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Reign of a Queen Ends
on August 26, 2014
My wife loves this game. Perhaps because she won every time she played until just recently. And who beat her? Me! I’ll give you her tips when I tell you what to do since I employed them to secure victory, and she tried something different. Let that be a lesson to you: never branch out. Never try anything new, or you will suffer.
This is a “drafting” game. I hesitate to tell you this since you might take your reading business elsewhere, but I only call it a drafting game because I’ve heard other’s call it that and they sounded real authoritative, so I believed them, and as I explain you’ll say, of course it’s a drafting game- you dolt. Anyway, this game gets me groaning at my own choices early in the game and I keep groaning throughout the game. But don’t get me wrong, I love playing the game and am thrilled when someone accepts my invite to play.
You get 7 small double-sided gorgeously illustrated boards that you use to track completion of your wonder. There are three decks of similarly illustrated cards (one for each age.) You’ve got to fish out the cards that aren’t needed for the number of players fewer than sever that are playing. At the beginning of each age you deal out all the cards. Each person selects a card from their hand to play then passes their hand to their neighbor. You keep selecting (I mean, drafting) one from a new hand each round until there are only two left in the hand and the last one get discarded. Do this twice again and the game is over.
There’s three things you can do with the drafted card:
Keep the card for yourself- if you can pay the cost- some are free- you play the card in front of you- these usually help you score points one way or another.
Discard it for money- an especially good idea if you are poor and it’s costing you and the card you discard is one your neighbor would like
Build a stage of your wonder- that small board in front of you has spaces for cards to slide under them that represent a stage of your wonder you’ve completed. The cost you have to pay is on the board (ignore the cost on the card- try to use one your neighbor would like.)
Speaking of neighbors, it matters who you are next to. If you don’t have a resource needed to pay the cost of a card? If you have some money, you can buy from your neighbor- and buying their doesn’t keep them from using it themselves- they want you to use there because they get your money. But you can only buy from your immediate neighbors (player on either side of you.)
Also, some of the cards give you military presence. I use that word because you never march troops anywhere, but you get points at the end of each age if your military is more intimidating than your neighbors. So the war-monger across the table that doesn’t matter so long as you have buffer states between you. While this strategy wasn’t sound for France in World War II, it is in this game… I think that’s because the maker is French.
I hate to tell you what to do but…
My wife pointed out to- and I always listen when she points things out- that resources are available in the first two ages- these are what you use to pay the cost of cards or phases of your wonder (Incidentally, I’ve never seen my wife develop any stage of her wonder.) You will kick yourself if you don’t have resources to buy things late in the second and throughout third age.
The Third age could profitably be focused on getting cards that get you the most points. It’s something you can do in your head. “Hrmmm… this one is worth 6 to me and that one is worth 9.” My downfall is I think , “Yeah but, even though this one is only worth one, if I got another it would be worth 7!” Think Kyle, two cards to get 7 points, one card to get 6, maybe that second card will also get you 6. “ Oh… yeah, good call.”
Personally, I don’t get pulled into the theme of cracking the whips that would be required to erect my wonder, despite the eye-candy artwork. I don’t even get pulled into the idea that I’m making a barracks or a laboratory, all I’m concerned about is the count of symbols at the top of the card. I’m very concerned about the symbols.
This game the score isn’t tracked through the game, though you could get a good idea about someone’s score by looking over their board long enough- and be annoying to the rest of the players because it takes some doing. All that to say that you don’t have an exact idea of who is winning throughout the game. You know your neighbor is a war-monger, but you know your scientific cards can answer the points they are racking up if only you could get one more tablet! All that to say, My wife, who nearly always wins, never felt like she was going to until everything was counted up.
Also curious about the game is resource management as it relates to balance. While it would sure be nice to have enough resources to build some of the buildings in the last age, most are tremendously costly and you can make up for your national economies grand deficiencies not only by buying from your neighbor, but there are free upgrade paths as well. Say you get a altar in the first age, you can get the temple in the second age for free! Each card tells you what cards shortcut the cost of it, and what costs it will shortcut for you in the future.
Interaction is medium. I say that because I don’t think the “Everyone chosen a card?” counts, but maybe I need to think of introverts taking baby steps. Towards the end of each age- leading up to the military comparison- accusations of war mongering escalate. But I do more talking to myself and occasional barb to the person next to me taking the cards I wanted. Sometimes I tell someone to use a science card my wife wants before they pass her the hand, but I face swift retribution.
Medium. I say that because of the multiple ways of scoring points. Until you finish and score a game it could be difficult to conceptualize how your choices will affect the score at the end. These leads to me lamenting, “Ooooh, I see that I could have won the game. How could I have been so careless?” To which my wife compassionately responds, “Hindsight is always twenty/twenty.”
Downtime is nominal because everyone takes turns at the same time. The downtime happens when the person you’d never take to Baskin Robins can’t choose between the 8 to 2 cards in his/her hand. I guess you deserve a little down time if you invite them to play this game with you. Speaking of baby steps, the indecisive will never get better if they don’t practice, so if you invite them, my hats off to you, but in the long run, the clerk as Baskin Robbins may thank you. Otherwise, it’s a very fast moving game. I have watched it be very difficult for someone with a 6 year old try to “help” them play. That was brutal. And don’t be passing a partial hand even though you know you don’t want to choose those cards. Talk about a mess to try to straighten out.
What’s not to Like?
I’m a prude. I confess. And I took a permanent marker to a couple of the cards. There was some of that going on in the Expansion too. But otherwise, I really like this game.
I have not tried to break this out for my kids. I want to keep the cards nice. I have been training them with other card games though. My little two year old now waits for the dealer to be done before she picks up her hand, but I digress. I did take this on vacation with me and was playing in the hotel lobby and a complete stranger asked if they could play. Something about the game caught their eye, and who can blame them?
One other thought
It’s taken me some time to decide why I’m so bad at this game. No, it can’t be because so many of my opponents are superior to me, it just can’t! I think it has to do with not being able to see the whole picture. That is to say, I do very well playing Puerto Rico because I can see all the available options for each player and can guess what I would do if I were in their shoes and can make plans accordingly. In this game, I see only one hand at a time. I can’t see one of my neighbor’s hand and know, oh, they are going to get that military card. Or, maybe this game I’ll let the science cards go since so many are going to ge gobbled up before I ever see them. This is not a complaint, just an observation of how the mechanics work.