Gameday First Play – Royals
What do you get when you mix a few known mechanics into a single game?
Royals – and it works!
In Royals, players take on the roles of the great noble houses of the 17th century, fighting for supremacy in Europe at that time. With the help of the right country cards, they occupy influential positions and obtain bonuses for this in the form of victory points. The higher the rank of the title associated with the position, the more country cards required. Already-occupied positions can be contested by playing intrigue cards.
So here you’re simply collecting cards to make sets to place cubes on people to score points. But it’s more interesting than it sounds.
The board is split up into 4 countries clearly defined by their colour. UK (Red), Germany (Green), France (Blue) and Spain (Yellow). There is a deck of ‘Country Cards’ that are simply cards coloured to these countries that you will use throughout the game.
Each country has 3-5 cities in it with up to two characters in each city. These are the people you will be putting cubes on to score points in a variety of ways.
In Spain, Madrid just has a King to whereas Valencia has a Duke and Marshal but most countries have two characters.
The deck of country cards is shuffled with 3 cards placed face up. On your turn you simply draft 3 of them from a mix of face up or blind draws off the top of the deck. The face up cards aren’t replaced until after you finished so you sometimes has to take a risk of a blind draw.
Then, if you have a set of enough cards you can put a cube on someone. Using Spain as the example again, the King in Madrid requires 8 Yellow cards but the Marshal in Valencia only needs 1. You can also use any 3 country cards as a wild card if you’re short, or unlucky.
When you put a cube of your colour on a character on the board, you put another one off the board on the matching characters scoring token. So if if you have a cube on two different Dukes in different countries, you will have 2 cubes on the Duke scoring tile off the board. This is used for end game scoring.
If you’re the first to put a cube on a character in a city you get a City Bonus Marker.
If you’re the first, or second, to put at least one cube in each City in a Country, you get a Country Bonus Token.
If you’re the First, Second or Third to put a cube on each character tile you get a Noble House Bonus Marker.
So pretty much everything you do moves you towards points in some way.
If you don’t take country cards, you can take Intrigue cards. An Intrigue card is dual coloured to match 2 colours of 2 countries. You can take one of these plus any one country card.
You use these to knock an opponents cube from a character on the board by playing the right number of country cards PLUS and intrigue card matching that country.(2 Intrigue cards to displace a King) You put your cube on the character (and the character bonus tile) and move the opponents cube into the ‘Cross’ space in that city.
They still count as having a cube in that city for the purposes of the Country Bonus Tokens, they just don’t have it on any character.
Play continues around the table until the deck runs out then period scoring happens with the 2 most influential players in each county getting a Period Scoring Tile.
After you score the third period, final scoring occurs. You check each character tile to see who has the most cubes on it, they get it. In the case of a tie, the tile is split with both players getting a piece. (Great idea)
You add up your points from City, Country, Noble, Period and Character tiles and the player with the most points wins.
This game offers nothing new but does it really well. OK, so I haven’t seen scoring tokens you split in half but I’m sure it was done somewhere.
Everything you do moves you towards points so no matter now poorly you’re playing you’re doing something right. Of course, ‘Mr Optimal Playbot’ will outscore ‘Senor Random’ as they will be looking to control areas for Period Scoring.
I’ve played this twice now and enjoyed it both times. It’s getting a reprint this year with added Arcane Wonders-ness added to it but it’s coming out the same time as the El Grande big Box. As Royals is essentially ‘El Grande Light’ I will wait to see what’s what before I decide which of these I will add to my collection.
But I do like it that much.