be sent to the dungeon by the demon king, some hazards, or by some monster cards. When you are sent to the dungeon you have three turns to try and escape. You need to roll a 1 or 8 to escape. If you successfully roll a 1 or 8 within three turns you escape the dungeon. You may not enter the key location on your next turn to claim the treasure. If you fail to roll a 1 or 8 you must give up one of your equipment cards.
When you land on a black dagger you enter one of the locations that hold a treasure card. To try and obtain the treasure card you must first fight the top card from the monster deck. Follow the instructions on the card to determine if you were successful in fighting the creature. If you win the fight you get to take the location’s treasure card if no one has already claimed it. When you get the card look at the card and slide it back into the sleeve so no one else can see what card is inside. On your next turn roll the die and move out of the location counting whichever black dagger you leave from as your first space. If you fail to defeat the monster, follow the instructions printed on the monster card.
White daggers indicate hazards on the map. When you reach a white dagger, you stop your movement. You must then follow the instructions for that hazard in order to cross it (see the hazard handbook or look below in the hazard section). If you successfully cross a hazard, your turn ends when you reach the other side. If you fail the hazard and are still located on a white dagger, you may choose to avoid the hazard on your next turn.
When a player enters the whirlpool the gameboard changes. If the gameboard was folded in, it will be now be folded out. If the gameboard is folded out, it will be folded in. Any other players stuck on that half of the gameboard will have to try and escape before the gameboard is flipped or they must use a deep magic card (see below). Each player trapped on the half of the board that is going to change gets three rolls of the die to try and move their piece to either the whirlpool or the other half of the board. If they are successful nothing else happens.
If the player fails to escape in time, their piece will be moved to where the whirlpool is located after the board is changed. The player then gets the opportunity to try and avoid losing all of their treasures. They have three rolls to either roll a one or eight. If they succeed, they get to keep their treasures. If they fail they lose all of the treasures they had acquired.
Deep Magic Cards
Deep magic cards can be acquired from the magical Ring of Stones. A player can use one of these cards to prevent a player from folding out (not folding in) the gameboard with a whirlpool. The player who entered the whirlpool gets three opportunities to roll a 1 or 8. If they are successful they get to leave the whirlpool and re-enter it on their next turn. If they are unsuccessful, they must move out of the whirlpool on their next turn and cannot re-enter the whirlpool on that turn. Each player may only use one deep magic card each game.
The Wizard of Plenty
By landing on this space all of your equipment you have lost can be returned. You also have the opportunity to claim treasures lost by other players. You may only attempt this hazard/challenge once in the game though. If you are successful you get all of your lost equipment and you get all of the treasures lost by other players. In order to complete the challenge you need to travel across the rainbow and get back within four rolls of the die. If you fail to get back you only get one piece of your equipment back.
One of the treasures is the cobra card. The cobra card does not count toward the winning conditions. If you get the cobra card, you cannot escape the kingdom until you get rid of it in the Snake Pit.
Winning the Game
When someone has the key and one other treasure (not the cobra card), they need to head to the start space in order to escape the kingdom. When they reach the start space, they win the game. All of the other players get to roll the die six times to see if they can escape the kingdom.
Here is a list of hazards in Key to the Kingdom. These are brief explanations on how each hazard works. For more details consult the hazard handbook.
Beam Bridge Evil Tower
Roll the die. If you roll an even number you will land on a pillar and you will be able to continue trying to cross the bridge. If you roll an odd number, you land on a beam and fall into the water and onto the corresponding stone. Once you land on the stones you move like normal following the red arrows. If you land on the stone with the giant fish you have three options to proceed past the space:
- Have a Net: Roll twice and try to get a total over 8.
- Have a Grappling Hook: Roll twice and try to get a total over 9.
- Have neither a net or grappling hook: you need to roll a 2 to move to the next stone.
If you use the net or grappling hook and fail, you lose that piece of equipment.
When you land on the white dagger you stop your current movement. On your next turn you roll the die and keep moving your playing piece until you reach the other white dagger.
If you land on the boat with the sea serpent, you must pass a challenge. If you have a sword, axe or fire; you need to roll two 8’s within six rolls. If you didn’t complete the challenge or you didn’t have a sword, axe or fire; you lose one piece of equipment and one treasure. You will start your next turn on the stone below the serpent.
Roll the die. If you rolled a 2, 4, 6, or 8; move to the other white dagger. If you rolled a 1 or 3 you move to the red skull. If you rolled a 5 or 7 you move to the grey skull. If you fell onto one of the skulls, on your next turn you must roll an odd number to proceed to the next skull. If you roll an even number your turn is over. You must keep rolling to get out of the bone pit until you reach a white dagger.
Bridge of Glass
Immediately roll the die. If you roll a five or higher you move to the other side. If you roll less than five you can use one of the following options:
- If you have a net, rope or grappling hook you can roll a 4, 5, or 6 to escape immediately. If you roll a 1, 2, 3, 7, or 8 your turn ends or you can give up your shield to escape.
- If you don’t have any equipment you get to roll the die twice. If the total equals eight you can escape without losing any equipment. If the total is nine or more you escape but lose one piece of equipment. If you roll less than eight, your turn is over.
Immediately roll the die three times. If you didn’t make it across the bridge you can try again on your next turn. If you land on a space with a missing plank you fall into the water and you have to use the stepping stones to reach the shore. If you land on the space being attacked by the squid you can do one of the following:
- Give up your shield or food.
- If you have a sword or axe you can roll the die four times. If you roll at least two even numbers you can proceed. If you fail you need to wait until your next turn to try again.
- If you have no equipment you roll the die. If you roll a 7 or 8 you can proceed but you lose one equipment. If you roll a 6 or less you will need to try again on your next turn.
If you have an axe and fire the cyclops carries you across and you get to keep the axe and fire. If you don’t have the axe or fire you will lose one piece of equipment to cross. If you have no equipment you need to roll a one in order to have the cyclops carry you across. If you roll another number you need to cross using the stones. While moving across the stones, if you land on the third stones you fall into the water and must follow the red arrows.
Demon Castle Moat
You immediately roll the die. If you roll a two or eight you can move to the other side of the moat. If you roll a 1 you fall into the water. On your next turn after falling in the water you roll a 2-8 you cross the moat. If you roll another 1 you move to the blue arrow. In order to get away from the crocodiles you need to either:
- Give up your food to escape.
- Fight the crocodiles with your sword. You need to roll an eight in order to escape but you get to keep your sword.
- If you roll a one, you lose one of your treasures.
Evil Tower Bridge
If you are the first person to reach the bridge, you get to immediately roll the die.
- If you roll a six you can cross the bridge.
- If you roll a 7 or 8 you must wait until next turn to try again.
- If you roll less then 6 you add that many sections to bridge and move your piece to the last piece you place. On your next turn you roll again to try and complete the bridge.
- If you fail to cross the bridge on the second turn you fall in the water and need to move across the stones.
If you are not the first to arrive at the bridge, you move across the bridge spaces like normal. If you land on a spot without a bridge piece you fall into the water and have to move across the stones.
You immediately roll the die.
If you roll a 5-8 you cross to the other white dagger. If you roll a 1-4 you can choose one of the following options:
- Give up your fire and move to the other white dagger.
- If you have the axe you can roll one die. If you roll an odd number you escape and keep your axe. If you roll an even number you escape but lose your axe.
- If you don’t have fire or an axe you need to roll a four. When you roll a four you escape but you lose one equipment card.
You immediately roll the die and keep moving until you reach the other white dagger. If you land on a space with a tree branch on it you can choose one of the following:
- If you have an axe you can roll the die three times and if you get an odd number you can proceed.
- If you have a sword you can roll the die three times and if you get an even number you can proceed.
- If you have the fire you can roll one time. If you roll a six you can proceed.
- If you don’t have an axe, sword or fire you must roll a three to escape. When you escape you lose a piece of equipment.
If you fail one of the prior tasks, you must wait until your next turn to try again.
You immediately roll the die. If you roll higher than six you reach the other side. If you roll less than six and you were going to see the wizard you must move around the magic whirlpool section before you can try and cross the rainbow again.
You immediately roll the die. If you roll an even number you make it to the other side. If you roll an odd number and have a rope you get to roll the die two times. If your total is more than nine you make it to the other side and get to keep your rope. If you don’t have a rope or you fail, you miss the next three turns and then start on the first grey stone of the swamp.
Ring of Stones
From the Ring of Stones you can either get a deep magic card or you can get back three inventory cards that you have lost or treasure cards that were lost by any player.
If you want a deep magic card you need to roll a one or eight. If you rolled a one or eight to enter the Ring of Stones that roll counts toward the requirement. Once you roll a one or eight you get the deep magic card and get to immediately roll and move out of the Ring of Stones.
If you want the 3 cards you take the cards that you want. You must wait until your next turn in order to move out of the Ring of Stones.
You immediately roll the die twice. If you roll a high enough number to make it across, you move across. If you don’t make it across you are sent to the Banshee Towers Dungeon. You can avoid the dungeon if you do one of the following:
- If you have a sword, fire and axe you get to keep your inventory and avoid the dungeon.
- If you have a net you can leave the dungeon whenever you roll an even number.
- Otherwise you can give up one piece of equipment to escape the dungeon.
You immediately roll the die three times. If your total is eleven or higher you reach the other end. If you roll less than eleven you can do one of the following:
- If you have the grappling hook you need to roll a 5-8 in order to escape. You get to keep your grappling hook.
- If you have the rope you need to roll a 1-4 in order to escape. You get to keep your rope.
- If you don’t have the grappling hook or rope you need to give up one piece of equipment in order to escape.
You must travel through the snake pit in order to get rid of the cobra card.
You roll the die four times. If you roll a four you make it to the other side. If you don’t roll a four you can do one of the following:
- If you have a sword you have to roll a one or six within four rolls.
- If you have a shield you have to roll a two or five within four rolls.
- If you have an axe you have to roll a three or four within four rolls.
- If you have no sword, shield, or axe you need to roll an eight in order to proceed.
If you are successful you move to the brown spider and follow the spider path. Each time you fail you need to give up one of your pieces of equipment. While on the spider path, your turn ends if you land on a spider.
You get to keep rolling the die until you reach the other white dagger. If you land on a red stone you can do one of the following:
- If you have the grappling hook you get to keep the grappling hook and keep rolling.
- If you land on a red stone with an even number rolled, your turn ends.
- If you have a net you can get rid of it to reach the next gray stone and keep rolling.
- If you have no net or grappling hook you lose any one piece of equipment. You are moved to the next stone and on your next turn you can proceed.
If you have the rope you automatically reach the other side. If you don’t have the rope you need to roll a 5-8 to reach the other side. If you roll a 1-4 you can do one of the following to escape:
- You can give up your food.
- If you have a shield you can roll an eight within four rolls to escape and keep your shield. If you fail you can try again on your next turn.
- If you have the fire you need to roll a 6-8 in order to escape and keep your fire. If you fail you can try again on your next turn.
- If you have no food, shield or fire you need to roll a four to escape and you will lose a piece of equipment when you escape.
Well of Doom
You get to roll the die two times. If your playing piece doesn’t make it across the well you fall in. In order to escape the well after falling in you need to do one of the following:
- If you have a rope or hook you need to roll a two within four rolls. If you succeed you get to keep your equipment and your piece is placed on the space where it fell into the well.
- If you have a shield you must roll more than a total of ten within three rolls. If successful you keep your shield and you are returned to the spot where you fell into the well.
- If you fail one of the above or don’t have the proper equipment to attempt them you roll the die and try to roll a five. If successful you escape but lose one piece of equipment.
If you have food you roll the die. If you roll a 6-8 you leap over to the other side. If you roll a 2-5 you can try again on your next turn. If you roll a one you need to give up one equipment card and you return to the side you started on.
If you have no equipment you need to roll a one or an eight to cross to the other side.
Key to the Kingdom was an adventure roll and move game created by Golden in 1990. In the game each player rolled a die in order to move around the board trying to collect the key along with another treasure. During the game players would face off against monsters, various hazards, the other players, and even the gameboard itself. Key to the Kingdom has a wide mix of ratings on Board Game Geek. Some people love the game from when they were children. Some people hate the game. I find myself somewhere in the middle.
At its’ core, Key to the Kingdom is a pretty traditional roll and move game. You roll the die and move your piece the corresponding number of spaces. If you have read any of my other reviews you probably know that I am not a big fan of the roll and move genre. I generally don’t like the genre because the games usually rely too heavily on luck and rarely have enough strategy in them. Key to the Kingdom improves on this in some ways but is unable to totally eliminate the problem.
Key to the Kingdom tries to differentiate itself from other games in the genre by trying to add some new mechanics. The first and most obvious is the changing gameboard. I have to say that I really liked this addition to the game. Changing up the gameboard actually had an impact on the game. You need to change the gameboard in order to reach all of the different treasures. You could also change up the gameboard to squish the other players or block them from getting to a destination that they wanted to travel to. My only complaint with the gameboard is that the locations are a little too far apart and one of the whirlpools are a little too hard to reach.
In addition to the gameboard the game adds monsters for the adventurers to fight in order to gather treasure. These monsters are a good addition to the game. Some of the monsters are actually kind of funny since they are spoofs of the typical creatures you encounter in adventure games. I liked that each monster has a different task that needs to be completed in order to defeat them. Their difficulty can vary significantly though with some monsters being really easy to beat while one is actually impossible to beat.
The equipment cards bring some nice flavor to a traditional roll and move. Each piece of equipment seems to be advantageous in some monster fights or for passing through hazards. The equipment is really helpful since having the correct equipment makes the various challenges much easier to complete. My only complaint with the equipment is that the game could have done a better job explaining what each piece of equipment is used for. Since the instructions gave no indication what each piece of equipment did, players needed to just guess which were the least valuable when they had to get rid of one.
Finally the game added many hazards to the gameboard which require a challenge to be completed before a player can proceed. These challenges usually require a player to roll a certain number, a certain range, or an even or odd number. The challenges themselves are not very complex but they require you to be lucky rolling the die. Some of the hazards are also considerably harder to complete than others and have a much higher punishment for failure. The hazards do a good job adding flavor to the game but I think the game would have been better if there were not quite as many of them.
In addition to the originality in some of its’ gameplay ideas, Key to the Kingdom should be applauded for its’ component quality. While the playing pieces aren’t the nicest I have seen, they are a lot better than they could have been. The components do a good job supporting the theme of the game. The artwork on the cards and gameboard are really well done. They are done in a realistic cartoon like style which gives a sense of adventure while also not being too serious.
So Key to the Kingdom actually does quite a few things right. So why didn’t I love the game? It mostly comes down to always having to reference the hazard handbook which leads to the game being much longer than it should have been.
Lets start with the constant need to keep referencing the rules while playing the game. The basic rules don’t require a lot of referencing, but every time a player meets a hazard you have to look it up in the hazard handbook. You might be thinking that you can just remember them all and not have to reference the hazard handbook. I find this doubtful since there are so many different hazards that the only way you will be able to remember them all is if you have played the game many times. Without having memorized the hazard handbook, you will be stopping every couple rolls to consult the hazard handbook to see what you have to do next.
This constant need to have to keep looking at the hazard handbook makes the game take a lot longer than it needs to. The game ends up being about an hour and a half to two hours long where it would have been better at the 30-45 minute range. If you hate reading while playing board games you will hate Key to the Kingdom since you will spend almost as much time reading as playing the game. The instructions/hazard handbook also have some areas where it could have done a better job explaining different scenarios. Several times during the game I played, a situation arose that was not clearly explained in the booklets. My group ended up having to decide what to do in these situations.
Due to the game taking a lot longer than it should have, the game starts to drag at the half way point. You will eventually start wishing the game would end as it continues to drag on. The game seems like it could take forever to finish. With all of the hazards and spaces between the various treasure locations, it takes a lot longer than it should in order to claim a treasure. After a player has acquired enough treasures, the game is still not over. If the other players suspect that the player has everything they need to win, they will start to gang up on the player trying to steal the cards from them. With the board being so large it could take a long time for the player to reach the start space which gives the other players plenty of time to attack the player.
Thankfully the game includes a quicker way to end the game if all of the players agree to it. With this rule if a player has all of the cards they need to win the game, they only need to roll an 8 from anywhere on the board in order to escape. My group ended up using this rule because we all felt the game would take forever to finish if we didn’t.
Even though Key to the Kingdom does a good job reducing some of the luck from traditional roll and move games, Key to the Kingdom still relies too heavily on luck. Your decisions have an impact on the game, but the luck of the roll has an even greater impact. If you roll poorly you will move around the board slowly while also losing monster fights and failing hazard challenges. You cannot win Key to the Kingdom if you roll poorly.
Most of Key to the Kingdom’s problems come from being too ambitious. I thought the ideas themselves were interesting but when they are all combined they make the game too long for a basic roll and move game. You spend too much time reading what to do next instead of actually playing the game.
Key to the Kingdom is a very interesting roll and move game. The game adds quite a bit to the genre. The board and the various challenges you must complete along your journey are pretty interesting and reinforce a strong theme. All of these additions to the game creates a problem though since you will have to constantly reference the hazard handbook. This makes the game a lot longer than it should have been which leads to the game starting to drag at the midpoint.
Since at its’ core Key to the Kingdom is a roll and move game, if you don’t love roll and move games I would suggest passing on Key to the Kingdom. If you really like roll and move games I think there is a pretty good chance that you will like Key to the Kingdom. If you have fond memories from playing the game as a child you will probably still enjoy it. Unfortunately Key to the Kingdom appears to be a pretty rare game. At the time of this review, the cheapest copy found on Amazon was over $100. Due to its’ price you need to be pretty sure that you will enjoy the game before you decide to purchase it.