I’m a big fan of heavy theme. I love when the things I’m doing in a game feel like they’re supposed to be happening. However, every once in a while, I get the itch for a Euro game. Moving cubes around a board, thinking completely strategically, having low levels of luck. All of those things have their place. Today’s review is one of those games. It’s a little lighter on the Euro side, but still very fun.
Designer: Peter Hawes
Play Time: 60 minutes
Player Count: 2-5 Players
Royals is a game published by Arcane Wonders, where you are trying to influence different royals in different European countries. The board is divided into 4 different countries; Germany, England, Spain, and France. Each country has from 3 to 5 cities, and each city has 1 or 2 different royals that can be influenced, with there being 8 different categories of royals. On your turn you have 1 mandatory action: to draw cards, and an optional action: to influence a “royal.” The main deck of cards (country cards) simply has cards that come in 1 of 4 colors; red, green, blue, and yellow, and 3 of them are face up at the start of your turn. This is very reminiscent of Ticket to Ride. You get to pick 3 cards, from either the deck or the 3 face up, but the face up cards don’t refill mid turn. You can then spend the cards to claim a royal in a city. The other deck that you can draw from is the intrigue deck which has cards with 2 colors on them. You can only draw 1 intrigue card, in addition to 1 country card. These are used to “conquer” another player’s royal, to increase your overall influence in a country.
Intrigue cards on top, Country cards on bottom
Play continues around the table until the country deck runs out and you complete the “end of the era” scoring. This happens 3 times and then the game is finished. You score points many different ways. The first person to “claim” either royal in a city gets that city’s point token. If you claim at least 1 royal in all of the cities in a country, you claim a country’s point token. If you have the highest influence amongst all the players in a country at the end of an era, you get a point token. If you influence each of the different types of royals at least once you get a point token. Lastly, if at the end of the game you have influenced the most of a single type of royal, you get a point token. Most scoring opportunities are best if you complete the objective first, but the second and third players to complete certain objectives will occasionally score points as well.
Things I like:
- The board. For being a game with virtually no theme, the board is gorgeous. It’s the kind of board that if you were a super geek with waaaaaay too much money, you could hang on your game room wall.
- The arc of the game. I’ve played Royals with different player counts, and the country deck gets smaller with smaller group sizes. This helps to make each game feel similar with great pacing. The first era everyone is trying to get the city point tokens so things get bought up quickly. The second era is when people try to get the country point tokens. The third era is full of intrigue cards with people stealing their opponent’s royals, and influence, out from under them.
- Points, points, points. There are such a variety of ways to score points, that many different strategies can lead to victory. You can “specialize” in one country, or try for the “variety pack” and spread out, and still get lots of opportunities to score.
- Game play. Game play is so simple in this game. It can be taught very quickly. Distilled down, it translates to draw some cards, play some cards, get points. The rule book is quick and easy, and you can do a full teach of this game in roughly 5-10 minutes.
- Scoring in this game is blind. There isn’t a score track, you just hold onto your tokens face down and add them up at the end of the game. It provides good tension, because you never know exactly where you stand.
- Puzzle piece points. This is small, but if 2 people tie for the most influence of a certain type of royal, the token, which is a portrait, can be split into 2 pieces. It’s not a huge deal, but I love it.
Things I don’t like:
- Color overload. While the board is beautiful, it gets chaotic in a hurry. The 4 country colors are Red, Yellow, Green, and Blue. That leaves the 5 players colors to be something else, and they chose Orange, Purple, White, Grey, and Black. After the first era, the board is so full of cubes and other colors that it can be difficult to decipher.
- When you get done with a game of royals, you have a huge pile of different tokens that you have to add up. This is probably whiny of me considering its basic arithmetic, but each time I’ve played, we always have to add up 2 or 3 times, to make sure people actually have the scores they say they do. This is minor though. It would be easier to have a score track, but since I like that the game doesn’t have one, I’ll deal with a little extra adding. Maybe this also goes to show that I need to be more trusting of other people’s math skills…
I really like Royals. It’s not a super heavy game, and the theme doesn’t really play a big part in the gameplay, but it’s still fun none-the-less. It’s a game that’s easy to teach and easy to play, but still gives you good decisions to make.
GLG Rating: 7.5/10
Check it out on the Arcane Wonders website here.