This awesome expansion set really adds a lot of fun variety and new strategies to Kingdom Builder, the 2012 Game of the Year (Spiele des Jahres award at Essen, Germany). You will need the original base set to play. Like the original, Nomads is a multi-lingual set, so all cards and rules come in different language versions: English, German, Spanish, and French. You just set aside or toss out the languages you don't need. For some reason, I received two copies of the English rules in my box.
So what's in this expansion set? Read on:
You get two replacement cards for Merchants and Workers, to take into account scoring some of the new expansion victory conditions. You also get 3 new victory condition cards: Ambassadors, Families, and Shepherds that all score points in-game, not at the end like the original victory cards do. You mix these in with the original 10 cards. Note that they have a US/UK flag symbol on their backs that are not in the original game's cards, so you can easily tell them apart from the others (this applies to the replacement versions of the Merchants and Workers cards as well). Some folks are annoyed by this. Queen Games promised to fix this in the next printing. Some early versions of the original game include unmarked US and marked UK victory cards, so if you are lucky enough to have one of those sets, just use the UK cards and then all the cards will have the same markings on the back. After having playtested these new in-game scoring cards, I don't recommend using more than one per game, as it makes it too easy to see who's going to win. I have mixed feelings about these new cards and find them to be the most disappointing aspect of this set.
Ambassadors: Build settlements adjacent to other players' settlements. You get 1 gold for each adjacent settlement you build. Record this gold on the victory score track immediately. (A fun card that encourages blocking and turns otherwise unprofitable settlements profitable)
Families: Build 3 settlements in a straight line (diagonally or horizontally). You get 2 gold if you build all three of your mandatory settlements in a straight line. Record this gold on the victory score track immediately. (Not a very interesting or fun card)
Shepherds: Complete terrain areas. You get 2 gold for each of your settlements NOT adjacent to an empty terrain space of the same kind on which this settlement was built. Record this gold on the victory score track immediately. (A tricky card prone to abuse, as you can move a settlement off the terrain type with Stables or Caravan, then build a new one on it with your mandatories, Garden, Oasis, Village, etc., racking up a crazy number of points)
There is a snazzy new red set of 40 settlement houses and a gold marker so you can add a fifth player to the game. The fire-engine red color is easily distinguishable from the carrot-orange in the original (color-blind set distinction not checked). The set up rules for adding a fifth player remain the same as before. There are no extra quadrants or victory condition cards used, making the fight for space and locations that much harder.
4 new hexagonal quadrant game board sections featuring Nomad spaces in place of castles.
14 new location tokens and 4 new summary cards: 2x Quarry, 4x Caravan, 4x Village, 4x Garden.
Quarry: Add 1 or 2 of the 25 new stone-gray quarry wooden circle markers to the board on your turn. Each acts as permanent impassable terrain to you and your opponents, but you must place them on the same terrain type as the terrain card you drew that turn. (Great for blocking or filling in terrain types. Can be useful in setting up a Shepherds bonus as well.)
Caravan: Move one of your previously built settlements in a straight line, either horizontally or diagonally, until it is blocked by an obstacle. (My new favorite location token (replacing Stables from the original game). It's the most powerful token in the game.)
Village: Build one additional settlement on an empty space eligible for building that is adjacent to at least 3 of your preexisting settlements. (Very nice, as it ignores the straight line placement condition used by the Tavern token in the base set.)
Garden: Build one additional settlement on an empty flower field hex. You must build this adjacent to one of your settlements, if possible. (Less versatile, but still useful.)
I've saved the Nomads rules for last, as there's a lot to explain: There are 15 Nomad location tokens, but they provide different bonuses and you never know which one you're getting until you build adjacent to one and pick it up. At set-up, you shuffle the Nomad tokens, then randomly draw and place 1 token for each Nomad space on the board. A Nomad token cannot be used until the turn after you pick it up, like regular location tokens. However, you MUST use the Nomad token on your next turn. It is discarded from the game at the end of your next turn, regardless of whether you use it or not.
7x Donation: Build 3 additional settlements, taken from your supply, on spaces of the terrain type shown on this token (in addition to the regular terrain types, water and mountain hexes are possible legal building spaces with this token!).
2 x Resettlement: Move 1-4 of your settlements up to 4 spaces total. So you can move 1 settlement 4 spaces, or 4 settlements 1 space each, etc. After moving to a legal build space, they do not need to be adjacent to your other settlements.
2x Outpost: Disregard the adjacency requirement when building a settlement either with your mandatory or bonus actions. It still must be built on the same type of terrain as the terrain card you drew this turn.
2x Sword: Remove 1 settlement from each other player from the game board, returning them to their supply pile (so that player may use them again).
2x Treasure: Record 3 gold for yourself on the victory score track immediately (same turn as you collect this token, an exception to the usual rule).
Only having 1 Nomad token per location kind of sucks, as they are must-haves and get grabbed fast. If you don't get some, you will most likely lose. My house rule is to put two random ones per location (or one token per player if only one nomad space is in play).
Storage Issues: The good news is that you can easily fit everything from this expansion set into the original Kingdom Builder box, but any future expansions that provide game board quadrants will not fit. The bad news is that the ziploc bags this expansion comes with are a mix of freakishly large and still too big medium. You're better off using half-size ziplocs to store the components, as none of the game's components warrant bags of this size.
There are two more expansions like this one coming, the next due in October 2013. Meanwhile, there are two exclusive mini-expansions that add Capital Cities and Caves to the game, but you can't get them here. I imagine there'll be at least two more mini-expansions as well.
In a nutshell: I give this set 4.5 stars. Not perfect, but close. I'm knocking a half star off for the stingy quantity of new victory cards, which is the original game's shortcoming as well. And also for the flags on the back of the cards, and the poor storage compartments of the box. These are all pretty minor minor criticisms, however. If you love Kingdom Builder but want more variety, Nomads certainly fits the bill. The extra complexity is nice, but does tend to increase the game time from the usual 45-60 minutes closer to 75-90. I don't recommend trying to use it to teach new players. The components are the same sturdy, high quality as the original game. The storage box to both the original and Nomads are also sturdy, but unfortunately, not well-designed. There are two trays to fit everything (one large, one medium), which is a far cry from what most other games at this price offer (custom-molded plastic trays to perfectly fit the various playing pieces, cards, tokens, etc.). At least they pretty much got everything else right.
You can also order two exclusive mini-expansions from BGG. The first is called Kingdom Builder: Capitals. It gives you two new Capital city tokens that fit over two of the preexisting castles on the maps. The rules for them say that you use one capital if you are playing with either the Oracle (stonehenge) or Harbor (warship) objectives, or you use both capitals if you both objectives are in play. Unlike regular castles which only score you 3 points for the first settlement built adjacent, capitals are worth 3 points for the first settlement and 1 point for each additional settlement built within two hexes of the capital (including the first one, as the capital bonus points are scored separately after the castle bonus is determined). I've played a lot of games with the capitals and like them a lot, so much that I miss them when they aren't in play (much like stables). Of course, you could always substitute a penny or some other object for the official capital markers.
The second BGG exclusive is Kingdom Builder: Caves. It gives you two Cave tokens that you can place on any two mountain hexes to create a tunnel from one area to another. Again, you can use pennies or some other token to represent the caves.
The second big box expansion set, Kingdom Builder: Crossroads, was released in November 2013. It is also a five star fun-fest that changes the game up even more.