27 April 2019

Board Game Review: Majesty: For the Realm

The cover art for Majesty: For the Realm. A queen stands in front of four other people; two look like warriors, one looks like a young peasant girl, and the last one looks like an old peasant woman. The queen is holding a fancy cushion on top of which sits a crown. These people are looking towards the viewer with fields in the background; windmills and other buildings can be seen in the distance.

I have been learning a lot of cool new games so far this year. One of those is Majesty: For the Realm. It's a quick but fun little game from Z-Man Games, designed by Marc André. The premise of this game is that the players are competing to claim the crown. Players must manage the subjects in their domains to amass more power than their rivals.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this game at first, but in the end, I found myself quite enjoying it. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, shall we? Let's look at the numbers for this box of fun:

Strategy and Randomness are rated from 0 to 6. A 0 means the rated aspect plays no part in determining the game's outcome; and a 6 means that it is the only factor that determines the game's outcome. Complexity is also rated from 0 to 6; a 0 means that it's so simple a six-year-old can play it, a 3 means any adult should have no trouble playing, and a 6 means that you'll need to refer to the rulebook frequently. Humour can be rated as 'None,' meaning the game is not meant to be funny, or it may have one or more of the following: Derivative (meaning the humour is based on an outside source, such as a game based on a comedy film), Implicit (meaning that the game's components are funny, such as humourous card text), or Inherent (meaning that the actions the players take are funny). Attractiveness has nine possible ratings. Ideal: the game is beautiful and makes game play easier. Pretty: The design is beautiful and neither eases nor impedes game play. Nice: The design is beautiful but makes game play harder than necessary. Useful: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but eases gameplay. Average: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Useless: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Utilitarian: The design is ugly, but eases gameplay. Ugly: The design is ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Worthless: The design is ugly, and makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Average Length of Game Play describes how long an average game will probably last, give or take. Gamer Profile Ratings measures how strongly a game will appeal to players based on their interest in one of four areas. These areas are measured as High, Medium, or Low. Strategy describes how much a game involves cognitive challenges, thinking and planning, and making sound decisions. Conflict describes how much direct hostile action there is between players, from destroying units to stealing resources. Social Manipulation describes how much bluffing, deceiving, and persuading there is between players. Fantasy describes how much a game immerses players in another world, another time.
Strategy: 4
Randomness: 3
Complexity: 1
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Pretty
Average Length of Game Play: 20 minutes
Gamer Profile Ratings:
  Strategy: Medium
  Conflict: Medium
  Social Manipulation: Low
  Fantasy: Medium

An Overview of Majesty: For the Kingdom

A game of Majesty: For the Realm in progress. The photo is taken from the point of view of one player, looking at his tableau. The location cards are laid out in front of him, with three millers, two brewers, two witches, two guards, and one knight under their respective location cards. A stack of yellow coin tokens sits nearby. Above the location cards, the worker card holds five meeples. The row of character cards is above that. In the background, the other player's tableau can be seen. A variety of coin tokens in various colours can be seen off to one side. A pile of white meeples can be seen on the other side.

The game consists of a number of cards, some meeples, and plastic coins in various denominations. Most of the cards are character cards. They represent the people working in your domain: millers, brewers, witches, guards, knights, innkeepers, and nobles. Some cards are double cards: they may be used as one of two different people. For example, some double cards can serve as either a guard or as a noble. These cards are shuffled into a deck in the middle of the play area. A row of six of these cards is dealt out next to the deck.

Each player receives cards to represent one of the buildings in their domain: a mill, a brewery, a cottage, a guardhouse, a barracks, an inn, a castle, and an infirmary. There are two sides to each building; players agree at the beginning of the game which side to use. The scoring is slightly different between side A and side B. Whichever side you decide to use, you arrange these buildings in a row in front of you.

Finally, you get a worker card, which has spaces for five meeples, and the meeples to go in those spaces.

A turn consists of taking one of the character cards from the display in the middle. You may take the first card in the row for free, but if you want to take one of the other cards, you must place a meeple on each card in front of it in the row. If there are any meeples on the card you choose, you add them to your supply (if this brings your total number of meeples above five, the extras are placed beside the worker card).

Once you've taken a character card, you place it below the corresponding building card in your tableau. Millers go under the mill, brewers below the brewery, witches go to the cottage, guards to the guardhouse, knights go to the barracks, innkeepers to the inn, and nobles to the castle. Then you take whatever action is listed on that building.

Most actions involve scoring points, and not always just for that building. For example, the cottage gives you two points for each miller, brewer, and witch in your tableau (on Side A, at least). Thus, if you have two millers, a brewer, and a witch already in your tableau and you take a turn to claim another witch from the row of character cards, you would earn ten points: four for the millers, two for the brewer, two for the witch you already had, and two for the witch you just gained.

Additionally, many locations have extra effects. If you claim a knight, for example, you get to attack the other players. Each player that has fewer guards than you have knights must take the character furthest to the left in their tableau—that is, a miller at the mill if there is one, a brewer at the brewery if there are no millers, a witch if there are no millers or brewers, and so on—and place it face down under the infirmary (so, for example, if I have three knights, Gina has three guards, and Sarah has two guards, Sarah must place her leftmost character in the infirmary. Gina has at least as many guards as I have knights, so she does not lose any characters in this way).

Some cards give you meeples instead of points, others give points to all players who meet a certain criterion (like the Brewery Side A which, when activated, gives two points to all players—including the active player—who have at least one brewer in their tableau). The cottage allows you to take a card from your infirmary and return it to your tableau. And Side B of the castle allows you to exchange meeples for gold or vice versa.

Winning Majesty: For the Realm

Play continues until all players have twelve character cards in their tableau (including the ones in their infirmary). At that point, you perform end game scoring. Some locations grant points at the game end. Then you total up the number of characters in your infirmary. You lose one point for each character in the infirmary (two points each, if using side B). Then count up how many of the other locations have at least one character. Square that number, and gain that many points (for example, if you had characters at five locations, 5 × 5 = 25, so you'd get 25 points; if all seven locations had characters, 7 × 7 = 49, so you'd get 49 points). Finally, each location has a majority point total. Whichever player has the most characters at that location gains that value (for instance, side A of the Inn has a majority bonus of 15, so whichever player has the most characters at the Inn gets fifteen points). If there's a tie, all tied players get the points.

Whoever has the most points wins.

Final Thoughts on Majesty: For the Realm

I was surprised by this game. The rules are fairly simple, yet they allow for an impressive strategic depth. It's easy enough to play with younger gamers, but deep enough to satisfy players of any age. My one complaint with this game is that the iconography can be a little confusing; many of the location cards use the plus symbol, which implies that you score for combinations of cards, when in fact, it grants points for any individual card of any of those types. I would have preferred that they use a different symbol, like a comma or a slash. Similarly, there's a passage in the rules where it explains the setup that uses the phrase 'set aside X cards.' That, to me, implies that the cards will not be used in the game. However, what they actually mean is that you should set aside cards to be used in the game. The cards that are not set aside are the ones removed from the game. This seems like awkward wording to me.

Anyway, that aside, I had fun learning the intricacies of gameplay, as well as experimenting with the B side of the location cards. But let's not forget the six characteristics of a good game:

  • It ends decisively.
  • It allows for upsets.
  • It's fun to lose.
  • It's relatively simple.
  • It has no player elimination.
  • It relies on player agency.
I love it when a game hits all six points!

So there you have it. I hope that you are able to decide if this is a game you'd like to try, based on my description. And if you don't, that's fine as well! But either way, I look forward to seeing you back here next week, and until then,

Game on!

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