Majesty for the Realm is a card drafting game from designer Marc Andre, creator or Splendor. In this game you control a medieval realm, and in order for your realm to succeed you need to recruit the good townspeople and use their skills to gain the most amount of wealth and win the game. While I try not to judge a game by its cover, I will admit that this game was not something I was desperate to play based on the box. A generic feeling medieval theme was not selling me initially, despite the draw of playing a game designed by the creator of Splendor.
To win Majesty for the Realm you need to become the wealthiest ruler of the kingdom, to do this you will need to populate your realm with with millers, nobles, witches and more. On your turn you get to recruit them from the character track in the middle of the table. The character card closest to the deck is free to purchase but if you choose to get any of the other cards, you need to pay using the worker meeples as currency. As you pay for cards the meeples remain on the card track, and offer extra points to other players who might choose them.
The locations are activated as soon as a character is placed on it and these abilities vary from straight up victory points or gaining more meeples (which can be exchanged for points). At the end of the game there are points for having the most of the same character as well as extra points for variety.
Knight cards allow you to attack all the other players, providing their realm is not protected through guards in the guard tower. When you are attacked and have no defense one of your characters has to be moved to the infirmary and can only be brought back by the witch. Cards in your infirmary at the end of the game score negative points.
Some of the more powerful character cards also benefit the other players, for example placing a brewer in your brewery will gain you two points and a meeple for each brewer, however all players including yourself gain two points if they have a miller. The game ends when each player has 12 cards in their realm and players add up their chips. Then an final scoring happens, where you get extra points for variety as well as having the most of a certain character.
Majesty for the Realm is a quick game with more depth than it may first appear in early games. All the building cards have a side B, which is not necessarily a more difficult side but more of a way to keep the game fresh. As you can play with any combination of the sides, and they offer a vastly different way of gaining victory points so having different combinations keeps you on your toes, instead of sticking with the same strategy to win.
I am a big fan of any kind of card drafting in a game, its probably one of my favourite mechanics. Adding currency to card drafting makes it interesting, as you can end up with high points by taking the cards others didn't want. One strange element of Majesty is how you actually use the pieces. The worker meeples - typically used for placement or actions in most games - are actually the currency in the game, and then actual coined currency acts as victory points. Thematically paying for characters with people seems very strange after many years and many games using meeples as player pieces, not resources.
As for those victory point chips they seem a little redundant. They are perfectly good chips, quality wise, however it feels like the scoring in this game could have been just as easily done with a score tracker. The quick flow of the game is disrupted by counting up victory point tokens, and making change for them, as frustratingly there are no five value tokens! In Splendor, these chips feel integrated into the game, enhancing the experience. Here, they seem shoehorned in.
Majesty a healthy mix of player interaction. It’s not a full on battle every turn, but you need to keep a watchful eye on the other players. Relax a bit too much into your own ruling, it’s so easy for the other players to massacre your workers with their Knights, so you need to be thinking about defense as well as the optimal strategy.
In one of our games, I was happily collecting a good selection of characters hoping for some great end of game points for variety, then unbeknownst to me until it was happening, both the other people I was playing with acquired Knights. Having no guards, I lost two characters immediately to the infirmary. Characters in the infirmary can be revived, but this costs precious actions and being able to afford the right card at the right moment.
It’s also quickly apparant that the less agressive actions of other players is important, as you’ll often get victory points or bonus actions on another players turn, a little like the dice rolling mechanic in games like Machi Koro. It’s a simple enough game, and with clear enough visuals, that it’s possible to have a good idea of what other players might be trying to achieve and react by taking cards they might want or using actions that won’t benefit them.
The end of game scoring can make a large impact in your points at the end of the game. You’ll get points for variety as well as having the most people in each of your towns locations. You also lose points for people in your infirmary. These are by no means small rewards, and can easily swing a game. We found in our games that they worked well, keeping people from focusing on a single strategy.
The design Majesty is simple but visually pleasant to look at, with lots of pastel colours. All the cards have clear and concise iconography so once we had read the rules the first time we were able to play the game without the manual. The art itself is ‘alright’, it’s about as generic medieval fantasy as you can get, and with this being such a common theme in board games it really does nothing to stand out.
Majesty for the Realm is a good quality card drafting game which plays in less than twenty minutes. In that twenty minutes you will find enough strategy to keep seasoned gamers happy, but not so much that newbies are put off before starting the game. The inclusion of tokens to track points is a strange one, though the game is reasonably good value despite the extra components.