This Kingdom Rush: Rift in Time review was made after playing through the campaign (all two-player and three-player games). We were sent a copy of this game by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
What is Kingdom Rush: Rift in Time?
Kingdom Rush: Rift in Time is a cooperative tower defense game based on the very popular mobile game Kingdom Rush. In this game you use your heroes and towers to defend your kingdom against all of the enemies and portals that the Time Mage throws at you.
Kingdom Rush: Rift in Time Gameplay
The scenarios you play in Kingdom Rush: Rift in Time have unique board layouts and different groups of enemies that you’ll have to face. The scenario booklet will also tell you where to put each building site, which is where you’ll be able to place your towers throughout the scenario.
During the main phase of each round, you’ll get to place towers and attack with them, pass towers to teammates to upgrade them, and activate your heroes (moving them and using their unique abilities). You can do any of these actions during this phase and players can perform actions in any order. What you’re trying to do is use your damage tiles (the polyominoes) and your heroes’ miniatures to cover the enemies on the horde cards before they make it to the exits.
The towers show which directions and how far they can shoot. You start out with just a few Level 1 towers that have restrictive placement rules for their damage tiles, but the higher level towers give you more flexibility.
After the main phase is over, any horde cards that were destroyed are removed from the board and your team will get coins to use later on for new towers. Then the surviving hordes will advance toward the exits. Horde cards don’t move when they have soldiers or heroes on them, but the soldiers are removed and the heroes take one point of damage. When a hero runs out of health, they’re knocked out and won’t be able to do any actions the next round.
After the hordes have done their thing, anyone that had one or more tower cards passed to them during the main phase will upgrade those towers to the next level. You’ll also pick up any towers that you used during the round and optionally buy new towers with coins. Then a new round begins with more hordes coming onto the map.
Some enemies have their own special abilities. Some heal, some deal damage after they move, and others make their hordes move faster. You’ll often be trying to come up with ways to cover the most threatening enemies on a card if you’re not going to be able to cover all of the enemies that round. Every time a horde card makes it to the exit, you’ll lose hearts based on the number of uncovered enemies.
Your main focus in most scenarios is destroying the purple portals. They have enemies on them just like the horde cards, but they have special rules. Each portal will have a tower level written on it, which is the lowest level tower that you can use to attack it. Also, towers that were used to attack portals are returned to the supply, not to your hand like your other towers. If any portal makes it to the exit tile, you’ll immediately lose.
You’ll win if you’re able to complete the scenarios objective. You’ll lose if the kingdom loses all of its hearts or if a portal is able to make it to the exit tile.
- Kingdom Rush: Rift in Time is a unique board game design, which is something that is pretty tough to pull off these days. It has the classic tower defense feel, but you’re actually defending your kingdom with the towers you build rather than simply defending a tower. Also, you get to do actions with both your hero and the towers that you control. I’ve never played a board game like this.
- All of the scenarios have different types of puzzles to work out. The map layouts are different, you get different types of enemies, and there are usually a bunch of special rules to keep the game feeling fresh as you play through the campaign. Plus, there’s even a replayable scenario that has a variable setup.
- It feels great when you’re able to come up with the perfect placements for your damage tiles. It’s very similar to that satisfying feeling you get when you clear lines in Tetris.
- Passing towers to your teammates to upgrade them is an awesome cooperative action. It forces you to make the tough decision to give up a tower for the current round so your team can have a more powerful tower in future rounds.
- The heroes themselves are very cool. They all have unique abilities that can get you out of sticky situations and there are quite a few ways that you can use the abilities to pull off cool combos that do massive amounts of damage.
- I prefer challenging co-ops, and Kingdom Rush is very challenging. You’re pretty much never going to win at the medium and higher difficulty levels unless everyone is on the same page and you find ways to maximize damage. That makes pulling off the wins feel that much better.
- Those plastic horde trays were a great idea. It’s very easy to slide them along the paths.
- I really like the look of this game. The artwork is nice and clean and the miniatures look fantastic.
- The plastic insert cover does the job of holding all of the components down in the box. I wish more publishers would include these covers.
- Kingdom Rush can cause some pretty bad analysis paralysis, which can mess up the flow of the game. I have a feeling most groups will go through this because it’s natural to want to figure out the perfect way to use your heroes and towers. One person will put one of their towers on the board and cover up some enemies, then after thinking about it for a bit your group might figure out a potentially better way to deal with those enemies. And that can happen multiple times in a single round since there is a lot to calculate. That is the main thing that makes this feel different than the Kingdom Rush mobile game, which is a high-pace game.
- Quarterbacking could be a big issue for some groups. There’s no hidden information, so it could be tempting for one or more people to try to take over, especially if they’re the best puzzle-solvers in the group.
- Setup can take some time. You have to put the different horde decks together, put the map together, lay out the tower card supply, and find any additional components for the scenario you’re playing. Teardown isn’t as bad, but it’s definitely not quick, either.
- It’s a bit of a bummer that the tri-fold player boards don’t stay flat.
Kingdom Rush: Rift in Time is one of my favorite 2020 releases because it’s a fun and challenging co-op puzzle game that requires a very high amount of teamwork. I’ll probably avoid playing it with people who prefer games with better pacing, but I know that I can break it out with pretty much anyone else and we’ll have a great time. I’ve always enjoyed playing cooperative tower defense games, and Kingdom Rush is one of the best ones I’ve played.
I put a lot of hours into the Kingdom Rush mobile game a few years ago and I think the designers and publisher did a great job converting it into a board game. It’s not exactly the same, but the look is perfect and putting the different types of towers out to slow down the enemies feels just about right. I’ve now played through the campaign on the medium difficulty and I’m looking forward to trying it at the higher levels. It’s probably going to take a long time to get three stars for all of those scenarios.
As far as tower defense games go, I’d put Kingdom Rush ahead of Castle Panic and right behind Ghost Stories and Village Attacks. I do think that Kingdom Rush offers a more unique experience than those other games, though.
If you like tower defense games, puzzle games, and/or tough co-ops, I highly recommend checking out Kingdom Rush: Rift in Time.