Publisher: Z-Man/Hans Im Gluck
Designer: Marc Andre
Duration: 20-30 min
Calling all Kings and Queens! The Realm needs a new leader: will it be you? Will you lead a hardworking group of labourers for your kingdom, or will you gather knights and assert your dominance over your competitors? Will you enlist the best citizens before your opponent can entice them? Competition is tough, and you only have so much space in your realm…
Majesty is the latest game from Marc André, who designed one of my favourite games of all time, Splendor. Both games are similar, in that you are collecting cards and there are chips involved, but also very different in that the game will end after a set number of rounds, and you score based on total victory points instead of when one person reaches a certain score. Splendor is clearly a amazing game (also made my Top 5 Spiel des Jahres Runners-up (that should have won) ), and Majesty also has a lot to live up to. How does it stack up to a legend? Let’s find out!
What’s in the Box?
Inside the box you will find 32 location cards (8 per player), 60 Character cards, 4 worker cards (1 per player), 30 white meeples… and 70 custom poker chips. Yes… you read that right. There are a lot of chips, and they’re awesome. While not as big as the Splendor chips, they are colourful and so awesome!
The art of this game is really well done, and the location cards are well done and when you put them together, they make a nice panorama of your kingdom. The production quality is high, the insert is fits everything, and while it seems oversized, I feel it left room for future expansions (here’s hoping!). Everything about this game feels great.
So how do you play?
To begin the game, everyone will get their location cards, and you will choose which side to play (more on that later). Put them in front of you in number order. Then, take as many wither cards as there are players and shuffle them, and hand one to each player face down. Note that one worker card has a knight on it: make sure that card is included! Players flip their worker cards face up, and the player with the knight is first player. Each player then takes 5 meeples and puts them on each empty space on their worker card.
Sort all the chips by value, and then take the character cards and split them by tier (tier 1 are green, and tier 2 are red) shuffle all the tier 2 cards and place them in a pile. Next, take tier one cards and shuffle them, and add 6 cards on top of the tier 2 for 2 players, 14 for 3 players and 26 for 4 players. Then draw the top 6 cards of the deck and place them from left to right, with the leftmost card being the front card and rightmost card being the back. Now what are you waiting for? Let’s play!
On your turn, you will choose one of the face up characters and place them in your kingdom below their respective cards (i.e. the miller goes in the mill, the brewer in the brewery, they are all matched by colours and symbols). The front card is always free to take. To take the next card, you must place a worker on the front card and then you can take the next free card, and so on. For example, if you wanted to take the 4th card in the row, you must place a worker on the first 3 cards and then you can take the 4th card, and place it in your kingdom. Slide the remaining cards and draw a new card to fill the back of the row. But what do those cards do? Let’s look at an overview (we will be describing the A side cards here)
- Millers go to the mill, and you will score 2 points immediately for each miller. So if you have 3 millers and add another, your total will be 4 and you score 8 points.
- Brewers go to the brewery, and you will score 2 points plus 1 worker meeple for each brewer you have. Then, whichever player has at least one miller (including yourself) gets 2 points. So if you have 2 brewers and a miller, you get 6 points plus 2 meeples
- Witches go to the cottage, and you will score 2 points for each witch, brewer and miller you have. You will also get to heal the top card from your infirmary, and place it before you score (so if you heal a miller, you count him in scoring that round… more in the infirmary later)
- Guards go in the guardhouse, and score you 2 points per Guard, Knight and Innkeeper. They also protect you against knight attacks… more on that when we talk about knights…
- … which is right now! Knights go in the barracks, and score you 3 points per knight. They also attack every opponent… which means that every opponent that has less guards then you have knights must take their leftmost character and place it face down in the infirmary. So if you play your 3rd knight, and your opponent has 2 or less they will place a character in the infirmary. However, if they had the same number of guards or more as you have knights, they repel the attack and nothing happens.
- Innkeepers go in the inn, and you will get 4 points per innkeeper you have, and then every player with at least one brewer (including yourself) gets 3 points.
- Nobels go to the castle, and they score 5 points and give you one meeple per noble you have
- The infirmary is where attacked characters go… and where they come from when you play a witch!
When you play a character card, you score it and take chips with the value scored immediately, also taking chips if someone plays a card that gives all players points if they have certain cards. One more thing about taking cards… when you take a card and there are workers on it, take the workers and place them on your worker card. You can never have more than 5 workers; if you do, discard them and you will get one point per discarded worker, taking chip values for it immediately. Some character cards are also have 2 different characters on it: when you take that card choose which character you want and place it in its respective area. Important note: if that character ever goes to the infirmary and they are healed, you can choose which one you want to play again.
The game will continue until everyone has played 12 characters in their kingdom, and then we will have final scoring. Each location card has a number in a circle on its bottom right hand corner. Whoever has majority for those cards (example, whoever has the most millers for the mill card) will get those points (taken immediately in chips). If you tie for first, all tied players still get full points. Then, each player counts their cards in the infirmary (if they weren’t healed) and loses 1 point per face-down card. Last, you will score for variety. There are 7 different types of characters: for each location where you have at least one (not counting the infirmary), you will multiply that number by itself (for example, if you have just millers, brewers, knights and innkeepers, you have 4 different cards and you will multiply 4×4, which gives you 16 points). The move variety you have, the more you will get (getting one of each gives you 7 cards, which will net you 49 points!).
Now tally up all your chips, and whoever has the most points claims the crown and wins the game!
Now as I mentioned, the location cards have a B side, and while the colours and names are the same, they have different effects and totally change the game. I won’t go into detail about them, but they totally change how you score characters. If you choose to use them, everyone must use the B cards, and you can also mix A and B cards for your kingdom, but all players must have the same card in their kingdoms. This creates a lot of variety in scoring and gameplay.
Is it any good?
Splendor is one of my favourite games, so the expectations were pretty for Majesty. And truth be told, Majesty was not what I was expecting.. in a good way. I was really blown away at how interactive the game is. Not only do some of your actions provide other player points, the way the knights and the guards work is really an awesome mechanic. It makes you think of taking cards, like Guards to protect you, or Witches to heal, instead of the best card available so you don’t lose points at the end.
The card drafting is also awesome. Using the meeples as currency to get better cards, to saving them for later is another great mechanic. Using them also leaves them for other players to take, and sometimes you’ll want to take a weaker card just to get the meeples on it. The dual character cards are also awesome, and can make them way more valuable.
The components are awesome, with so many chips and nice high quality cards. The fact that the location cards are dual sided really add to the variability in gameplay. The B side is definitely more advanced, and recommended once you play the A side a few times. Mixing the A & B cards can create some interesting combinations.
However, Majesty is not it’s best at 2 players. While Splendor shines at that player count, due to how interactive Majesty is, it feels like you’re just going back and forth with the attack and defend cards. While it still plays well, it loses some of its best strengths at that player count. And like Splendor… the theme is totally pasted on. It could have really been about anything… and while the mechanics are solid, really wish the theme had been integrated a little more.
So where does Majesty sit against a game like Splendor? At the higher player counts, it really shines and I actually enjoy it more. But when it’s only 2 players, Splendor still can’t be beat. That being all said, it’s a solid game and a worthy follow up, even surpassing it at some points. If you haven’t tried it, you owe it to yourself to find 3 other players and play it. Marc Andre has struck gold again, and Majesty truly stands in the royalty of gaming.
- Surprisingly interactive gameplay
- Card drafting system is awesome
- High replayability with the 2 sided cards
- So many chips… and the quality and art is awesome
- Theme is pasted on… again.
- Good, but not great with 2 players