Thursday, April 20, 2017

Royals (Arcane Wonders)

Europe is up for grabs and you are vying for control of this continent in the 17th Century. In order to do so, you must place Nobles in key cities of four countries. Royals is a game for 2-5 players, age 10+. It takes approximately one hour to play and retails for $50.
Setup
1. Have each player pick a color and give them all the Wooden Nobles (cubes) to form their Supply.
2. Place the game board in the middle of the table and have the oldest person be the starting player.
3. Place the Markers on their appropriate spaces on the board. City Bonus Markers go next to cities. Country Bonus Markers go to the left and right of each coat of arms. Noble House Bonus Markers go on the left side of the board, using fewer of them the fewer players. Period Scoring Markers go on the bottom right of the board and are divided into three groups.
4. Assemble all the Title Scoring Markers and place them to the left of the board, arranging them in ascending order from bottom to top.
5. Prepare the Country Cards, removing as many as dictated according to the number of players. Next, shuffle these cards and make a face down pile next to the board. Then, turn over the top three.
6. Shuffle the Intrigue Cards, making a separate face-down pile.
Game Play - Player take turns in clockwise order carrying out the following three actions in order:
1. Draw Cards - This is a mandatory action. On your first turn, you will only draw one or two Country Cards. All turns after that, you must draw three Country Cards or one Country Card and one Intrigue Card. (Note: You can draw face-down or face-up cards, but the face-up cards are not refilled until the end of your turn.)
2. Play Cards - This is an optional action. You may play Country Cards to claim ownership of a Noble in a City. (Note: The number of cards is indicated by the number to the left of their portrait.) When claiming a Noble, you put a cube on their portrait and another cube on the Title Scoring Marker matching their title. You are also allowed to claim a noble that an opponent claimed previously, you just must play an Intrigue Card now in addition to the Country Cards.
3. End of Turn - This is a mandatory action. Discard any excess cards in your hand. You may have no more than twelve Country Cards and four Intrigue Cards.
Scoring
1. City Bonuses - The first player to claim a Noble in a City takes that City Bonus Marker.
2. Country Bonuses - If you have at least one Noble in every City of a Country, you take the highest Country Bonus Marker available.
3. Noble House Bonuses - If you have at least one Noble on every Title Scoring Marker, you take the highest available Noble House Bonus Marker available.
4. Period Scoring - The period ends when the face-down Country Card pile is exhausted. At the end of each of the three periods, Period Scoring Markers are given to the two most influential players in each of the four countries.
5. Title Scoring - Beginning with the lowest-ranking Title, the players compare the number of Wooden Nobles on each Title Scoring Marker. The player with the most Nobles on each Title, claims the title. If exactly two players are tied, the Title is divided like a puzzle-piece so that each player gets half the points. If more than two players are tied, no one claims the Title.
6. Highest score at the end of the game is the winner.

Review
At its heart, Royals is an area control game with elements of hand management. The core mechanic of the game involves drawing cards from two separate decks of cards. Some of the cards will be visible to you providing you more information on what is available, but if they aren't of use to you, you are left drawing blind. This is very much like the popular Ticket to Ride game. Unlike, Ticket to Ride, where you have specific, secret goals that may overlap with others, you all have the same goals in Royals. You also want to accomplish them first, as the points quickly decrease and disappear. Another interesting decision you will have to make is what country do you want to focus on. Sure, you might be forced towards one country, if you keep drawing their cards, but you'll have to decide whether you want to pursue a country that provides the most points each period for first place but the fewest each period for second place, or let others fight over that country and you focus on different countries that are slightly less valuable.

I'm usually not one for area control games as I primarily play games with my wife, and two-player area control games don't have the conflict and tension you need, unless you're both very cutthroat. However, I found myself enjoying this one quite a lot. In addition to fun game play, it was also very simple to teach, because the mechanics were familiar. I felt the theme of nobles and royalty was perfect for an area control game, and I enjoyed the artwork and the components were of good quality. I really thought the puzzle piece Title markers were ingenious and hope more games that have a lot of ties in them find a way to incorporate the concept. This is the third game from Arcane Wonders Dice Tower Essentials Line, and I think they picked a winner as I would definitely agree that its a game you should have in your collection.

This game was provided to me for free by Arcane Wonders in exchange for an honest review.