For me, the cover of Royals is incredibly off putting. Quite simply, it looks dull. However, this is an excellent area control gateway game and one that, in my opinion, has been slightly overlooked – despite being in the Dice Tower essentials range.
Set-up is simple as the majority of it is placing markers on their spots on the board – all of which are very obvious.
- First, each player chooses their colour and takes all of the wooden nobles of that colour.
- Then, the markers are placed to match the shape, colour, and number on each space on the game board.
- Next, place the two parts of each rectangular Title scoring markers by the board in ascending order.
- Then, you need to remove country cards depending on the number of players, shuffling the rest and putting them face down next to the board, before turning over the top three.
- Finally, shuffle the intrigue cards and put them next to the board.
The aim in Royals (designed by Peter Hawes) is to gain as many victory points as possible over three rounds by using country cards to place nobles around the board. Victory points are awarded to those who have the most influence – those who control the various areas.
Every turn involves just three stages: the draw card phase, the play cards phase and the end of turn phase, although you don’t have to do all of these phases.
Draw Card Phase
In this phase, you have two choices – draw three country cards or one country card and one intrigue card. You can draw country cards from the face down pile and/or the face-up pile. At the end of your turn, you must not have more than 12 country cards and four intrigue cards.
Play Card Phase
In this phase, which is not compulsory, you play country cards to place a wooden noble on a vacant Noble portrait in any city. If you want to wait and try and build up the number of country cards in your hand, you can simply skip the play card phase. To do this you play the number of country cards indicated on the left of the portrait and place a wooden noble on. Each Noble also has a portrait at the side of the board. When you have placed your noble on the board, you also place one on the noble’s portrait at the side of the board.
As well as placing nobles on empty spaces, you can also take over spots that other players occupy. To do this, you simply play an intrigue card for that noble’s country (or any two random intrigue cards) and then play the number of country cards required.
End of Round Phase
Refill any cards that have been taken and ensure that you haven’t gone over the hand limits.
Royals has three “Periods”. At the end of each Period, victory points are awarded to the two most influential players in each of the four Countries.
There are also three types of bonuses that you can earn:
- City bonuses – For the player who is the first to claim a noble in that city.
- Country bonuses – If you have at least one noble in each country.
- Noble house bonus – If you have noble on every title.
Ending the Game
The game ends after the third period and titles are scored and added to your victory points. The person with the most victory points is the winner.
Final Thoughts on Royals
Despite the box being underwhelming, every time I have played this game, the groups that I have played it with have really enjoyed it. Royals is a very easy game to play and teach, and this allows those who are less familiar with board games to quickly understand what they need to do.
The various strategies are also very easy to pick up and I really like the fact that there are many ways that you can be triumphant. As someone who likes player interaction, I focused on trying to take over others previously claimed lands. However, one of my friends, who really doesn’t enjoy confrontation, stuck to trying to have a noble in every country. Additionally, another friend just tried to dominate one country. All of us ended with incredibly close scores.
The pieces are of a good quality, the artwork is excellent and the materials used are robust. In terms of replay-ability, I have played Royals many times and am still really enjoying it. If you stick to the same tactic every time, games can feel quite similar, but you are also unlikely to win if you don’t adapt to what the other players are doing. The theme is forgettable but works and when the gameplay is so fun, it is easy to see past.
Overall, I really enjoyed this game and would highly recommend this to both experienced gamers and people who are new to the hobby.