Suleiman I of the Ottoman Empire, Augustus of Rome, and Victoria of the United Kingdom. These people were great monarchs who strove to make life better for their kingdoms and their people. In the new game Majesty: For the Realm from Z-Man Games you’ll attempt to elevate your kingdom’s status and join their ranks.
Majesty: For the Realm is a tableau building game in which you’ll work to build your best kingdom. Over the course of 12 rounds you’ll enlist an array of subjects including brewers, millers, innkeepers, and guards. Each of these people bring important skills to your realm and, more importantly, will earn you income that will make your kingdom the wealthiest in the land.
Two decks are shuffled and placed on top of each other to form the character deck which is then placed in the center of the table. There’s some awkwardness in the backwards wording of the instructions: certain cards are “set aside” based on player count. This is supposed to indicate the cards that are actually used in the game, with the rest returned to the box.
Turn over the first 6 cards from the deck and place them in a row between all players.
Each player receives a set of 8 two-sided location cards, and will lay them down in order based on the number in the bottom left corner. In your first few games it’s recommended that all players begin with side A, moving on to the more advanced and risky side B with experience. You can even mix and match the sides as long as every player uses the same setup.
Stack the money tokens off to the side.
Each player also receives a worker card and 5 meeples, with the remainder of the meeples being placed to the side. The player who has the worker card with the knight will start the game.
Turns in Majesty: For the Realm consist of selecting a single card from a display of 6 choices. The strategy is in which cards you select, and when. The frontmost character card in the central display (the worker furthest away from the deck) can be taken for free, while the rest of the character cards must be hired by spending one meeple per worker you skip.
If you select a card which already has meeples on it, then you take those meeples along with the card. When gaining meeples, fill up any empty spaces on your worker card, then place any remaining meeples to the side where they will each be worth 1 point at the end of your turn.
Place the selected character card underneath the matching location in your kingdom: miller cards go to the mill, innkeepers go to the inn, etc. If the selected character card features two characters then players indicate which side they want by placing that character face up in the appropriate location. Place the card then activate that location and generate points, additional meeples, or helpful bonus actions.
The Location Cards
Each location has unique abilities which will generate income for your kingdom, and in some cases income for your opponents. Clever timing will help to ensure that you receive the maximum bonus while your opponents receive as little as possible. Let’s take a quick look at the A side of the location cards in your kingdom.
Remember that location actions are triggered after placing the character card.
When placing a Miller, gain 2 coins for each card at that location. If there is one Miller card you gain two coins. If there are 3 Miller cards you gain 6 coins.
When placing a Brewer, gain two coins and 1 meeple for each card at that location.
All players with at least one Miller will receive 2 coins.
When placing a Witch, check to see if there are any characters in the Infirmary who were wounded by Knight attacks. If so return the top card in the Infirmary to its location. You do not trigger the location action when doing so.
Additionally gain 1 coin for every combination of Miller, Brewer, and Witch in your realm.
When placing a Guard, gain one point for every combination of Guard, Knight, and Innkeeper in your kingdom.
Guards can also protect you against attacks from Knights.
When placing a Knight, attack all other players. Any player with fewer Guard cards than you have Knight cards must take the leftmost character card in their kingdom and place it in the infirmary.
You will then receive 3 coins for each card in your Barracks.
When placing an Innkeeper, gain 4 coins for each card at that location.
All players with at least one Brewer will receive 2 coins.
When placing a Noble, gain 5 coins and 1 meeple for each card at that location.
Players will lose 1 coin for each character card in the Infirmary at the end of the game.
Ending the Game
The game ends when each player has placed a 12th card into their kingdom. In addition to the income you’ve gained throughout the game, Majesty offers 2 additional scoring opportunities.
Variety scoring – Count the number of locations where you have at least one citizen (but not the Infirmary!). Multiply that number by itself. This means that if you have citizens at 6 different locations, you’ll receive a 36 point bonus. After all, a diverse kingdom is happier, wealthier, and frankly just more interesting.
Majority scoring – The bottom right corner of each location card shows a number which indicates the value of that location. Whichever player has the most citizens at that location will gain that amount of coins. In the case of ties, all players receive the bonus.
The player with the most coins wins.
I’ll say it now, Majesty: For the Realm is one of my favorite releases of the last year. It has everything I’m looking for in a game: it’s easy to teach, the gameplay is clever and streamlined and the game takes around 45 minutes. It almost has a puzzly feel to it, but it’s not really something you can solve since you never know what cards will show up, and in what order. Plus, you never know just what your opponents are planning.
The character card selection mechanism is neat because it forces you to put a price on the value of a specific card. “Do I spend 4 meeples now to make sure I get that card, or do I wait for it to come back around and hope no one else has taken it by then?” You’re also forced to scramble for an alternate plan when the opponent to your right takes the very card you waited for. Thanks a lot Aunt Norma!
I also enjoy that players must balance the potential gain they’ll get from placing a Brewer or an Innkeeper vs the income that ALL other players may get.
Majesty has a great pedigree, coming from the same designer as Splendor, the wonderful engine building game from several years ago. It shows in the game play style, as well as the components. Not a game goes by where players aren’t fiddling with these money chips…they’re great! They’re smaller than the chips for Splendor, just a bit larger than an American quarter, but they’re so satisfying to fiddle with. And that’s good because you’ll constantly be picking up new ones, upgrading a stack for a higher denomination.
And that brings up a good point, the one single glaring flaw in the game. You’ll be getting a lot of points throughout the game, usually in increments of 1 or 2. But don’t bother looking for the value 5 coin because it doesn’t exist. I’m sure the designer/publisher had a good reason for leaving off that denomination, but in every game I’ve played of Majesty: For the Realm the players have been baffled by the absence.
The good thing is that while the lack of a 5 value coin is annoying, the rest of the game more than compensates for it. If you’re looking for a wonderful family game, look no further. If you want to introduce your non-gaming friends to a lightweight game that plays fast, this is your game. Finally, if you just like playing a fun game with great artwork and components, then go pick up Majesty: For the Realm. You won’t regret it!