Why is it that books, TV, and movies want us to think that the events are legal documents are so exciting? Like serving a summons… there’s always some tricky or deceptive way to get someone take the papers in their hand. But it doesn’t really work like that, does it? Or pretty much all courtroom proceedings. How have we made so many TV shows about what happens in court, a place where none of us ever really want to be?
But the thing that has become the most sensationalized has got to be the reading of a will. There’s always this big performance, with all the people dressed up and sitting in fancy chairs. A big surprise always happens, and the stone-faced lawyer walks out to leave the family in chaos. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I loved Knives Out, but things just don’t work like that!
A Royal Will seeks to bring the “excitement and fun” of this legal proceeding to your table. Fortunately, there are lots of opportunities here for drama, thrills, and enjoyment for everyone involved. And hey, no one will have to die for it to happen!
Overwhelmed by Greed
In A Royal Will, players are working to be the first one to collect 10 coins. The way you do this is pretty simple and straightforward. Players are dealt two cards each round, while a pile of money is placed in the center. They must select one of these cards to play face down to represent how much money that they hope to take from the pot this round. Players will get this amount of money only if the total value of the cards played by all players is less than or equal to the number of coins in the pot. If it’s higher, the players bust, and whoever was the most greedy (tried to take the most coins) has to put some of the money they’ve collected during the game back into the pot.
Players put their other card face up so that they can take an action. There are seven different characters, each with a different ability. The Solicitor, for instance, can increase or decrease the value of someone’s face down card by one. The advisor can predict whether or not the players will bust this round, earning extra coins if they are correct.
All of the actions are played before the face down cards are revealed, so you’ll need some strategy and a little bit of luck to make sure that you’re making the best moves. Whether or not the pot busts or the money is distributed, players will return their two cards back to the deck, shuffle everything together, and then go for another round. As soon as someone has collected at least 10 coins, figure out who has the most, and they’re the winner!
More Money, More Fun
The gameplay of A Royal Will reminds me a little of Love Letter and Coup. You’ll only have two cards to consider each round, so there’s not much to process. I will say that there is less decision-making in this game than there is in those other two games, and luck is going to be a more significant factor. But gameplay is fast, so even if you have a bad round, it’s over soon and you’ll have another chance when the new cards are dealt. Well, usually. The games usually lasted only three or four rounds for us, so a streak of bad luck could possibly ruin your gameplay experience.
I do believe that there are significant differences in the enjoyment level of this game based on the number of players you have. It seems to be “the more, the merrier”, as I had the most fun when we had six people at the table. At this number, the actions that target other players are able to spread out a little more and the luck of the draw is less impactful, leading to more entertaining rounds.
There are also just more actions altogether, and that’s where you’re really finding the fun. The one card that sparks the most excitement is “The Sleight”. If a player has this card face down, then the pot is going to bust no matter what the total. I have a bit of a love/hate with this card. I feel that it’s a little too powerful and basically renders every other players’ decisions pointless. However, it’s also what brings the most emotion, and that’s what I’m looking for in these games.
With fewer players, the game begins to lose a little bit of its magic. The number of rounds it takes for a player to win is usually about the same no matter the player count, so fewer players means fewer actions, which means less fun. I personally didn’t have any fun in our two player games, as the luck of the draw was just too impactful. One of our games ended after just two rounds because of how the cards came up. At that point, the game was essentially playing itself, and that’s not something that anyone’s going to enjoy.
Legal Proceedings… In Space?
Now normally, I talk a little bit more about the theme throughout my review, but I’m not really able to do that. And that’s because I really, truly don’t get it. The game suggests a futuristic space setting, as the description talks about solardoms and buying nebulas . The artwork goes along with this, as each character is represented by robots that all seem to have been assembled in the 90’s.
I don’t quite understand what a will has to do with anything. The description suggests that you’re fighting over the assets of a royal family, but that isn’t really how a will works. You don’t “stake a claim” to the inheritance – you get what you get. I feel like the action cards are more in line with something like Cash n Guns or Mafia de Cuba, where you are all gangsters taking from a common pot.
Even if you keep the actions the same, I think this works much better in an era similar to Love Letter with that sort of art style. I mean, the rules even come in a fancy envelope with beautiful cursive on it. That doesn’t really feel futuristic to me. I give props to the designer for taking a chance on putting these two very different concepts together, but the final product just doesn’t work for me.
Your Final Inheritance
Even with my issues with the theme, I still had some fun with A Royal Will. It has many of the elements that I think are key for a filler game – easy rules, quick setup, and quick gameplay. You honestly might teach and play a full session of the game in less than twenty minutes. I would have a hard time recommending this game over Love Letteror Coup, as I believe that those games are pretty similar and work a little better. However, I do know quite a few gaming groups that have played those two games over and over again and may be looking for something new. In that case, I certainly would tell them to give A Royal Will a shot.