The year is 1648, and there’s unrest in the court. The nobles fight amongst themselves for power, and the political agreements of yesterday stand on shaky ground. Not even the king will be able to save them. The time is ripe for a political revolution, and you stand in the heart of the affair!
In Royals, players step into three eras of time in the European courts. Their purpose: use influence to put their own executives in place. Key cities in four major countries will fall prey to different political parties. However, power is tricky and fate is fickle – those who rise in power are doomed to fall. Only one player can be cunning enough to ensure their rise to the throne, and only time will determine their success…
Gameplay - Setup
Setup for this game is tremendously easy. Every detail is laid out on the board – where to put bonus markers, how much they’re worth, where your nobles are, etc. The box is well-organized and designed to keep small pieces secure for many replays to come (and it’s always nice when you don’t have to reorganize and bag all the pieces for a new game, isn’t it?).
Don’t let the quantity of pieces fool you – actual gameplay is deceptively simple, but the accompanying strategy can be complex. As it turns out, there’s some difficulty to taking over a country… who knew?
Every country has seven nobles that share power: the Marshal, Baron, Countess, Duke, Cardinal, Princess, and King. By spending cards that indicate their allegiance, players can “purchase” the nobles’ support for their own personal cause. In return, the nobles offer influence, something that will become very important later in the game.
Gameplay – Turns
Before allowing players to take over a region, the nobles need to see evidence of their support. Each one has a price: a particular number of cards bearing the coat of arms for their region. Once players collect enough to fulfill that noble’s request, they place a colored cube on the noble’s portrait, indicating that they have influence in that area, thus no other player may use that noble’s support.
However, this is the royal court, and mysterious accidents do happen. Should another player need that noble’s support, whether to gain extra points or secure their lead in that country, they can attempt an assassination. If they collect the required number of Country cards as well as a matching Intrigue coat of arms (used only for disposing problematic nobles), the assassination is complete. The deceased noble is sent to cathedral to be buried, and a new power begins to reign.
It wouldn’t be an accurate portrayal of the royal court if there weren’t secret ways to earn points. While the rewards for these bonuses are available to all players, they’re in limited supply, and only the truly sneaky will find a way to obtain them.
The first two are City and Country bonuses. For a City bonus, the first player to win over any noble in a particular city receives extra points for proactivity. Should they be so ambitious as to hold influence over nobles in all of one country’s major cities, they can also receive more points for their overall loyalty to the court.
The final bonuses are rewarded by the nobles themselves. When a player “claims” a noble by paying the required Country cards, they also place a marker of their own color onto the noble’s tile scoring marker. These are constantly tallied, and can either score during the game (one marker on each tile rewards the Noble House Marker) or at the end of the game (for the most influence of a particular noble).
Over three periods of time, players stealthily collect card sets to win over nobles in France, England, Spain, and Germany. By combining a bit of luck and strategy, they have the chance to influence everyone from Marshals to Kings; however, collecting support is difficult when everyone craves the same kind of power…