Majesty: For the Realm
Enter the Middle Ages and recruit your loyal subjects. In this land, whoever has the most gold wears the crown. (BoardGameGeek)
Designer: Marc Andre
Artist: Anne Heidsieck
Publisher: Z-Man Games
Category: Card Game, Medieval
Price: $34.99 Amazon
Majesty: For the Realm is a 2-4 player engine-building card game, from designer Marc Andre. Marc is recent designer to the hobby who has designed many popular games including Splendor, Barony, Cities of Splendor, Bonbons, and more.
Z-Man Games is a famed board games publisher, responsible for many popular titles. Some of these include the line of Pandemic games, Terra Mystica, A Feast for Odin, Le Havre, Agricola, and many more.
Majesty: For the Realm is only a bit mean, allowing players to hurt each others’ cards occasionally. For those sensitive to it, one can play a witch card that allows the controlling player to heal one injured card. The artwork and presentation of this includes a potion. In addition, players can hire brewers to serve beer to their kingdoms.
Majesty: For the Realm is a fast-paced card game that looks far more intimidating on paper than in practice.
Players are given eight location cards, including a brewery, castle, infirmary, and more. After revealing six character cards, players must do only one thing on their turn: choose a character card, then place it underneath the corresponding location card it matches. From here, that player activates the card, usually scores some points, reveals a replacement character card, and it’s the next player’s turn. This continues until each player has twelve character cards.
At the end of the game, players can grab bonuses for having a wide variety of characters in their kingdom. Another set of bonuses is handed out as players receive points for having the majority control of each area in their kingdom.
The player with the most points wins.
This game is a hoot. I’m naturally drawn to engine-building games, but usually this means longer titles like Manhattan Project: Energy Empire, or Terraforming Mars. Here, Majesty accomplishes an engaging engine-building focus, usually in just around twenty minutes. That’s right, you can get your engine-building fever in half an hour or less!
Let’s say I want the castle character. Unfortunately, it’s card three down the line. Luckily, I have five meeples, so if I want that castle card, I need to drop a meeple on each card leading up to it. I do this, lose two meeples, use the castle card, and because of the castle ability, gain five points and a meeple. On my next turn, I see another castle card, but in spot six. No problem. I spend five meeples and use the castle cards I’ve collected. Now that I have two castle cards, I score five points for each (ten), then grab a meeple for each (two). So I’ve replenished some of my meeples, and scored mad points for my effort. I’ll need to spend the next turn or two on cheaper alternatives (likely guards to defend against attacks), but if I can snag another castle or two, that’s mad points and cheap meeple production.
Of course to counter me, other players might simply rush barracks, which take the attack action. Unless a player can match the attack power with shields from his guards, he’ll have to flip his furthest to the left character card and place him in the infirmary. This card will be worth minus one point at the end of the game, but also doesn’t count toward set collection bonuses. This mechanic balances players who rush high point cards, and helps to keep a bit of “take-that” without overwhelming and ruining the game with it.
Other cards can grant table-wide bonuses, and each feels fairly thematic. A brewer will give a few points to players who control mill workers, and an innkeeper needs beer for his patrons, so he grants points to brewer controllers around the table.
Regardless of strategy, players are constantly picking up and exchanging points on each turn. One would think this a fiddly process of counting, but because of how points are valued and scoring chips are printed, it couldn’t be more exciting. I know this will sound egregiously boring, but everyone feels like a bank teller or bookkeeper as they exchange a stack of five 2 point chips for a 10 point chip. It’s so exciting because every action gives you points, and what’s more satisfying than stacking chips and progressing toward victory? Majesty does this process so well, and it helps that the scoring chips are fun to hold. The mini-game of exchanging chips is rejuvenating, and I suspect if there was a scoring track as substitute, I’d hate this game.
It’s challenging to teach Majesty to new players because each location does something different, and that’s hard to simplify for people. Fortunately, two or three turns into the game, and almost everyone at the table will feel like a pro. The iconography feels overwhelming and the rulebook looks a slog, but Majesty plays far too quickly to dismiss because of a perceived learning curve. It’s already become a common game to play in my home with both my wife and friends on game night.
The attention to quality is also evident. Scoring chips are satisfying to hold. The iconography feels a close friend at this point, and communicates its purpose quickly. I recently discovered the characters depicted on cards aren’t entirely uniform and are sometimes holding more shields, or wearing different hats. I love this small attention to detail. Each part of the design feels intentional and smart.
I’d normally say a card game at $35 is a travesty, but because of the quality and scoring chips, I understand the reasoning. Simply because it’s been an easy hit with my groups and it does engine-building and set collection so well, I think it’s worth the cost. It feels like the kind of game you can get a lot of plays out of, especially if you utilize the backsides of cards. These introduce enough variance and change the flow of the basic game. I’d love to see some expansions that add more ways to interact, player powers, or other cards.
I do think the game is best at four players. At two or three, you’ll remove a number of cards from the deck, which takes away the full experience. With four, you’ll include most, if not all, cards, meaning you can count on seeing every card you’d expect. This provides a better game and makes things more reliable.
Majesty: For the Realm is astounding. It’s the best card game I’ve played in awhile, and I look forward to it every time it comes out.
A review copy of Majesty: For the Realm was provided by Asmodee.
+ Engine-building is satisfying and at the fore front
+ Games play quickly, usually around 15 minutes
+ Stays focused and tactical through to the end
+ Strong artwork, components, and production quality
+ Give me expansions, please
- Feels lacking at every player count but four player
- Difficult to teach up front, but learns quickly