Being a huge fan of Puzzle Quest, there was no way I was not going to pick up Puzzle Kingdoms for my beach trip. It has not been disappointing!
It's a lot like Puzzle Quest in that you have the whole RPG/Puzzle formula where you do quests and match three battles. The difference is that rather than having a single hero who battles single troops, you have multiple heroes to outfit with spells, relics and items and a multitude of troops to use as you defeat kingdoms.
You can choose up to four heroes to take into a kingdom battle. (If the first is defeated, you can re-enter the battle with your next hero.) You can choose four troop types to take in with you, as well. Now, there's actually a lot of strategy involved in choosing all of these things. Certain heroes have certain mana color affinities, so troops of the same color cost less. Where you position your troops in your line-up can make a difference, as some enemies only attack the first troop in line, while others can attack out of order or even hit multiple troops. The first troops in your line-up always fill their mana first (which allows them to attack), so....depending on how you want to be able to attack, you may take that into consideration. (I know that sounds complicated. It's really not....I just think I'm not explaining it well.)
For instance, I use a "shield strategy," a lot. I keep my high defense, high cost troops in front. Behind them, I put smaller, faster troops that use a different mana color. So, my big guys sit up front and take damage but are not siphoning off the mana that my wee troops need to power up and attack. Does that make sense?
Another thing that adds to the strategy factor is that you're not just matching colors Bejeweled-style. You shove colored blocks in from the side, sort of like Chuzzle...only you can only move one space. Plus, the colors that can be moved in are indicated all around the edge of the board. This way, you can better take into account whether you are setting up the enemy to be able to get huge power-ups....and better set yourself up for big mana draws.
I only have a couple of complaints about the game. Firstly, the manual is woefully inadequate. Many, many things are not explained. It took me forever to figure out how to equip items and spells on my heroes. (It just flat just doesn't tell you how to do it!) I'm also really iffy on what a lot of the stats do for you. For instance, I'm not sure what in the heck having a hero with a high leadership skill does for you.
Also, the mini-map where you move your hero/troops around is awful. I'll be dragging the map around, trying to find my next goal and it'll just "snap" back to some random point off in the middle of nowhere. I spend a lot of time cursing while I try to find that next kingdom to squash!
But, overall, I really love the game. I feel like I'm constantly moving forward, making progress. Plus, I think it's going to have a lot of replay value as I go in and try different hero/troop combinations.