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Monarch Review


Quick Look: Monarch


Designer: Mary Flanagan
Artist: Kate Adams
Publisher: Resonym Games
Year Published: 2015
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 12+
Playing Time: 45 min

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

Review:

tl;dr: Tableau building with the most striking art I've come across yet. Competitive, with very little interaction to fit the theme perfectly.



Getting to the Game: Of the twelve land boards in the game, shuffle and deal out nine face-down. Flip them over to form a 3x3 grid. Shuffle the deck of cards and deal out five face-up near the lands. Place the five banners near the lands as well, and give each player five food and five gold. Long live the Queen.



You and your sisters will prove yourselves to the Queen Mother over several rounds, determining who is most fit to rule your collective kingdom. You can choose to either tax your villages and gain gold, or harvest the farms for food stores. Use the acquired gold and food to purchase upgrades to your kingdom, and courtiers that contribute the maximum amount of crowns for yourself. When a sister's court is full of seven cards, the game ends, so choose wisely--the very future of your kingdom is at stake.

Playing the Game: The first thing that I absolutely love about Monarch is that from the ground up, this is a game designed by, created by, and about women. The designer and lead artist are both women, and you and your fellow players are princesses vying for control of your mother's kingdom. Very rare is a game fully embracing the lesser-represented 51% of the world's population, and I'm here for this one. 

Getting to the actual game, the gameplay is simple and quick, with some very tactical choices to be made throughout. Player interaction is low, but incredibly thematic: at the end of the day, you are sisters, after all, and while one of you will become queen, the rest still have to live in the castle together. So, while you can hinder your sisters' plans by sending them unwanted guests in the form of boorish uncles, useless emissaries, and jealous cousins, you're not going to be able to sabotage their courts directly or even destroy or downgrade your kingdom. The fact that the game still manages to not only feel balanced, but also fun with this lack of being able to overtly destroy your sisters' plans, is a testament to just how much thought and obvious attention was paid while designing.

The other brilliant design choice in play here are the moon cards. Sprinkled throughout the deck are cards that, when revealed, activate immediately and often force all of the sisters to work together to achieve a goal. This might be something like a combined three food and three gold need to be paid or else each sister has to lose a court card. Or, if all the sisters contribute a total of four food, each receives seven gold. It's these opportunities for each of the players to show their greed or negotiation skills where the game finds just a moment of pettiness. Will I refuse to contribute to this event because it will end up hurting one of my sisters more than me? Will I contribute the whole amount myself because I desperately need that gold and neither of my sisters cares? Or, will we all come together in the spirit of harmony and love, and contribute equally for the common good. All three situations may very well happen in a single game, and each one tells a very interesting story. 



If you manage to secure two cards of the same type, you can add that type's banner to your side, contributing bonuses as well as an ongoing ability. You only choose one banner to fly, however, so make sure it's the one you want. There's a certain pain involved when you opt for the banner of Wisdom early in the game, and you never see another wisdom card for sale because your sisters keep clearing the row when they pop up. Additionally, you can purchase kingdom upgrades which benefit everyone--can you leverage their benefit more than your fellow sisters?

The game ends at the conclusion of a round in which one sister adds their seventh card to the court. With the speed of play being what it is, losing (even badly) doesn't feel awful, and very rare is the time I pull out this game and another play-through isn't immediately desired at the end of our first game.



Artwork and Components: As you can tell from the photos in this review, the art is simply breathtaking. Kate Adams has done a truly phenomenal job with her scratch-away style, making the table presence of this game one of my all-time favorites. The iconography and overall feel of this game is top-notch, and worth the price of admission all by itself.


  


The components here are limited to the deck of court cards, which are good quality, linen-finish; and the gold and apple tokens. I'm desperately seeking upgrades for these, but the ones in the box are perfectly serviceable.

The Good: The art. Thematic gameplay is outstanding. The art. Plays quick enough to get a couple games in at once. The art.

The Bad: Lacks player interaction in a cutthroat way, and if you get behind another player you might desperately want that. Tokens are just fine.

Score: The quote on the front of the box gives you a sample of the gameplay within: "Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage." - Rainer Maria Rilke. I can't think of a more apt way to sum up this offering from Resonym. It's a top-to-bottom wonderful game and deserves more players. I'm giving Monarch a score of Sisterhood.





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Nicholas Leeman - Reviewer

Nicholas has been a board game evangelist for over 10 years now, converting friends and family alike to the hobby. He's also a trained actor and works summers as one of the PA announcers for the St. Paul Saints. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.

See Nicholas's reviews HERE.
Monarch Review Monarch Review Reviewed by The Madjai on November 29, 2018 Rating: 5

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