Gameloft has recently launched a new title on Facebook by the name of Mini Kings. Only a few weeks old, this medieval-themed title has been growing steadily, with over 212,000 MAU and 28,000 DAU today.
At first glance, the growth is surprising, because Mini Kings gives off the impression of being yet another farming concept in a long, tired list of the same. But while farming is part of the Gameloft title, it’s just that: a part. With other elements that reflect city-builders, and even some strategy in the style of Nanostar Siege, the game is actually more interesting than one might initially think.
The idea behind Mini Kings is for players to build up a bustling kingdom. In many respects, the game is comparable to My Kingdom, but with a bit more control in the details. That in mind, the basics of building up one’s realm comes in three parts: money, peasants, and defenses.
Gold, of course, is still key to all, so it’s best to begin with the farming elements of this app. Players plow land, plant seeds, and harvest the crops for coin when they’re ready. In addition to this, trees and animals can be placed and harvested periodically as well.
Before the groans begin, however, farming is not necessarily the best income. Players are able to further augment revenue with actual businesses, constructing everything from a marketplace to a blacksmith and earning sizable amounts of currency every few hours. However, each business will require peasants to actually function.
Though there is no actual “population” stat like in, say, City of Wonder, players must construct homes, each of which automatically adds a peasant. Once built, users can drop the peasant atop any industrial building to improve its efficiency. Each of these business buildings must have at least one peasant to function, but having more working in it will reduce the amount of time it takes for it to produce coin. However, there is a cap on how many peasants can work in any given building.
Beyond farms, houses and businesses, players can also construct a variety of military buildings. These will allow users to unlock different military units that can be placed in the kingdom as defenses. Swordsmen, archers, mages, towers, and even traps can all be built and placed in the space. As military buildings are placed and levels gained, new research that enhances the units also becomes available.
This is where the most interesting part of Mini Kings comes into play: users can send their units to attack their friends. During an attack, players will take their units and place them on a grid, from which they’ll walk in a straight line toward the enemy city (players can also temporarily “rent” more soldiers, at a cheaper cost, for the duration of the battle). In order to win, a set number of friendly units must make it past the defenses.
As for defense, at the front of each kingdom is a walled-off entrance. The idea is to place defenses so that there are no gaps in the grid spaces leading up to the kingdom. As the enemy reaches a unit or defense structure, they’ll duke it out until one is down. However, with different stats for all units, researched abilities, hidden traps, and so on, laying out defenses is actually a lot of fun.
As a final note, any destroyed structures must be repaired at the cost of in-game coin, and injured units can be healed by friends that visit.
Battle is an obviously innovative feature for Mini Kings, but it’s also one of the biggest disappointments. Even though players receive fiscal and experience rewards for winning battles, they’re severely limited in their range, because they can only attack friends. There’s no way to battle against other users, unlike titles such as City of Wonder or Mafia Wars, in which half the fun is trying to be the top dog in the game as a whole. It’s all fine and well to fight against friends, but it becomes boring to constantly compete against the same people over and over again.
Another quirky social element is that buildings require friends to send each other special materials to construct. This isn’t unusual or even a big deal in its own right, but rather than reserving the mechanic for special buildings, even lowly industrial buildings do this in Mini Kings — nor do they mention the requirement until the player buys it. This is not a huge deal, but still a bit obnoxious.
Regardless of complaints, Mini Kings is actually a pretty cool game, especially with the attack and defense aspects. That said, it limits both progression and social interaction more than necessary. Sure, expanding battle to encompass everyone might lead to the player’s kingdom being under siege more often, but there are a multitude of ways this could be mitigated (alliances, special items, free repairs, etc.). All the same, however, the game is still very new, and improvements are very likely already on the way.