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Bongo_clive

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Go to the Royals page

Royals

Royals

I have long passed the days of suggesting Catan or Ticket to Ride as the perfect ‘Gateway Game’. If I’m trying to impress someone, to entice them into this wonderful hobby, my go to game has for some time been Ethnos.

Does Royals have the chops to supplant the champ?

Setting

Royals takes place in that staple setting of board games, Medieval Europe. England, France, Germany and Spain are up for grabs, and their respective nobility are there to be won over.

The board is broad and busy, a map of Europe with various little tracks and charts dotted about. Much like Ethnos, the theme is irrelevant, and could really have been anything else. If I was a betting man, I’d say the relative obscurity of Royals is down to it’s bland, generic theme.

And this is a colossal shame, because the gameplay is anything but bland.

Gameplay

To gain favour with an Earl, Princess or King, you must sacrifice cards with symbols of their respective nationalities. The higher the rank, the more cards you will need. Once you gain favour, you place a marker on their city on the board, and another marker on their respective portrait that sits off to one side. The first to impress someone in this way gains points from the city, which are not available after first being won.

To gain the necessary cards, you must pick up from a face up/face down pool, immediately familiar to players of TtR, and still a delightful little game of ‘push your luck’. Naturally, the early stages of the game see players picking up fists of cards and splurging them on easily swayed aristocrats.

But as the game progresses, the cities fill up with red and blue and yellow, and easy pickings become harder to find. Gaining influence over the nobles then requires serious investment in single suits of cards for the big fish, or some foxy intrigue.

You see, when collecting cards, players are presented with the choice of influence cards and intrigue cards. Influence is used to gain favour with the nobles and are hoovered up quickly, but intrigue cards are used to usurp nobles from others’ spheres of influence, placing your own marker with the noble. They are the choice of the long term, as the early points are already gone.

Because as the deck dwindles, all eyes turn towards the national influence points. Three times you will play through the deck, which seems daunting when first explained, but in a game that moves as fast as this, soon reveals itself to be quite manageable. At the end of each of these ‘ages’, influence in each nation is counted up and further points awarded.

Play commences again, with a reshuffled deck and a board full of influence. It’s somewhere around the middle of the 2nd age that intrigue begins to bite, and the push and pull of intrigue, usurpation and feuds really kicks in and seething resentment sometimes explodes into naked aggression.

Once the dust settles, and blood pressures come down, at the end of the 3rd age, points are allocated, counted and the person with the most is declared the winner.

Looks

Alas, all the potential Royals has in it’s simple, direct gameplay, it more than undercuts with it’s appearance. By the end of the 1st age, the board is awash with cubes, and becomes increasingly difficult to parse. You are constantly required to slide cubes to one side to see which portraits they cover, and it never becomes an easy task to work out which cities belong to which country.

In a game where 1 or 2 points of influence can have dramatic effects, this is bordering on the unforgivable.

And in a game as themeless as this, it’s bizarre they didn’t go with something truly imaginative.

Accessibility

Easy to grasp rules, sitting in a 6 page rule book place this squarely on the lower levels of complexity.

I watched a video, read the rules, and was good to go, with only a few occasions requiring a check of the book.

Conclusion

The setting is at least a little friendlier than the high fantasy orcs, halflings and minotaurs of Ethnos, but when compared to the simplicity of that modern classic, or the other Gateway heavyweight Ticket to Ride, Royals is just a bit too busy to receive unqualified enthusiasm.

A shame, as this could have been something special.

We’ll put this top of the list of games desperate for a reskin/retheme right next to Ethnos.

6
Go to the Domaine page

Domaine

4 out of 11 gamers thought this was helpful

A nifty little game from the designer of Catan, this is a much more punishing experience. It takes careful planning to make sure your Domaine isn’t chewed up, swallowed whole or engulfed by the other players, and defeat is very, very often snatched from the jaws of victory with a sneaky play that will leave your friends seething.

Place borders, recruit knights and negotiate with your fellow barons to protect your resources.

8
Go to the The Resistance: 3rd Edition page
27 out of 34 gamers thought this was helpful

A tremendous little game (you can comfortably get the entire game into a zip lock bag, which makes this game very suitable for travelling), it really comes into its own if played with family or friends, where perceptions of those familiar to us can be used against us.

Nothing like watching a grandmother, who has manged to convince her entire family that she’s clean as a whistle, jump for joy as the spies bring down the rebel group, much to the chagrin of the teenage grand kids.

Not many games can induce real belly laughs, but this game manages it comfortably.

9
Go to the HeroQuest page

HeroQuest

69 out of 111 gamers thought this was helpful

…and the reason I’m such a hopeless game fanatic into my thirties. Heroquest was, and still is, absolutely brilliant, and was my introduction to what gaming could be. Role selection, hand management, dungeon crawling, tough decisions, brilliant theme, it was doing all these things 20 years before it became fashionable.

Can be found for peanuts on ebay, and well worth picking up.

A true classic.

10
Go to the Blood Bowl page

Blood Bowl

95 out of 132 gamers thought this was helpful

One of the many, many strengths of this game is the community. You will struggle to find such a passionate, dedicated and enthusiastic fan base in all the gaming world. It is these fans who have refined and evolved this game into the absolute classic it is today.

Get a league going, with a good spread of teams, and there really are few experiences like it. Watch as rookies pull off outrageous moves, star players are crippled with injuries, coaches lose the plot, refs get bribed, players get mutations and blood is spilled everywhere.

Oh, and sometimes you score a touchdown.

Beautifully designed, with more character than is good for it.

9
Go to the Ticket to Ride page

Ticket to Ride

23 out of 51 gamers thought this was helpful

Such a simple, clean and easy to learn game, yet the original is still one of the best games in years. With expansions or without, this still presents an outstanding time to be had with all potential gamers, from young to old.

This game, along with Settlers of Catan, is how I get people into board gaming, but a sign of its strength of design is that it still gets played more than any other game.

Quite brilliant.

4
Go to the Carcassonne page

Carcassonne

52 out of 94 gamers thought this was helpful

This was the first game I bought in my current board game ‘life’, and opened a whole new world to me, but my interest in it has faded quite quickly.

To my inexperienced eyes it looked remarkable. No dice! Interesting little parts! Weird rules! No set up! This is incredible!

But as time wore on, and I started dabbling with other board games, it became easy to identify the games weaknesses.

If you play with more than 2 players, then the time between your turns can reach into minutes. Anything more than 1 minute of doing nothing but watch other people playing is unforgivable in my book, and thus Carcassone has been expelled to the back of the gaming cupboard.

But it will never be sold, as Carcassone truly is on of the best ‘gateway games’ out there.

4
Go to the Forbidden Island page

Forbidden Island

39 out of 144 gamers thought this was helpful

It’s difficult to get serious gamers involved in a game with such ludicrous place names, and despite my best efforts to inject some character into the game with some hammy voice acting, it’s too easy to slip into ‘game mode’, where instead of playing up to the scenario, the game mechanics are analaysed, and the quickest route to victory is deduced by studying loop holes in the rules.

A disappointing game that left everyone feeling flat.

Maybe better with kids, who will play the game while suspending their reality.

9
Go to the A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (2ed) page
53 out of 71 gamers thought this was helpful

But she hated this game. Too many times we had to stop to check rules, explain concepts and undo or redo actions. I’m not joking when I say the first turn in our 4 player game took 45 mins.

The steep learning curve is not for the faint hearted, but once you get into a really deep game, with players who know the rules, there’s few better games for atmosphere, theme and mechanics. The opportunities to really screw over your fellow man are almost limitless.

Brilliant game everyone should try once. Just get over that learning hump.

6
Go to the Ticket to Ride: Nederland page
10 out of 20 gamers thought this was helpful

tailed off quite quickly.

The initial turns are full of tough decisions, always a sign of a good game, and literally giving points to other players is a stroke of genius, but if you don’t get your destination tickets, or if someone gets lucky and gets 3 30+ points worth of destination tickets in their first hand, it’s difficult to see a way to victory.

A bit too much luck involved to be a great version.

9
Go to the The Settlers of Catan page
23 out of 50 gamers thought this was helpful

How do you get your friends and family as hooked on board games as you are? You pull out and play Settlers of Catan, and previously oft heard statements like “I don’t play board games”, “I don’t have time for this” and “German!?!?!” will become a thing of the past, as your Nan gleefully slams down enough Victory point cards to win the game, your Dad gets the road building bug and your daughter keeps slipping the robber onto your tiles.

Incredibly simple to learn, devilish to master, it is the game all others are measured by. A classic.

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