Escort your beloved Queen on a perilous mission across her wartorn country in this card-based game of collaborative story building.
The setup and rules of For the Queen fit in 19 points on a single card. And, additionally, on those 19 cards, players take turns reading aloud to each other at the start of the game.
The first cards go through the premise of the game: The land is at war and has been for a very long time. The Queen is going on a mission to broker an alliance. The player characters make up her retinue. And the kicker: “She chose you because she knows that you love her”.
You prepare the game itself by shuffling the 46 prompt cards and adding the “The Queen is under attack” card somewhere in the bottom half, depending on how long you want the game to be.
You can select one of the 14 Queen cards to represent your Queen if you like.
During play, players take turns drawing a prompt card and answering its question about their characters, particularly about their relationship to, opinion of, and past experiences with the Queen.
Other players can ask follow-up questions and make suggestions, and players can pass prompts they do not themselves want to answer, or exclude certain content from the game altogether.
The game ends when the “The Queen is under attack” card is drawn and every player has answered whether their character defends her.
Evocative Premise And Prompts
From the moment I opened the box and read the premise, I was hooked. I think it is so amazingly evocative. In just four sentences, you get some much to work with: The wartorn land, the journey, how every player character loves the Queen, and the fact that she knows (and uses) it. It’s very easy to build from, and I am immediately invested.
The prompt cards continue in the same vein. Each is specific enough to stay firmly within the theme and guide the creation of ideas, while also being open enough to accommodate multiple interpretations, as well as spark conversation. Some of my favourites include:
“There is a part of you that does not want peace in this land. Why are you attached to the war?”
“What promise did the Queen make to you before this journey? Do you think she’ll keep it?”
A lot of the prompts ask about a character’s relationship to the Queen, and I really like that they all leave room for you to choose for your character the nature of this relationship. It can be sexual or romantic, but it can also be a devoted friendship or a more parental affection.
What’s additionally interesting and, I would argue, the emotional core of the game, is that all the prompts also leave it open for you to decide whether the Queen truly loves your character, whether she is simply using them, or whether it is a bit of both.
This, of course, can vary wildly between characters and the game does a great job of facilitating this kind of dramatic irony where as you take turns answering prompts, the image of the Queen becomes increasingly more well-rounded and complicated. Which builds and sharpens until it culminates with each character’s choice to defend the Queen, or not.
I really like the way For the Queen structures the story you tell with it. Despite the few mechanics, or maybe exactly because of them, you end up with a fully developed, neatly concluded story with a beginning, middle, and end. All in the span of 30 to 90 minutes, including learning the rules.
Furthermore, I love the format of “simply” telling the story, exploring character backgrounds and motivations, what they have done and what they hope will happen, without playing individual scenes.
Don’t get me wrong, I love role playing games where I get to speak and act in (almost) real time as my character, but For the Queen is a welcome change of pace. Between the prompts and the collaborative nature, you are never left to act completely on the spot.
For this reason, I think For the Queen is especially well-suited for players who may want to get into role playing but who are intimidated by the thought of having to act in-character.
Art And Components
All of the cards in For the Queen are of good quality cardboard, and all of the cards used during the game only contain short sentences written in large font.
The queen cards are all beautifully illustrated in a variety of styles and depicting a diverse cast of potential queens. As with the prompt cards, these illustrations are very helpful in sparking ideas about the setting as well as the nature of the Queen.
My one issue with the game’s components is the box, which opens in a way that makes it hard to lift the game without the lid gliding off, dropping the contents or leaving them behind.
If you like the idea of a role playing game with a strong emotional core and the potential for intrigue, but you don’t mind playing out scenes, here are some further suggestions:
Star Crossed (which, like For the Queen, is created by Alex Roberts):
This is a role playing game for two players where you play as characters who really want to be together but who, for whatever reason, really really should not act on that desire. Star Crossed uses prompt cards to set up scenes, though these are purposely a good bit vaguer and more applicable to any setting than the ones in For the Queen.
This is a more standard role playing game with a GM and players. Here, each type of player character is built from a different internal conflict, which is used to drive the story and give the characters unique abilities and challenges. The game also has a strong emphasis on interpersonal relations and community.
I thoroughly enjoy playing For the Queen. I love the co-op aspect, even down to learning the rules together in minutes. I love how quick a game is and the satisfaction of creating a fully rounded story in one sitting, alongside your friends.
If the premise speaks to you and you like telling stories, even if you don’t know if you’ll like role playing as such, I encourage you to try this game out.