Under the sea! Under the Sea! There'll be no complications, just friendly crustaceans, under the sea! Unfortunately your friendly crustaceans have been kidnapped by the Kraken and it’s your job to free them from his tentacled grasp and so begins the game of Poseidon's Kingdom, and a bright friendly colourful game it is too.
At the centre of Poseidon's Kingdom is the wave. The wave is a seesaw like cardboard tower that will be loaded with dice and when it's full the wave will crash. A player tips the tower and the dice spill onto the board, spreading across the waves. The game then becomes a kind of Yahtzee, where players have to collect sets of dice in order to free their friends from the kraken.
This wave is the highlight of the game. Not only does wave look amazing, and I must guiltily admit very fun to push over, it adds a nice blast of randomness without making players feel they are a victim of the dice and adds theatre in to the game.
You'll move your cute little player pieces around the waves, collecting the dice and attempting to collect the sets and whoever claims their friends first gets the most points. There's a neat little twist where if you collect a die belonging to another player then their token moves around the Kraken Tracken. Every time your token completes a loop you get to free the lowest point value friend.
But wait there's more. As you play the game you have the option every turn of either loading up wave with dice or building up your coral reef. The coral reef is a little collection of tiles that gets built up in front of you and controls the number of each action you can take each turn. You can also use the coral reef to hold dice between turns.
But wait there's more. At the end of the game, instead of freeing friends you can use your dice to grab a secret coral based objective, giving you bonus points for building your coral a certain way. You can grab a little peek of some of these secret bonuses as the game plays.
But wait there's more. There's a shark that also moves around the waves and if it catches one of your pieces you have to add a little dead fish token to your coral, effectively blocking some of it off.
But wait there's more. The results of your dice that get crashed onto the board gain you a bonus as the wave crashes, ranging from a few extra dice on the next wave to a friendly dolphin that protects you from the shark.
Poseidon’s Kingdom must be one of the prettiest games I own. Whether it's the menacing kraken, the beautifully rendered wave board or the ultra-cute googley eyed player pieces, everything is bright colourful and friendly. Even the villainous shark and kraken appear like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon instead of the nightmare induced horror of so many other games I own.
These pretty visuals just go to highlight the game's biggest contradiction. At first Poseidon's Kingdom looks like a light fun family game, and on the whole it is but I think a few too many game mechanics have been thrown into the mix that detract from the wide appeal the graphics convey. The basic moving around the board and collecting dice from the waves is straightforward and easy to pick up. The idea of getting people to grab your dice to help you around the Kraken Tracken adds a little bit of strategy but the coral building and especially the hidden bonus points can be a complication too far for your typical family gamer.
A keen gamer is not going to have an issue with these extra mechanics, but if you're looking for a game to play after Ticket to Ride or Carcassonne the people are going to struggle with some of the game.
That's not to say it's a bad game, in fact there's a lot to like. Once you get your head around all the different mechanics it actually affords you a few different routes to scoring points. While it's true that freeing your friends by grabbing dice of the board is the biggest point scorer, building your coral, loading the wave with dice and grabbing those bonus points offer different strategies.
Poseidon’s Kingdom is a fun game and it boils down to a very simple move and collect system but with some additions that increase your strategic options. It’s a bit more complicated than what the cutesy visuals convey and that may cause issues with some groups. Whereas Poseidon’s Kingdom isn’t going to make it onto anyone’s ‘best of’ lists, apart from components, it’s still a good game and it's worth playing just to give the wave a go, watching the dice spill out onto the board and scrambling round to collect the dice you need.
This review is based on a full retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.