God Save The Queen!
On 21 April 2021, Queen Elizabeth II turns 95. Although this isn’t her official birthday – April showers being too much of a damp-hat risk for one’s celebratory tea party! – it is her actual birthday. So we thought, what better way to mark the occasion than by playing some board games fit for a Queen?
It is a poorly kept secret that there are no Queensbury Rules in force when it comes to playing board gaming at Buckingham Palace. In fact, Monopoly has been banned by Her Royal Highness because, as Prince Andrew once let slip, “it gets too vicious”!
I don’t know about you, but imagining table flipping outrage as one does not pass go and one does not collect £200 has definitely elevated our first family to a higher level in my estimations - we are most definitely amused!
So, whether you are looking for a royal rumble or a monarchic mechanism to help celebrate her Highness’ birthday, here are 5 games that we think are fit for a Queen!
Ah, the Queen. Beneath that colour-coordinated hat and coat ensemble trundles the indefatigable Granny of Britain and several other landmasses. But as we all know, that smiling maternal exterior hides the heart of a ruthless, power-crazed megalomaniac. Set the corgis to kill, sharpen your crown and ready your handbag of dirty tricks. This is Royals - a game of influence, area control, and backstabbing intrigue in 17th century Europe.
Royals is a gateway game using the simple card play of Ticket to Ride to drive a light battle for area control. The attractive map consists of cities in Britain, Spain, pre-Germany and France. On your turn, you draw cards and play cards. Playing the right number and type of cards lets you place a cube and gain influence over a particular Noble in a city. Play the right number of France cards for example, and you win the ear of the French Duke of Normandy in the form of influence points. You score in many ways and across multiple eras. Gain one-time rewards for being first into a city, first in all cities in a country, and first to have influence over every type of Noble. And every time the deck is exhausted, entire countries are scored for first and second place in total influence.
As the map in Royals fills, the game shifts gear. As well as country cards, you can now start using special intrigue cards to topple other players’ cubes and regain control of critical cities. Royals is a great gateway game to introduce new gamers to the genre of area control. It is simple to teach, quick to play, and just interactive enough to be great fun without being brutal. Topped off with the thematic artwork of Michael Menzel, Royals is a fitting celebration of HRH’s birthday. I was of course only joking about the megalomania. She’s lovely. Just don’t cross her. Happy Birthday Ma’am.
Hooray hooray, it’s Queenie’s Birthday today! I still get a bit giddy when I see the Queen at the races or going into Holyrood. Just imagine having so much power and money, honestly, it would all go straight to my head.
For my selection, I wanted a game fit for a queen but which also features a queen. Not our actual Queen mind. Playing that would be like QE2 handling cash with her face on! I imagine she doesn’t need to deal in 5ps much.
So, what game is fit for a queen? One with amazing artwork and top-notch components. It also has a Queen card in it, and a King, and a Palace. It even has a Barge Toad (not very royal). For me, the game most fitting to gift our Queen for her birthday has to be Everdell. This is a worker placement and tableau-building game that has you collecting resources to pay for cards that you play into your personal city.
Your city is almost engine-like in the way it will get you more cards, let you play cards for free or reduced resources, get you resources and points and offer you new worker placement spots. This is the beauty of Everdell you see; the ramp-up. The power you feel over what you manage to do in the last round vs. the first round where usually you feel like you achieved naff all.
I reckon Everdell is fit for a Queen. Owing to its high-quality feel and the power you feel when you win the race. Everdell’s base game is definitely enough for you to play over and over and not get bored. If you want to ramp it up, there are a plethora of expansions (Spirecrest, Pearlbrook and Bellfaire currently with two more on the way in 2022) which are all great and add more to the game without taking anything away.
“Money, money, money”. Yes, the Queen (actual, not dancing, although that could be funny!) has her head on everything from pennies to nifty fifty pound notes. But what good is coinage if you can’t build a realm full of impressive towers to keep her happy, or even bribe her dragon? Yup, Khaleesi isn’t the only queen who has a fire-breather under her command!
Well, fear not, for in Queendomino you can do all of those things! Designed by Bruno Cathala and published by Coiledspring Games, this is a clever territory building, tile-laying game which has taken the core element of its simpler courtly cousin, Kingdomino, and raised the sovereign stakes.
In Queendomino, you use familiar domino-style tiles to develop your Queendoms. This game includes an engine building element. This is where collecting coins, knights, and towers, as you go along, pays off. This is both in the game and at end-game scoring time. Double whammy on the royal rewards! With colourful artwork from Cyril Bouquet , strategic play is king (or Queen!).
And if this sounds like it could be right up your royal street, the empressive enjoyment doesn’t have to stop here! For this queen is a game gal and so has bestowed upon her most loyal of subjects the ability to combine her lands with that of her Kingly compadre – meaning that Queendomino and Kingdomino, although standalone games, can be combined to form one massive game. Not only that but both games can be extended further using the Age of Giants expansion. Some may find Queendomino is busy enough already, but it does offer a toptastic tower, more scoring tiles, and another player into the majestic mix. Oh, and not forgetting the giants themselves!
Sleeping Queens is a great family game; an early intro into games for your youngest which is bound to be a sure-fire hit. Gamewright produces fantastic games for the younger gamer and I, perhaps controversially, rate them above Haba in this regard. I have never had a dud: each one has delighted, combining engaging theme and thoughtful rules as well as strong production values.
Sleeping Queens is a card collection game. You are aiming to be the first to accrue either 4 or 5 queens depending on player count or 40-50 points which could mean fewer but higher value queens. Playing the game involves laying down a card or cards from your hand. Number cards are useless and need to be cycled as quickly as possible. They can be played singly, as pairs, or as three forming an addition sum. The special cards may get you a queen from the face down array of 12, allow you to steal a queen from an opponent, force a queen to be discarded, or provide a random queen to you or another player. There are also defence cards from the various ‘take thats’.
In our house, we all like it very much. It plays quickly and it has a just the right amount of low-stakes ‘gotchas’, while the defence cards to counter the dirty tricks are welcome. The numeracy part can be scaled up or down (and house ruled) depending on player ages. Plus the art and design are charming and engaging: your children will definitely end up picking their favourite queens, aiming to add them to their array regardless of their value.
Sleeping Queens plays from 2 – 5 and roughly in about 15 minutes. Needless to say, it gets played back to back a lot and is always a winner when it comes to the table.
Hive is one of the earliest games to enter my collection. It's still one that I pull out fairly regularly. It is a great little abstract game all about bugs and creepy crawlies. The aim of the game is to try and protect your queen bee while trying to surround your opponents’.
You’ve got a small menagerie of insects, each of them able to move in different ways. But what is interesting about Hive is that there is no board. The pieces themselves form the play area. This gives the game a really dynamic feel, almost like the insects are crawling over each other in a hive.
The game offers a surprising amount of depth considering how few pieces there are in the box, (or bag depending on which version you have). I’m not going to say this is as deep as something like chess, but it does have a 250-page strategy guide written by a former grand master. Not even Twilight Imperium can boast that!
As much as the state of the game can change, you really need to keep an eye on your queen. A few clever plays can put your queen in a situation where it becomes pinned and unable to escape. You almost need to partly pen in your own pieces just to make sure you can craft an escape when the time comes. But a clever opponent may see this coming and will work to stop you.
Hive is one of my favourite abstract strategy games. It is quick, deep and can be played almost anywhere. The link to our Queen may be stretching things a little, but I’ll happily big up those little bugs any chance I get! God Save The Queen (Bee!)