Who doesn’t want to get paid for playing video games? This series follows mobile applications, some of which are borderline games at best, that claim to reward users with cold hard cash (or gift cards). In my pursuit of extra cash to blow on games, or Steam gift cards to add to my collection, I have tried a number of these applications. I hope my experiences can help others steer clear of the more dubious of these applications.
This week we’ll be taking a look at the free-to-play casual mobile game Board Kings published by Jelly Button Games in 2017. While this game does not pay you directly itself, you can be paid for playing it through the service Mistplay, and other similar services. This is a bit of an odd title to describe, but it is basically a bunny-themed board game simulator.
The main activity in this game is pressing the big red button to roll a pair of six-sided dice, which moves your token, or Idol in the terminology of this game, around the board. Each square you move gives you gold coins, which can be used to upgrade the squares on the board. When you’ve upgraded all of the squares, you level up your account.
On even levels, you get to choose from one of two permanent bonuses. These bonuses increase the reward for landing on one of the special squares on your board: either more gold for landing on the yellow “Piggy Bank” square, more gems for landing on the purple “Town Hall” square, or increase the number of defensive police units you can get on your board from landing on the blue “Police Station” square. On odd levels, you move to a new board and start the process all over again.
Gems, the purple icon at the top center of the screen shot, are another currency in the game that can be used in the place of gold to upgrade buildings, or to purchase new Idols or special tiles. When you land on the pink “Vending Machine” square, you can choose one free box containing a random Idol themed after a particular board. You can then continue to buy additional boxes for 30 gems each. Duplicate copies of the same Idol, which you can get, unlock new color patterns or sizes for it.
Another special tile is the blue one marked with a question mark, which will draw a card that will have some game effect. This could be rolling extra dice for the next five turns, getting gold, getting gems, getting extra rolls, moving to another specific special tile, and more. Most boards also have a mini-game, which you activate by landing on the pink tile with the image of an arrow hitting a target on it.
These mini-games require accumulating a certain number of points within 24 hours of the first time you land on them, either by picking one of a random selection of things or by trying to tap the screen when a moving cursor is over a target. Even if you pick the wrong thing or miss the target, you still get a smaller number of points. If you earn enough points in the mini-game to beat it, you are rewarded with gold, gems, and extra rolls.
Stealing from other players is also fairly central to this game, though you have almost no direct control over it. There is an orange “Coin King” tile, that, when landed on, you must then pick from one of three randomly selected players and it steals some of their gold for you. There is also a green “Train Station” tile that will take you to another player’s board.
When visiting another player’s board, you only roll a single six-sided die to move. You continue to earn gold, but there are different special tiles. Landing on a red tile will either damage or plant a flag on that player’s building. Damaged buildings need to be repaired, for a gold cost based on the tile’s upgrade cost, and buildings claimed by a flag need to be landed on by that board’s owner to clear the flag off. You cannot level up while a building is damaged or has another player’s flag on it.
If you land on another player’s Piggy Bank tile, you break it and steal some of their gold. You only get to move around their board once, if you reach the train station tile on their board, then you return to your own. Police cars are the only real defense against other players. If you land on a tile on another player’s board containing a police card, you must pay gems to stay on the board or return to your own.
As mentioned earlier, you get police cars on your board by landing on the Police Station tile. However, you have no control over where they are placed on the board. Granted, this is in line with most of the game, where you are subject to the whims of random dice rolls.
One small thing that you do actually have some control over is buying bonus tiles. These are sold for gems and have benefits when landing on them, such as extra gold, extra gems, rolling the dice again, and more. You can place these special tiles on any board section not taken up by any other sort of special tile, i.e., you can’t cover over the mini-game or card drawing tiles.
When landing on the train tile, you can either go to a random player’s board or choose to go to the board of someone that has visited your own. This starts a 24-hour “Bad Blood” timer, during which they can also come to your board via the train. After the timer expires, they are removed from the list of players you can seek vengeance against.
This player versus player element strikes me as a bit odd in an otherwise kid friendly app with a whimsical art design. There is no real other interaction with other players, helping the game keep its “E” for Everyone rating on the Google Play store. The developers do try to keep things fresh with regular special events and adding new boards, or levels, once in a while.
One final element of the game, that tries to give the player some small control, is the Power Cards. These are items that you can consume to do a particular action, such as go to the Train Station tile or move to the next building that can be attacked on another player’s board. However, these are rare to earn in the game, and typically are rewards for special events.
This I hope should cover the main mechanics of the game! Moving onto the other details, there is one sound track for Board Kings. It is an upbeat steel drum track, which I personally feel would get annoying if left on for a long period of time. The sound effects are also similarly high pitched, and I recommend leaving the sound off while playing.
The art is mostly well done, which you might expect to see from a studio release. Some of the special events seem to have been done a bit more cheaply, reusing existing art items or with very simple graphics. That doesn’t stand out too much, as the game does have a simple art style meant to be kid friendly.
As a free-to-play game, it does monetize by trying to get you to make in-app purchases. There are also external ads that you can choose to watch to be randomly rewarded with gold, gems, or rolls. It is nice that there are no enforced external ads. However, there is a pop-up about buying gems every time you log into the game. As with most games, I strongly advise against making any in-app purchases.
The game itself can be oddly relaxing, as a mindless game where you just tap the screen and try to get numbers to go up. You can log in for a couple of minutes to run around your board, upgrade a building or two, and then be done for hours. The annoying part tends to be other players messing up your board, and it taking forever to land on the one square you need to hit to remove their flag from your board.
I do think it deserves some points for originality. Of the many mobile games that are paying to get people to play them, this one stands out as having a bit different gameplay mechanics than most of the rest. You can also reach the “end” of it, at least temporarily, until they add on another board.
Overall, I would give Board Kings a “B-” rating, or 6.5/10 stars. I’m not sure if I would play it on my own, but it’s a good option if you are playing to get rewards. You can find the app on the Google Play store here, but as always, if you are using a reward service then you may need to download it through them to get paid.